Officially classed as a five-passenger coupe, with room in the back for three, elbow room was a little tight side back there, so four people would fit just about right overall.
It came in two trim levels – EX and SX – and shared its platform with the Forte sedan.
It could be had with two engine choices: a 2.0-litre or 2.4-litre four cylinder. The former developed some 156 horsepower, while the latter reached 173. These two engines were also the latest iteration of the World Engine utilized by Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and others.
Both engines came with two transmissions; the smaller had a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, while the larger could be had with a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. The manual six-speed returned slightly better fuel economy on the highway but around town, these two were virtually the same.
Suspension was handled by MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam arrangement in back, and it had a front roll bar. Brakes were four-wheel discs with ABS. And the SX came with tighter suspension than the EX – it made a difference, with tighter steering and handling.
Despite the relatively minor difference in powerplant size, the larger-engined models offered appreciably better performance. Either way, for the majority of buyers, the Koup offered entertaining handling and performance. That said, it was never going to set the road or racetracks on fire.
Typical for most Kia products, standard equipment level was high, with the usual complement of modern conveniences such as power windows, Bluetooth, air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering and so on. The SX added leather interior, heated outside mirrors, power sunroof, 17-inch rally-style aluminum pedals, climate control, fog lights and Sirius satellite radio. You definitely got your money’s worth here.
The Koup also represented a kind of maturation on the part of Kia. It was now in the embrace of the Hyundai organization and assembly quality and fit and finish was pretty much on par with its Japanese competitors. Not to mention less idiosyncratic styling. The race for world domination was on.
There are no safety recalls for this version of the Koup, either from Transport Canada or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. The latter organization, however, has 18 technical service bulletins on file for the Forte. These range from issues with the cruise control, to “abnormal” noise from the sunroof, to a problematic heat/ventilation blower motor, to the seatbelt warning light failing to shut off even when everyone is belted up. Mysterious computer glitches are also part of the picture.
NHTSA also had its share of gripes from owners. Again, most apply to the Forte, but since the Koup is essentially the same car, they’re worth noting. “The traction control stayed off and would not turn on,” reported one owner; “major factory paint defects,” says another; “while driving, the engine stalled,” complains a third.
Consumer Reports liked the Forte/Koup, but wasn’t over the moon about it. It collected a better than average overall rating, but there seemed to be problems with paint and trim, and assorted squeaks and rattles. “While it’s a big improvement, it still ranks below the class leaders,” says CR. Some comments from owners: “this little gem is a work horse,” “the back is high; backing up feels dangerous,” “plenty of legroom in the front of the car as well as the back.”
Marketing researcher J.D. Power liked the Koup, but seemed to have misgivings about its dependability. It rated better than average for overall performance and design, but was in about the middle of the pack in terms of predicted reliability. Overall quality seems to be a sticking point with this organization.
2010 Kia Forte Koup
Original base price: $18,495
Engine: 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre four cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 156 horsepower/143 foot pounds; 173 horsepower/168 foot pounds
Transmission: Four- and five-speed automatic/five- and six-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.0 city/6.3 highway (2.4 litre with five-speed automatic transmission); regular gas
Some alternatives: Honda Civic Si, Chevy Cobalt SS, Ford Focus SES, Mazda3 Sport, Nissan Altima Coupe 2.5 S, Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Corolla XRS.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).