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Test Drive: Kia Cerato Koup – The Kouple cruiser

Test Drive: Kia Cerato Koup – The Kouple cruiser

IMG_4136TWO door coupe has always been at niche sector in Malaysian market. Since the national manufacturer discontinued its production of Proton Putra in 2001, it is quite rare to see affordable new two door coupe in our market (there are four door coupes, apparently).

In recent years, most affordable two-door cars come in hatchback form. So, when Naza Kia decided to introduce the Cerato Koup to our shores, it puts the car in a special position. The closest modern rivals for the Cerato Koup are the Scion TC and Honda Civic Si, but both models are only available in North America.

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Compared to its predecessor the Forte Koup, the Cerato Koup with its curves and lines has a smoother and better silhouette to this writer’s eyes. The Forte Koup is arguably more handsome though, as it has lines and angles that make it looks more muscular.

FEATURES AND DETAILS

Getting in the Cerato Koup is easy and once seated properly, you will find all the important controls are in intuitive positions. Although the leather wrap and buttons for volume, menu and cruise control are all well-positioned and tactile, the steering could have a sportier pattern to remind the driver that they are driving the coupe version. Amenities such as a ventilated driver’s seat, sunroof, keyless entry and push start, front/rear park assist with reverse camera, dual-zone auto air-con with cluster ioniser and Bluetooth connectivity are all standard.

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The gear lever has that sense of continental build and feel when operated. But for manual mode, the application of pushing forward to upshift and pulling backward to downshift feels unnatural especially during hard acceleration or braking despite this coupe not being designed for attacking race tracks.

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Sometimes, it is the tiny details in life that matter to us which this writer could relate to the seat-belt extenders for front occupants. Most two-seater sports cars usually have a particular buckle on the outer shoulder of each seats, but since the Cerato Koup has an adult-size rear seats, the seat-belt extenders make more sense.

The Koup is 30mm shorter than the sedan – although the wheelbase is identical – and its roofline is 25mm lower.

Moving to the rear, twin exhaust tips neatly located at the outer diffuser-like section of the bumper shows that the Cerato is not the sedan form. Another feature is the frameless side windows, which makes the Koup driver feel more special. Since producing two different side window designs – framed for sedan, frameless for coupe – requires significant effort in engineering aspects, A for that effort.

URBAN CRUISER

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The 1.6 T-GDI starts up smoothly and the exhaust note at idling mumbles like a normal urban commuter. Rev it up a bit, the intake sound can be heard at around 2,500 to 3,000 rpm, although the throttle response is not so immediate.

Engaging into forward gear, the conventional automatic transmission makes the car creep fluidly at low speed. As the writer drove on the highway to Putrajaya early on a Saturday morning, the car accelerated effortlessly from the century mark onwards. There is no driving mode selection, so the driver cannot configure the car’s dynamic behavior according to driving situation.

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At around 110 km/h, as the writer pull the gear lever to the right into manual mode, pulling the left paddle on the steering twice to downshift to fourth before increasing velocity, the gear engages quite smoothly without throttle liftoff. But downshifting in manual mode during braking, the transition of the gear can be felt typical of conventional automatics.

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Putting the Koup into tight turns of highway exits does not give much body roll to the car. The McPherson struts on the front axle and torsion beam at the rear working together to ensure proper body control. Ride refinement is not disturbed when driving over potholes or undulating road surfaces, given that the car is riding on 18-inch wheels with 45-series tyres.

However, this writer finds that the steering feel is a bit lacking. Less-communicative steering is understandable because the car is aimed for comfortable long journeys, not really spirited drives. Steering rate is also quite slow, as the input required to take turns is a little bit more than expected.

VERDICT

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Some say that coupe is a selfish buy. But that really depends on many factors of course. If you are with no more than three friends for teh tarik or shopping sessions, the Cerato Koup will do just fine. Or if you are about to go for a weekend getaway with your spouse towards East Coast beaches, the Cerato Koup works like a comfortable grand tourer.

The Cerato Koup combines sedan practicality and coupe sportiness well without being too flashy. However, in the aspect of driving dynamics, the car would be more fun to drive withdriving mode selection for its suspension, engine and steering.

The intervention of its computer during manual mode should be fully removed, too. If the computer suddenly upshifting before redline or downshifting to help acceleration, what is the point of having manual mode to select gears individually, then? Other than that, if Kia has their own dual-clutch gearbox, it would be an excellent pair to the Cerato Koup since the car has correct ingredients in other aspects.

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Not many options are available in its shape and price range besides hot hatches such as the Hyundai Veloster, Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi. But those hot hatches are all performance-oriented, compared to the Cerato Koup which is more all-rounded. Overall, specifically in Malaysia, the Cerato Koup is a pretty good bargain for what it is.

Specifications of the Kia Cerato Koup:
Engine: 1.6-litre T-GDI
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Max Power: 201-hp
Max Torque: 265Nm
Safety features: Six airbags, ESC, TCS and Isofix child seat anchors
Price: RM135,888

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About Amirul Hazmi

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