Quick Drive: 2011 Kia Forte Koup

By Winding Road Staff

October 03, 2011

Kia did some things with the Forte Koup quite well, while other things don’t quite measure up. For a start, it’s a good looking car, especially in the Corsa Blue paint that our tester came in. It does look a bit too much like a Honda Civic Coupe, but the added aggression in the front and rear fascia really works well.
I also thought the powertrain was well executed. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivered plenty of grunt, and sounded quite good along the way. It didn’t quite feel as fast as the numbers indicated though. For instance, despite being about 300 pounds lighter and almost as powerful, it didn’t feel quite as brisk as a Scion tC (which has seven more horsepower and five more pound-feet of torque). This could be down to the gearing of the six-speed automatic though.
The actual shifting of the transmission is quite good, although we’d like to see Hyundai/Kia get creative and ditch this autobox for a more performance oriented dual-clutch system. The steering wheel mounted paddles were also a nice touch, adding a bit of needed involvement to the otherwise drab Forte.
The downside to the Kia comes in the interior. This cabin just doesn’t deliver the kind of aggression and style that we see on the outside of the car. It doesn’t help that it’s cut-and-pasted from the Forte sedan and five-door. We aren’t asking for an entirely new setup, but adding some trim and functional items that are unique to the sportier Koup would do a lot to broaden the two-door’s appeal to the enthusiast market.
—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager
When I drove the Kia Forte Koup a couple years ago, I felt let down by a few things. It’s general lack of helpful feedback and passionless interior still are on my list of small complaints. Over time though, I had forgotten how quick this thing feels. This time around, I got in, sat down, put the pedal to the floor, and was surprised by how eagerly the Koup jumped into motion. It was also a particularly decent handler, and I had a lot of fun driving this quickly throughout town, dodging traffic, and keeping the speed up in corners.
And, although it may not receive the interior treatment it deserves, the seats are comfortable, and I found it easy to find a good seating position. Also, the rear seat is adequately roomy for such a small coupe. The only thing is, now that Scion has given a huge update to the tC, it’s Kia’s turn to play catch-up. Still, it’s a very interesting and sound alternative to the standard Civic coupe.
—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor
Good acceleration and accompanying soundtrack.
Paddle shifters offer a bit more involvement when swapping gears.
Roomy backseat is an anomaly among small coupes
Interior doesn’t do the sporty Koup justice.
Navigation system is only available with an automatic.
Lacks the customization options of a Scion tC or Honda Civic.