2015 Kia Forte Koup SX - Aperture & Letter Omissions Keep Breed Alive - Quick Review

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Until recently "affordable enthusiastic driving" was the domain of high-style, but lower utility, two-door coupes. Then, "Drive...He Said" discovered some enthusiastic four-doors out there, picking the sleek  2014 Kia Forte EX  automatic as tops among 4 top small family sedans.

But in defense of a seemingly dying breed of sporty affordable 2-doors, Kia [quietly] markets a more powerful variant of Forte with a manual transmission. MINUS two doors...and the letter "E", appending Koup.

2015 Kia Forte Koup SX:

WHAT: Compact C category , front-wheel drive, 2+3 occupant 2-door coupe;

Locomotion:  transverse 201 hp/ 193 lb-ft turbocharged, direct injection 1.6L DOHC I-4 gas engine;

Transmission(s): 6-speed manual (optional 6-speed torque converter automatic) transaxle

Chassis Layout: front strut/ rear torsion beam semi independent; Four wheel disc brakes, front vented; 18"-inch alloy wheels on SX, electric power steering assist

Standard Accoutrement: Cruise control; 1 x USB/ 2 x 12V ports; Keyless entry, push-button start; 7"-inch touch LCD infotainment screen; 60/40 folding split rear seat back; Power locks, windows; Power heated & folding side mirrors; Aluminum pedals; Selectable steering effort; Tilt & telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel; Bluetooth connectivity w/ voice commands & streaming audio; Music jukebox HDD

Major Options: 7" touch LCD infotaiment w/ HDD navigation; Leather seats, Power moonroof; Leather seats: Front heated, driver's cooled & 10-way powered; Heated steering wheel; HID headlights; 4.2" TFT color MFD, Auto-dimming rear-view mirror w/ Homelink; 2-Zone auto climate w/ rear seat vents; Carpeted floor mats, cargo mat.

WHEN: On sale: September 1, 2015

WHERE: Kia dealers

HOW MUCH: Price w/6-speed manual transmission = $20,590; As tested (w/ Premium + Tech Pkgs.): $25,485

HOW SAFE: 8 airbags, high tensile steel, no driver's assist tech offered; IIHS Ratings: side & frontal impact: "Good", "Good"; small front overlap: "Poor"

WHERE MADE: Hwasung, South Korea

GOES LIKE: Throttle-on-a-String demands 3000 rpm upshifts for serious steam, exacerbating the garbage disposal sounds from the engine; Smooth 2nd-3rd manual gearbox throws aren't possible...come to think of it nor are 1st-2nd;  rapid steering, but numbness isn't helped by selectable effort; Body leans aplenty; 18" Wheels pound ponderously; not even Traction control can stop Nexen CP671 M+S tires from slipping in the slick; Not the worst undesteerer in class; Hungryman appetite brakes need cattle stampede pedal application to come alive.

FEELS LIKE: Chrome door releases & center stack switch bezels brighten up dark office; Low front cowl grants generous forward field of view; Perforated pebble grained leather feels rich; Instrument binnacle hood stitching & faux carbon fiber trim, half-hearted;  Switch buttons are where buttons belong and knobs where knobs belong;  Engine buzz makes abundant hard plastics resonate; Small icons on 7" Center stack touch infotainent screen, which is sun wash-out prone; Navigation response is jerky and lacks bird's eye map mode; Front seat-belt B-pillar extender arm clever but clunky; Doors weigh a "ton".

HOW USEFUL: Supportive front buckets remember recline but not pitch when accessing rear seat; Seat to pedal distance, relative to steering wheel, not ideal; Nice to have concealed center stack USB and dual 12V connections; Doors low on storage and swing too wide; Good luck entering/ exiting rear seat without dinging neighboring car doors; 6' footers shouldn't have any issues in the back seat; Trunk easily holds weekend getaway's cargo for four.

HOW EFFICIENT:  28 combined miles-per-gallon on 87 octane unleaded gas

HOW APP-licable: subscription available UVO telematics + E-Services ($600); 6-speaker audio system has plenty of volume, some depth, but too much tone coloration.

LOOKS: Sleeker than Scion TC ; Tamer than Civic Si; Sensuous fashion model who has reach middle age; Reincarnation of Guigiaro designed late 1980's Isuzu Impulse .

VALUE: Feature wise, you could do far worse than Forte Koup. Lazy throttle saps noisy drivetrain. Warranty: Can't beat 10 yr/ 100k mi. drivetrain, 5 yr./ 60k mi. B-T-B warranty - except after a resale, which halves powertrain warranty.

COMPETITORS:   Scion TC ,  Hyundai Veloster  , Honda Civic Si Coupe,  Honda Accord CoupeMini Cooper , Fiat 500 Abarth , Volkswagen Golf 2-door, Ford Mustang V-6; Hey...a base  VW Golf GTI S   costs only $900 more.

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