First Impressions: The Kia Cerato Koup T-GDI

Published on May 20th, 2015

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Last week we were called in by Kia to try out their upcoming model in line – the Cerato Koup T-GDI. Out with the old Forté Koup and in with the new, this car was set to launch much earlier in this market, however thanks to some fuel quality restrictions, it was delayed. But as always, better late than never… we are amongst the early birds to drive it in Malaysia and here are our FIRST IMPRESSIONS.

You can’t blame my skepticism on this car as it is still one made from Kimchi land. But for the past 10 years, the Koreans has tried really hard to make their products more appealing and I applause their efforts because regardless of the badge, they have slowly crept into our market with growing fans and followers.

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The Cerato Koup’s 4-door sister came about some 2 years ago, back in 2013. I remember because it was one of the earlier cars I got to drive on the job and it impressed me well enough; thanks to all it’s modern equipment and decent handling. But the engine felt like it lacked a great punch being normally aspirated, so it may not have kept up with it’s equivalent rivals from the land of the rising sun.

According the Kia themselves, there has been significant amount of enquiries on the Cerato Koup which urged them to still push the launch of the vehicle here in Malaysia. The last Forte Koup seems to have developed an enthusiasts base locally, thanks to it’s sleek design. No – the Forte Koup wasn’t a proper sports car but this new version is certainly more promising!

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The new Cerato Koup comes fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged derived heart that churns about 201bhp and 265nm at it’s disposal. This T-GDI direct injection unit sounds like an impressive instalment to the last generation’s normally aspirated engine; with surprisingly low-end torque kick thanks to the turbo.

Paired with a 6-speed automatic gearbox – the Koup will sprint you to 100km/h in just 7.4 seconds and keep accelerating to a top speed of 225km/h. A stat that is not far off from the more established and potent VWs.

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Limited by time – I didn’t get to drive the car long enough to try out it’s driving dynamics in a more extensive manner but there were a few things to note on this new Koup.

Behind the wheel, it seems to give you a sporty, yet commanding driving position that many drivers will come to appreciate. Just like the 4-door sister, you are given the choice of 3 steering modes to fit different driving styles; though non of which in my short drive felt like it gave me decent feedback through the wheel. Comfort eases manoeuvrability at low speeds but is too light for driving. Normal is meant to give the best of both worlds, though it is still lacking in sharpness and Sport is sharp though lacking in feel. All-in-all, I’d just stick to normal and work with the feedback.

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But the performance is great. I spent most of the time driving, thinking that it was a normally aspirated car. The power curve is pretty linear that it doesn’t feel like the Cerato Koup is force induced, which I reckon is plus. Gearbox isn’t comparable to DSG but at least you have a peace of mind that it probably won’t go wrong and the paddle shifters were not laggy for an automatic.

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The Koup’s selling point is definitely it’s sleek design. It’s predecessor, the Forte Koup changed the way many looked at Korean cars as it came at a time when they weren’t exactly pretty vehicles. And it was such a step up from it’s 4-door sister that it quickly became popular, despite it’s premium price.

It’s the same story with the new Cerato Koup. The 4-door Cerato is not an ugly car to begin with; though the Koup’s design has stretched the curves a little more, transforming the pretty girl into a beauty queen contestant. I absolutely approve those rear lights on the Koup!

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The shape somehow works, making the car looks so fresh like it has never been seen before in this part of the world. Take out the badge and discover that many may not even know it’s a Kia from the back, and that is what many want in a car.

Market demands for Korean cars are not buying them for it’s driving dynamics. The name of the game with them is to beat the competitors by offering similar design and quality, for much less money.

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And it’ll be a winner as they certainly don’t look cheap at all! Japanese car designs tend to be more reserved and many would associate them for being the “affordable and reliable” choice, yet modern Korean cars are seen as design icons. It begs the question though – where are they cutting costs?

It used to be in the material used in exterior and interior, but these items are not the case anymore. They are pretty well made.

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It’ll be pretty clear now though that it’s because they aren’t cheap anymore. Korean cars nowadays are priced almost similarly to it’s Japanese rivals and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. In the eyes of the masses, Korean cars of today are offering better value for money.

The new Cerato Koup is yet to be launched (as of May 2015). The tentative price of it at the moment is around RM150k. Shocking indeed because that is quite a lot of money from it’s predecessor which was around RM30k less. But the new car is stepping up the game for being a much better, more well equipped car.

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We await for it’s launch and a more extensive drive in the coming months. I don’t think it drives well enough to be a sports car though it is a great effort by the brand. It’s a looker for those who seek for beauty in design.

Words & Photos: Qhalis Najmi 

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