The Kia Cerato Koup epitomises the long strides the South Korean car maker’s car designs have taken in recent years.
The two-door was introduced in 2009 and one of the first to be penned by the man behind the original Audi TT - Kia’s chief designer, Peter Schreyer.
It boasts an attractive form that is becoming consistent in a Kia range that now belies decades of dull, frumpy or just plain ugly styling executions from the brand.
We also don’t mind the way Kia is trying to be hip with its gangster-rap-style approach to the spelling of coupe, though why include the name of the not-so-funky Cerato sedan/hatch on which it’s based?
With a starting price of $23,390, the Kia Cerato Koup carries a premium of a few thousand dollars over its four- and five-door siblings.
That’s for the entry-level Si model that includes Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, iPod/USB/MP3 connectivity, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearlever, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, electronic stability control, six airbags and a full-size spare.
We tested the Cerato Koup SLS that was introduced in 2011 as part of a minor model update. The range-topper brings 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, electric sunroof, alloy pedals, leather seats, multi-function trip computer and full climate control.
Inside, the cabin is not as pleasing to the eye as the exterior. The pinched-leather seats look like someone was given their first attempt at creating a rouch effect, and there is a clear sense that materials quality wasn’t high on the internal budget agenda.
Although the dash incorporates some element of softness, the Koup’s interior plastics are predominantly hard. The steering wheel feels cheap in the hands, and neither the sun visors nor grabhandles are damped.
Some of the dials are, though, and nicely so. There are more positives, too.
The dash layout is simple and effective, chrome trim touches are subtle rather than blingy, and there are sufficient storage areas to place various items.
The front seats are quite heavy for sliding forward to create access to the rear, and only the front passenger seat features one-flick tilt and slide.
But once you’re in the rear seat you’ll find genuinely comfortable space for occupants up to six feet tall.
The rear seats also fold down to extend the (deep and wide) boot’s ability to take longer items, though the boot’s hinges are of the cheap, gooseneck variety that can dig into luggage.
Confidence in build quality is sapped slightly by doors that, with the frameless window lowered, shake when you shut them, though the absence of a B-pillar is a boon for vision over the driver’s right shoulder.
Statically, then, the Kia Cerato Koup has some appeal. When it comes to driving, unfortunately, the two-door Kia exhibits almost every vice imaginable.
Starting with the engine, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol offers up 115kW of power and 194Nm of torque, outputs that are delivered to the front wheels by either a six-speed manual or, as in our test car’s case, an optional six-speed auto that costs $2200.
The engine is gutless, however, and becomes harsh sounding at higher revs. The auto struggles with the task presented to it, too, flaring unceremoniously when belatedly working out it needs to downshift to cope with the lack of torque available.
Drivers can take control of gearchanges via the paddleshift levers, but there’s little satisfaction to be derived from their use.
While it’s possible to spin up the front wheels under heavy acceleration, it’s more down to the Koup’s poorly calibrated traction control and poor tyre grip.
The Kumho Solus tyres fitted to our test car were especially disappointing, with limited grip in the dry and contributing to particularly skittish handling in the wet.
A mismatched suspension – soft springs and overly aggressive damping – further dilute the Koup’s dynamic credentials. Because it’s a relatively low-volume model in the Kia line-up, the Koup has missed out on the local suspension tuning other recent models have benefitted from – including the related Cerato hatch.
The ride generally is fidgety and crashy, and on bumpy country roads body control is simply terrible and discourages the driver from having any ideas about having fun.
The steering, gluggy and inconsistently weighted, is also a guilty party. And the turning circle is surprisingly big.
It’s certainly unfortunate that the Kia Cerato Koup is categorised as a sports car by the industry VFACTs.
And equally so that while you could once praise the Koup for being a rare affordable coupe, for the same kind of money as a Koup SLS you can now buy the rather brilliant Toyota 86.
The Kia Cerato Koup, however, is now one of the older models in the range that is likely to be replaced sometime in the next 18 months or so. And it’s a rare blip in a Kia range that continues to impress with the likes of the Kia Rio city car, Kia Sorento large SUV and, especially, Kia Sportage compact SUV.