Kia juggles features, cost

Hot on the heels of the Forte Sedan, Kia’s new two-door Koup is ready to entertain sporting types on a tight budget.

The Korean automaker has seemingly designed the Koup to capture the hearts and credit limits of youthful and passionate first-time buyers. The Koup should also convince those searching for a cool set of wheels to spring for an affordable new car instead of risking financial life and limb on some questionable-history clunker.

As with its sedan counterpart, the Koup has been neatly styled into one trim little package that goes over particularly well when viewed from the front where its open-mouth lower air intake and side pods deliver the kind of design drama that’s lacking on the four-door. The side and rear views are equally attractive and reminiscent of the original 1970s-era Toyota Celica. Kia eschewed the cargo-access benefits of a hatchback and instead chose the more passenger-practical-coupe approach with its added head room and ease of access. There’s a sizable trunk and the 60/40 split rear seat can be folded flat when the need arises.

Up front, a set of well-bolstered seats face a cleanly laid-out dashboard with large, easy-to-manipulate dials. With a reasonable number of switches, the functions of each will be easily mastered.

Although the Koup shares its platform with the Forte sedan, the body profile is lower and shorter overall by two inches, which helps with the two-door’s sportier appearance. In addition, the suspension and steering rack have been modified for better high-speed stability and more direct feel. Available sport-tuned (firmer) shocks and struts on up-level models should further improve cornering performance.

Rather than take the one-engine-fits-all approach, the Koup is offered with a choice of two powerplants and four transmissions. The base EX is fitted with a 156-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that operates through a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. Opting for the premium SX gets you a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that runs with a six-speed manual transmission or available five-speed automatic with manual shift capability.

Kia takes great pains to point out that the Koup’s base-engine power rating beats that of such stalwarts as the Chevrolet Cobalt, Honda Civic and Ford Focus. Considering that all four are closely matched in weight, the Koup should prove a lively performer.

The EX and SX Koup models arrive very well-appointed and appear to offer as much or more than their competitors. Air conditioning, tilt steering, cruise control, remote keyless entry and power windows, locks and mirrors are all standard, as are 16-inch wheels, Bluetooth networking (for voice-activated hands-free phone connectivity) and a six-speaker audio system with controls built into the steering wheel.

Pony up the extra coin for the SX and, along with the beefier engine and added transmission cogs, the list grows to encompass a tilt and telescoping steering column, upgraded cloth seat covers, metal-finish trim and pedals, sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and fog lights.

There are only a couple of options available on all trim levels: a power sunroof and a leather-trimmed interior with heated front seats. Apparently, you’ll have to arrange for your own aftermarket navigation and/or sound-system upgrades.

At an estimated $16,000 (including destination charges), the Forte Koup’s base price will likely be roughly the same as that of the majority of its two-door competitors, however most of those will offer less standard gear and much shorter warranty coverage. That makes a Koup a very tempting buy, whether for first-timers or seasoned monthly payment veterans.

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