KIA has added some bite to the buzz of its new-generation Cerato Koup with the addition of a turbocharged model, the first time it has ventured into this territory.
It retains the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Koup in the line-up improving its all-round look, but it is with the exciting turbo that the South Korean manufacturer hopes to sway opinion.
The Turbo, Kia's first real sports car, gets the jump ahead of the Pro_cee'd GT hot hatch to be launched this month, and with a starting price of $27,990 it is certainly a value-for-money proposition.
The interior of the Koup is surprisingly spacious, with the back seat passengers the most obvious benefactors of the slightly larger dimensions.
Headroom there is still tight for taller adults but children can sit in comfort with the wider opening front doors facilitating easier entry into the second row.
The feel is much less sporty than you would expect from a coupe, almost disappointingly so, and while there is little amongst the console and instrumentation to insult, there is very little to excite either.
It looks a lot like the Cerato four-door sedan with a mix of nicely tactile surfaces and cheaper plastics blended together with polished chrome highlights.
Dials and buttons are well set out and the steering wheel controls, although numerous, are easy to navigate.
The seats in the Turbo are part fabric and artificial leather, the latter unmistakeably so. They, are however, quite supportive providing cushioning and bolstering where needed most. There are plenty of cup holders and decent storage options, with the boot a handy 433 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats in position.
On the road
The Koup Turbo is powered by a lusty 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo engine, borrowed from its cousin the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo and paired with either a six-speed manual or auto transmission.
It does not disappoint.
The Turbo offers a sharp, balanced ride with responsive handling and has an unerring ability to impress. It is nippy around corners, shines when pushed and is equal to the task on the open highway.
The steering is pretty direct, while the suspension, tuned for Australian conditions, makes for comfortable forays even on poor surfaces.
The road noise, despite the added sound deadening materials, is rather intrusive.
There is some understeer and the Koup Turbo does have to gather itself a bit when prodded hard either from standstill or while attempting a steep climb, but all-in-all this is a well-put together unit.
What do you get?
Kia is known for its generous inclusions and does not fall short with the Turbo.
Bluetooth, cruise control and keyless entry with push button start are standard fare, as are a reversing camera, parking sensors and a six-speaker entertainment system.
There are also LED daytime running lights, electric folding mirrors and a cooled glove box.
For $2200 you can get the Touring pack, which includes a bigger 17.7cm touch-screen with sat-nav and a DVD player, dual-zone climate control and leather upholstery.
Safety features include six airbags, ABS brakes with electronic stability and traction control, hill assist and an emergency stop signalling system which alerts other drivers to heavy braking by flashing the hazard lights.
Kia has positioned the Turbo in the same market as the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo (from $32,990), Holden Cruze SRi-V (from $26,490) and Hyundai i30SR (from $27,990).
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to also pit it against the Subaru BRZ (from $37,150 drive away) and Toyota 86 (from $29,990).
Coupes are hardly lauded for their practicality but the Kia Koup bends the mould in that respect.
The rear seat can now be easily accessed thanks to the wide opening doors and the easily operated mechanism on the side of the front seats which allow them to fold and move forward in a single action.
The boot opening has been widened a smidgen too and while it is not deep, the compartment itself is quite long which helps with larger pieces of luggage.
The road noise can be annoying and does let the Koup down but that could be somewhat remedied, one would think, by replacing the Nexen tyres.
Official figures for the auto Koup stand at eight litres/100km. The best we could manage was 9.2L/100km which included a number of longer highway trips.
Kia offers a five-year unlimited kilometres warranty and five-year 75,000km capped price servicing.
Kia has distinguished the Koup from the Cerato sedan and hatch with a smaller narrower grille, reshaped headlights and new round fog lights.
The back looks fresh too, with twin exhausts, a muscular boot spoiler and strong lines. It all makes for an attractive sleek package but one that could be a bit edgier.
What matters most
What we liked: Fun drive, easy access to back seat.
What we'd like to see: Sportier looks, more grunt, sat nav as standard.
Warranty and servicing: Kia offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with five-year, 75,000km, roadside assist and capped-price servicing. Average servicing price is $275, with maintenance required every six months or 10,000km.
Model: Kia Cerato Koup Turbo.
Details: Three-door front-wheel drive coupe.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (as tested) or manual.
Engine: 1.6-litre four cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 150kW @ 6500rpm and peak torque of 265Nm between 1750-4500rpm.
Consumption: 8.0 litres/100km (combined average); 7.7 L/100km (m).
CO2: 190g/km (a), 184g/km (m).
Bottom line (plus on-roads): $27,990 (m), $30,190 (a).