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Review: 2010 Kia Forte Koup driving experience
2010 Kia Forte Koup review; first impressions from Forte Koup test-drive. Infromation on Forte Koup engines, specs, tires, wheels, engines, warranty, parts and accessories.
Kia has always sold based on value-for-money, which, if boiled down turns out to be PRICE. I’ve been a motor head all my life and have always been Eurocentric. Honda sort of captured my imagination for a while, when they were still building the NSX, Integra Type R, EF8 CRX SiR and other sporty models. But Kia has always been a bargain basement brand; the brand people who couldn’t afford Japanese makes went out and bought.
Lately, however, Kia has moved up market. I began to notice that their fit and finish was improving. Floor carpets that layed down flat with no air pockets, A, B and C pillar inner panels which fit flush with the headliners, even door gaps, trunk and hood gaps which lined up equally. Hmmm, looks like Kia was beginning to give Honda and Toyota a run for the money!
However, would I still DESIRE one? Nope. None of the models had that I’d seen had that ‘Object of Desire’ factor which pulled me in like a CRX SiR or Golf GTi would. That was before I drove the Forte Koup.
It was late in April 2009 and I found myself at Namyang R&D Centre in South Korea, part of a group of Malaysian journalists brought over by the Malaysian distributor, Naza Kia Sdn. Bhd. to test drive the Forte, Forte Koup and Forte ‘Eco Dynamics’ Hybrid. The R&D guys were obviously every excited over showing us their ‘technology’ so they threw in the Borrego FCEV too!
Kia’s R&D team, which is shared with Hyundai (that’s how they get costs down), consists of 8.000 people across the world, in Namyang, Mabuk (Eco Technology), Kia Design Centre Europe (Frankfurt), Europe Technical Centre (Russelheim) India Engineering Centre (Hyderabad), California Proving Ground (Mojave Desert), America Technical Centre (Michigan), Kia Design Centre and America Design & Technical Centre (Irvine, California) and even a Japan R&D Centre in Chiba, Japan which concentrates on electronic and hybrid development.
Namyang R&D Centre which we visited opened in 1995 and covers a 407-acre area (1.65 million square metres). It features a high-speed oval which is 2.8 miles (4.5km) long, and no less than 34 different road types including the bumpy ‘Belgian’ road (cobblestones). In total the site features a total road length of about 43.5 miles (70km).
Kia Motor’s Forte, code-named the ‘TD’ aka Cerato has a crucial role to play in the company’s future. It replaced the LD (Cerato/Spectra) and it competes in what is arguably the world’s most important market sector – the ultra-competitive C-segment.
The TD is a full model change (FMC) which has been built from the ground up to butt heads with cars like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Ford Focus all around the world, except in Europe, where the cee’d fills the TD’s role (The Forte model will not be marketed in Western Europe where demand for C-segment cars is satisfied by the Slovakian-built award-winning Kia cee’d family of five-door hatchback, wagon and three-door pro_cee’d coupe models).
Kia’s R&D focused on 8 main areas in the development of the Kia Forte/Forte Koup, namely:
1) Dynamic Styling
2) Class-leading Performance
3) Increased Fuel Economy
4) Improved Ride/Handling Balance
5) Greater Cabin Comfort
6) Enhanced Overall Safety
7) Introduction of New Technologies
8) Maintained Functionality
2010 Kia Forte Koup
The Forte Koup appears to be very close to the KOUP Concept styled under the direction of Peter Schreyer. According to Kia Motors, the Forte represents Kia’s new design DNA in its most complete form thus far seen.
“Design gives a soul to the product and the future of Kia products lies in balance, clarity and purpose. Our all-new Forte embodies that philosophy. Breaking away from traditional forms, Forte is a design that notches up the visual standards of C-segment cars. Without any extraneous features, its crisp, clean exterior styling conveys a powerful and dynamic image that exudes speed,” observes Schreyer.
The bold frontal styling incorporates the “Schreyer Line” radiator grille, first seen on the Kee and KOUP concept cars. As mentioned before, the grille symbolises a roaring tiger’s mouth. The front fender blisters hint at the power beneath the bonnet, while the wide front bumper, with its large lower air intakes, amplifies the car’s sportiness.
The Forte Koup is Kia’s first-ever two-door coupe model, effectively creating its own new segment in their model line-up, a ‘Sporty’ C-Segment model. According to Kia’s product head, who briefed us at Kia’s Seoul HQ, the TD coupe was added to the Forte lineup in order to strengthen it further, and to reinforce the brand’s identity of being ‘Exciting and Enabling’.
Based on the design styling of the KOUP concept car shown in the 2008 New York Auto Show, the TD Forte Koup mass production model was developed. It successfully translates almost all of the KOUP Concept’s features into a production model, unlike many other brands whose production models are far different from the concepts which inspired them.
The design idea for the Koup was that it had to be “Powerful and Dynamic” and had to be more emotional, sportier and more powerful (in design and concept) than the sedan version. The designers used a picture of a female runner off the starting blocks to illustrate this idea. Surprisingly, the Koup body shell is all new and the only common part is the hood! The bumper, fenders, doors, everything else is uniquely Koup!
At Namyang R&D’s multi-purpose/slalom track, the Forte Koup differs from the sedan externally, noticeably in a few areas, namely:
1) 2-door body style
2) Frameless windows
3) Large fog light blisters
4) Extended wheel arches
5) Slimmer tail lights
6) Completely different body shell (only common part is the hood!)
How would the Forte Koup fit into the landscape of things? These days in North America the Honda Civic Coupe, Ford Focus Coupe, Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe and Toyota’s Scion tC rule the roost. Honda’s Prelude and Integra GSR (iS) are gone. Kia is well-poised to make a big splash in this segment. They don’t need to win races, but just win over the hearts and minds of folks who read Super Street, Modified, Import Tuner and other tuning magazines.
At Namyang R&D’s straight-line test track, we approached in a Kia tour bus. Two silver Forte Koups sat baking in the sun. Silver looked a little odd, since I was used to the red KOUP Concept, but silver really showed off the lines of the body. The proportions, the emotional lines and balance looked flawless and there was nothing I could criticise or find fault with! The stance was aggressive, the bumper fog lamp housing/air intakes looked really, really aggressive. At the rear were slim lights which were just PERFECT.
When you step on the brakes they light up with a ‘bamboo’ like geometric effect. Dual exhaust outlets and a rear diffuser completed the Koup look. Absolutely flawless. The more I looked at it, the more I fell in love with it. The emotional impact built up the more I took in the neat lines.
There are two choices of wheel/tyre combos for the Forte Koup – 16-inch alloy wheels outfitted with P205/55R16 tires and a sportier profile with 17-inch alloy wheels (KOUP Concept style) paired with P215/45R17-sized premium tires. The two Koups at Namyang (a 2.0L and a 2.4L) both seemed to be fitted with the 16-inch options.
The Koup is slightly shorter in length and height than the Forte sedan. The wedge-like styling somehow looks well-proportioned “in the flesh” (or rather “in-the steel”) compared to in images. Peter Schreyer’s team did a good job on the front especially.
Cars with a lot of distance between the wheel arch and top of the hood usually don’t ‘feel’ sporty. In the case of the Forte Koup (and sedan), they’ve put on a sort of fender blister with an accentuating curve that connects the swept back horizontally slim headlamps to the radiator grille and continues as a straight character line on the side surface. This line continues onto the side, giving strength to the clean, wedge-like design of the body, which gradually widens from the rear view mirror to the end of the trunk.
The body is a monocoque type which makes use of a lot of high tensile steel (>63%) giving it excellent torsional rigidity and strength. It’s designed to score a 5-Star rating in the US NHTSA NCAP tests. The body shell has a “ring” like structure around the centre pillar area, right where the seat mounts are. There’s also an ultra high-rigidity steel (120kg grade) side sill, about 4 times the tensile strength of the old LD Cerato/Spectra!
For additional active and passive safety, Kia Forte Koup can come specified with ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and up to 6 airbags and active headrests. The ESC incorporates ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), BAS (Brake Assist System) and TCS (Traction Control System). Considering that the Forte Koup might be driven to the limits, ESC would be a good feature to have.
NVH is taken care of first of all with the styling eliminating unnecessary detailing, having tight panel gaps, lowered bumper bottom lip, flatter wheel designs, airflow deflectors ahead of all four wheels and an engine bay under cover among other things help lower Cd to 0.29 (sedan figure, Koup figure should be similar). Sound dampening foam is injected into hollow sections of the body shell at critical areas.
Improved weather-strip, sub frame structure and engine mounts also helped make the Forte a winner in NVH and aerodynamic performance in most areas when benchmarked against the Corolla and Civic.
The MDPS (Motor Driven Power Steering) consists of a motor and decelerator, torque sensor, ECM which measures vehicle speed, input torque and engine rpm all mounted on the steering column, which is tilt (-20 to +20mm) and telescopic (-20 to +20mm) adjustable (manually).
The electric motor driven power steering was included as an option in order to create enhanced steering ability and reduced fuel consumption over the existing hydraulic system. The MDPS basically uses an electric motor which produces an auxiliary steering force.
The power steering unit assists the rotation of the steering wheel by controlling an electric current fed to the electric motor based on steering information. For precise vehicle control and good ‘feel’, the high gearing results in just 2.8 turns lock-to-lock and specifying MDPS will result in an estimated 2~3% savings in fuel consumption.
According to Kia Motors, their R&D engineers were determined to give the TD Koup a sophisticated ride and handling balance to ensure a smooth suspension ride, with fun-to-drive characteristics and precise and rewarding responses to driver inputs. The front is a MacPherson Strut type, which is best-suited for front wheel drive. The front sub frame is hydro-formed, which is lighter than conventional types.
The sub frame is solidly mounted to the monocoque shell, enhancing handling performance. L-shaped lower arms are fitted, and the castor angle on the sedan is 4.22 degrees. I’m not sure about the Koup’s castor angle at this point in time.
The rear suspension type is what Kia calls a CTBA (Coupled Torsion Beam Axle) type, following a trend set by the Corolla, European Civic, 308, Astra, etc. The benefits of reduced weight, enhancement in performance and mileage along with increased interior space and luggage space made CTBA the logical choice.
The engine used is really special, the Theta II DOHC CVVT 2.0L and 2.4L. Codenamed G4KC, this is a gasoline 4-cylinder automobile engine family. It is the third all-aluminum engine of which debuted in the fourth-generation Hyundai Sonata sedan (codenamed NF) and Kia Optima (codenamed MG).
On the 2.0L which I think will be a mainstay in ASEAN countries where large displacements are taxed heavily, there’s a multitude of special features. First off there’s a CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing) valve train to provide reduced fuel consumption, exhaust emissions as well as power.
A serpentine ancillary belt runs the water pump, alternator and A/C compressor. It also features hollow stainless-steel DOHC with powder-metal cam lobes, pent-roof combustion chamber and shim less bucket tappets in the cylinder head. BorgWarner Morse TEC supplies the complete set of timing system that uses the company’s proprietary silent timing chains.
Other notable features include fracture-split sinter-forged connecting rods and stainless-steel exhaust manifold. The R&D engineer at the powertrain building told us that this Theta engine can suit both FWD and RWD (Genesis Coupe) without any problems. It’s similar to the Mitsubishi 4B1/4B11, I believe.
An improved integrated catalytic converter reduces back pressure by 7kPA resulting in freeing up 2-horsepower. The engine is built on a high-pressure cast, heavily ribbed aluminium block and a ladder frame holding the crankshaft in place. This provides a solid, integrated structure for the powertrain. A silent, maintenance-free timing chain enhances quietness no matter if the engine is accelerating or idling.
Out of over 100 manufacturers in the world, they got off to a late start. Despite that, developing an engine independently is a feat managed by only about 12 countries in the world. Hyundai-Kia Motors R&D Centre has thus far received over US$57 million in royalties from Mitsubishi and Chrysler for this world-renowned Theta engine.
ETC (Electronic Throttle Control) provides optimum engine torque. A redesigned combustion chamber and exhaust ports reduce exhaust temperature, hence improving high-speed fuel efficiency (by about 2.5% at 160km/h).
Most nifty of all is an ‘Oil Spouting Connecting Rod’, where oil is ejected through a spout hole in the connecting rod to the point between the block bore and the piston sides, alleviating piston noise, friction and helps with cooling too. All this results in 156PS at 6,200rpm and 19.8kgm at 4,300rpm. The 2.4L dishes out 173PS, 227Nm torque.
Both the cars tested had automatic transmissions, manufactured in-house. The 2.0L used an A4CF2 4-speed auto, which is rated for up to 26 kgf-ms. The 2.4L is believed to use a higher rated transmission [I’ll try to get more details and update this article]. A gate-type shift pattern with +/- sports mode gives the user satisfaction in operation. Kia has developed a new light-weight, flatter torque convertor which helps deliver lower fuel consumption than its predecessors.
Kia Forte Koup interior
The interior of both cars tested were obviously pre-production types as there was no texture on the door panels. The rest of the interior looked pretty much complete. The dashboard is of a very simple, European styled type.
The centre fascia is well stacked, with all controls and buttons for the audio system and HVAC well-placed for usability and practicality. The steering wheel on the Koup looks identical to that on the Forte sedan, a 3-spoke type with a shape and grip which reminded me somewhat of the VW Golf.
The door trim garnish incorporates the window control switches, and looks sporty while being practical at the same time. The rear seating area was cozy and more than adequate for 2 people. Headroom is perfect for anyone up to 5’8″. There’s a centre tunnel but it slopes down gradually towards the rear. Legroom is not as cramped as an EF8 CRX or 207CC. There’s about as much legroom as a 308GT.
Kia‘s ‘Supervision Cluster’ has a gradual light-on feature – LCD Message Centre THEN Pointers THEN Dial THEN ‘Mood Lighting’. Pretty cool! The message centre displays door open alerts, fuel levels, ignition warnings, press brake pedal to start engine, press start button again and low battery on a red LED dot matrix display.
The trip computer tells you average and instantaneous (with bar graph) fuel consumption, average speed, distance to empty, elapsed time and the usual odometer and Trip A/B functions.
The seats had mild side bolsters on the seat and seatback, but the test drive time was too short to give a proper assessment. No complaints though, they felt pretty good. The 2010 Kia Forte Koup provides a comfortable 90.7 cubic feet of interior volume, larger than the 2009 Honda Civic Coupe, Scion tC or Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe.
Forte Koup driving experience
Driving the Koup gave the impression of a well put-together car. The car felt planted and the torque was more than sufficient. To me the 2.0L felt more than sufficient, and on that particular stretch of road, not lacking much compared to the 2.4L.
One of the R&D engineers took us on to the high-speed oval, moving up to the fastest lane. Our group was not allowed to drive by ourselves, and I have no complaints. The traffic was heavy out there! There were quite a few cars being tested on the middle and slowest lanes! Our designated R&D engineer quickly took it up to about 200 km/h. The Koup felt stable, and to illustrate that point one of the engineers took his hands off the wheel!
Well, the Koup didn’t fail to impress. As far as Kia’s idea for the TD Koup was to ‘Leverage and Improve the Sporty Image of the Kia brand’, I think it has done a spectacular job! I’ve had a close look at the Civic Coupe, Scion tC and Focus Coupe online, and I think they going to have some competition!
Special Thanks: Michael Choo, Pamela Munoz, Brandon Yea, SN Lee, SP Choi, KC Koh, Woo, Won Il, R&D Engineers, Hwasung Plant staff, Naza Kia, Samson Anand George and Nicholas Gomez. To all the people behind the scenes who made this trip possible, and who worked on the Kia Forte and Forte Koup, a big heartfelt thanks. You’ve improved the image of Kia a lot!
Kia Forte Koup review: Text by Scudracer, with supporting info courtesy of Kia Motors Corporation. Images courtesy of Kia Motors Corporation.