Kia Cerato Koup Gets Turbo Power

By Lee Pang Seng
THE new Kia Cerato continues with the same three variants that it was made available with for the previous model although the Malaysian market is likely to see only two: the Cerato sedan that was launched earlier in 2013 and the Cerato Koup that made a year-end entry. The five-door hatchback model is the third variant.

This is not a new model altogether as carmakers often sell the same model but under different names in other markets for some reason or other. One of them is due to the name taking on an unflattering or offensive meaning based on the language of the country the car is sold in.

It was previously sold here as the Forte, which was introduced here towards the late-2000s to take over from the Spectra and Spectra5. When this model was first introduced in Korea in 2003, it started off with the Cerato name (it was a completely new model line, on a platform sharing exercise with the Hyundai Elantra). A year later, it was launched in the US under the Spectra name, while in Europe, it was called Cee’d.

The second generation model that came in 2008 was promoted as a Forte in Korea, and was sold in many of the world markets under that name. The exceptions were a few countries that included Australia, South Africa and Brazil, which continued with the Cerato name. In Singapore, it was sold as the Cerato Forte!

In late 2012, Kia brought out the third generation model as the K3 in Korea but had a change of heart on the name for export markets, returning to the Cerato name for most of the countries it is sold in. Again, there are a few exceptions and the US market is one of them as it will retain the Forte appellation. Europe is the only market that had remained consistent, retaining the Cee’d name right through the three model generations.

The Cerato Koup continues from the Forte Koup and though it shares the same platform as the other two models in the family, it has some distinct features to stand it out. The Kia designers have gone for the Audi look, flattening the tiger grille to accommodate the large vented apron below.

Against the sedan and hatchback, the foglights are smaller units nestled in the air scoops that divert air to the front brake assemblies. The Turbo T-GDI, a new power addition to the family, has LED foglights to stamp its performance status. Its more aerodynamic profile is underlined by an improved Cd factor of 0.30 against the previous Forte Koup’s 0.31.

Its wheelbase is the same 2700mm for all three models although in body length, they differ according to their motoring designs. (The floorpan is similar to the Sorento SUV’s, being a multi-model platform, giving the Cerato the boast of having the longest wheelbase in the C1 segment.)

The Cerato Koup’s overall width is 4530mm, 30mm shorter than the Cerato sedan but 180mm longer than the five-door hatchback. Against the previous Forte Koup, the Cerato Koup is significantly bigger: it is 50mm longer, 15mm wider at 1780mm and 29mm taller at 1420mm. Interior gains are the improvements in headroom (28mm), legroom (51mm) and shoulder room (15mm).

The inclusion of a turbocharged model has clearly shown that Kia is ready to take on Volkswagen and Ford in the general market segment. The 1.6-litre T-GDI (Turbo-Gasoline Direct Injection) Gamma engine was the highlight of our Kia drive impression in South Korea in the second half of 2013. It is said to be capable of running on RON 95 Octane petrol and its arrival here should be fully determined by the fuel samplings that were sent to Kia Korea to test on.

Its power output is promising with 150kW (204PS) at 6000rpm and 264Nm peaking early at 1750rpm and holding till 4500rpm. The Cerato Koup is available with a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode and steering wheel paddle shifters. The other engine option is the normally aspirated 2.0-litre NU MPI engine that delivers less at 118kW (161PS) at 6500rpm and 194Nm at 4800rpm.

The suspension system stays relatively simple with compact MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam rear with coil springs and dampers. The Cerato Koup’s handling dynamics is enhanced with Electronic Stability Control to reduce skidding when braking and taking swerving action, and Vehicle Stability Management to maintain control when braking and cornering, or during rapid acceleration on wet, slippery and rough surfaces.

We were part of an international drive experience in South Korea, taking off from the Grand Hyatt in Seoul and taking in mostly highways and a slight mix of windies to the hill resort in Kangwon, complete with a casino. The highway drive along the 240km route in the Cerato Koup T-GDI was mostly in enjoying its turbo acceleration between the many speed cameras (with a few dud ones in between) while keeping up with the pace car. A slight initial lag was there as expected but once the turbo was on song, it took the Cerato Koup quickly to more than 140km/h from a low of 70-80km/h.

The Gamma engine was quite smooth as revs picked up to more than 6000rpm but we found the road roar picked up by the suspension over the cement surfaces, over which we covered a fair bit of, intrusive. It was as if the suspension bushes to suppress the sound were minimal so as to provide an audible sense of driving the car. We certainly welcomed the ‘quiet’ sections of the highway with the usual bitumen surfaces. Ride was generally good and comfortable, with low wind noise and good body and thigh support from the front seats.

The sporty manners of the Cerato Koup were better enjoyed the following day at the Taebeck Racing Park that was nestled in the valley between two hills, a short distance from the Kangwon casino. A new circuit, the 2.5km race track was built in 2012 and had only one 900-metre straight followed by a series of corners with different tightness and camber.

Although we still had to drive in convoy format, the grouping was reduced to five cars and we had three laps to enjoy the dynamics of driving this Kia Koup. We decided to let the six-speed automatic transmission do the work in Sport mode for the first lap and then fiddled with the paddle shifters for the second.

In Sport mode, the transmission held the gears longer as long as we kept working the accelerator for the respective corners. The Cerato Koup, which was shod with Nexen 225/40 R18 tyres, took the corners nicely as we flowed from bend to bend at higher than the recommended speeds, again trying to keep up with the pace car.

We had to change positions with each subsequent lap, dropping to the last car on the second lap and moving up to third for the final round. That slowed us a little as not everyone was pushing as hard as we would like to. Nevertheless, using the paddle shifters didn’t give us that much control of the car’s dynamic prowess and we were only going marginally faster than in Sport mode through some of the sharper bends.

Steering input was quite sharp and the understeer was not too heavy through the really tight turns, despite the Nexen tyres throwing up its share of screeches and squeals as there were scrubbed hard. Body roll was nicely controlled as we flicked from side to side through the successive series of corners, picking the quickest line through.

The flat torque corner of the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine helped to maintain the good traction of the Koup through the bends, and the car seemed well balanced and the suspension with its electronic stability aids did keep it in control when we attempted some late brake and turn driving to try and unsettle it. 

With the right price, the Cerato Koup T-GDI should find many young hotheads hooked up on driving it here when it arrives. It might not be the same as driving the Japanese 2.0-litre turbo cars but the fun factor comes pretty close.

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