PAYSON, Ariz. -- We're following twisty Arizona back roads somewhere between Camp Verde and Payson, rolling over humpy convolutions of the Colorado Plateau to sample the sport-tuned suspension and turbo-charged power in a new sporty coupe from Kia, the Forte Koop.
This stylish 2-door for the sport compact class spins off the 4-door Forte sedan but scores unique sheetmetal shapes and a pair of juicy 4-pack powertrains including Kia's first force-fed turbo.
The Forte Koop looks serious in an aero-sleek package with ultra-fast windshield rake, curt and sporty overhangs front and rear, minimal gaps between tires and fenders, and the trailing ripple of a deck-lid spoiler.
A brash face supports exaggerated narrow-eye headlamp clusters streaking up front fenders and a gaping-mouth air intake port fitted with black gloss mesh.
Side panels undulate with bulges for wheelwells plus a high-mount character line which rises toward the tail. The blunt rump provides the integrated spoiler over multi-lamp taillight assemblies punctuating corners and a body-colored bumper swooping over dual exhaust pipes in the lower fascia featuring carbon fiber-look trim.
Forte Koop for 2014 has a rigid unibody structure with the wheelbase length stretching to 106.3 inches. The width of the body extends to 70.1 inches and the distance from the prow up front to the tail fascia tallies to 178.3 inches. These spatial measures serve to crimp both front and rear overhangs of the body and push the wheels outward toward edges of the package, creating a stable platform.
Kia's compact coupe employs a sport-tuned suspension with independent struts in front and a rear torsion beam with coil springs.
Each Koup gets 4-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist system (BAS). A vehicle stability management (VSM) device controls the electronic stability control (ESC) system, traction control system (TCS) and motor-driven electric power steering (MDPS) system.
Kia splits the Forte Koup into two trims -- Forte Koup EX the price-leader and a turbo-powered Forte Koup SX.
Forte Koup EX draws from a dual-overhead-cam (DOHC) 4-in-line aluminum engine with gasoline direct injection (GDI) plus Kia's dual continuously variable valve timing (DCVVT) equipment to balance power output with thrifty fuel economy.
The 2.0-liter GDI plant produces 173 hp at 6500 rpm plus torque of 166 lb-ft at 6500 rpm and links to a 6-speed manual shifter or optional 6-speed electronic automatic. EPA fuel figures for the 2.0 engine extend to 24 mpg for in-town driving and 33 mpg on the road with a manual shifter, or 25/34 mpg city/highway with the automatic.
Forte Koup SX gets more juice with Kia's new DOHC 4-cylinder Gamma engine which displaces 1.6 liters and has turbocharged-gasoline direct injection (T-GDI) plus the DCVVT equipment. The turbo plant hits 200 hp at 6000 rpm and torque of 195 lb-ft between 1750-4500 rpm.
Shifter choices are the 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed electronic automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddles added for manual control.
Fuel burn numbers on the turbo-4 run to 22/29 mpg city/highway for the manual gearbox and 22/30 mpg city/highway with the automatic.
Koup's cabin pins a pair of bucket seats up front flanking a console and a split-folding bench in back with two articulated seat positions but room for three. The compartment seems generous in scale. Headroom amounts to 38.2 inches up front and 36.4 inches in back, with front-seat legroom at 42.2 inches and 35.9 inches in the rear.
Standard equipment for the Koup EX includes 16-inch alloy wheels, power-folding exterior mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, front foglamps and LED positioning lights, air conditioning, cruise control, steering wheel audio buttons, power controls for windows and door locks with remote keyless entry, a trip computer, rear camera display, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6-speaker sound kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB and UVO eServices.
Koup SX upgrades with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips, LED taillights, larger front brakes, alloy sport pedals and seats with carbon fiber-style accents.
Options extend to HID headlights, a sunroof, navigation system, leather seat upholstery, SmartKey with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate controls and HD Radio.
Kia's MSRP numbers for the Forte Koup range from $18,600 (EX with MT6) to $21,600 (SX with AT6).
2015 Kia Forte Koup EX Manual
2015 Kia Forte Koup EX Automatic
2015 Kia Forte Koup SX Manual
2015 Kia Forte Koup SX Automatic
MSRP: Starting at $18,590
MPG: 25 city/34 highway
Horsepower: 173 HP/201 HP
Curb weight: 2,820 lbs/2,925 lbs
Engine size: 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter