Koup ups Kia's sporty entry level offerings

  • 30-Apr-2009 05:07 EDT

The hot Kia Koup compact hits the big town with some youthful attitude and style.

If I say “Korean car company,” you say “Hyundai.” But the management of Korea’s second auto maker, Kia, naturally wants some visibility, too. Perhaps confusion arises from the fact that Hyundai purchased Kia some years ago. But Seoul-based Kia is a distinct car maker that has for decades nurtured a small franchise in the worldwide market by building capable cars for value-minded budget consumers.

As part of its continuing effort to extend its global brand image beyond basic value, Kia just introduced at the 2009 New York Auto Show the Koup, a hot two-door that seems destined to garner the company some attention. Aimed at young drivers who at least want to look like tuners, the Kia Koup offers a compact coupe with some street attitude.

Marketing Vice President, Michael Sprague, describes the new Koup as a "progressive step" in the car maker's U.S. design journey and adds that it indicates progress towards Kia’s transformation into a world-class vehicle producer.

Sharing a similar grille and headlight configuration with the base, four-door Forte sedan that Kia introduced at February’s Chicago Auto Show, the Forte Koup follows the aggressive lines of the Koup concept car that starred at last year’s New York show.

When it hits the curb this summer, the Koup will replace the company’s aging Spectra coupe. The new car, says a spokesman, is Kia’s attempt to make a major styling statement in the compact segment, which includes the Honda Civic coupe, Ford Focus coupe, Chevy’s Cobalt coupe, and the Scion tC.

The new Koup will be available in either EX or SX versions. The EX gets power from a 2.0-L four-cylinder engine that generates 156 hp (116 kW) and 144 lb·ft (195 N·m). The base engine gets 25/34 mpg city/highway ratings when mated with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels are standard on the EX.

The SX upgrade trim includes a 2.4-L four-cylinder engine that pumps out 173 hp (129 kW) and 168 lb·ft (228 N·m). A six-speed manual is standard (22/32 mpg), while a five-speed automatic (23/31 mpg) is available. The SX comes with 17-in wheels and a stiffer suspension.

The Koup is built on the same front-drive, unibody platform as the Forte sedan. It has an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and anti-roll bar, in the rear a torsion-beam axle with struts and coil springs.

Safety, part of Kia’s basic value equation, is not slighted as the Koup will be equipped with front-seat-mounted side airbags and side curtains, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

The interior of the Koup’s five-passenger interior looks pretty much the same as its cousin. It offers a range of standard features that are guaranteed to satisfy kids of all ages, including a six-speaker sound system with steering-wheel-mounted controls, Sirius Satellite Radio, a Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, and full iPod and USB inputs.

Kia did not reveal the pricing for its Koup coupe, but it will probably be affordable enough to compete as an attractive entry-level compact.

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