Kia Forte Koup: Can It Combine Sporty Character and Practicality? [Review]

2015 forte koup grille driving
Kia Forte Koup

The 2015 Kia Forte Koup is the most ambitious car in Kia’s Forte line, although calling this two-door compact a “Koupe” (“K” is for “Coupe”) may confuse some car shoppers.

The front-drive Koup comes as the EX with a sophisticated 2.0-liter 173-horsepower engine for $18,590-$19,590, depending on the transmission (standard 6-speed manual, optional 6-speed automatic). The sexier 1.6-liter turbocharged 201-horsepower SX lists at $20,590 with the manual and at $21,590 with the automatic.

I tested the Koup SX with the manual. It calls for a slight move of the gearbox lever to the left to avoid hitting third gear instead of first when starting out, and the Koup wants to move off the line only slowly when in third. Also, the generally slick shifter can become notchy if a driver rushes it.

2015 kia forte koup

The clutch throw is long, but has a light action. It’s no big deal, but the shifter fault can get annoying in heavy traffic.)

First gear is another story — it makes the Koup fast off the line. In fact, leave it in fourth gear during passing on highways and the 65-75 mph. time is a breeze. Fifth gear even supplies decent highway passing time, but sixth is a cruising gear. Also, when climbing even mild hills, it’s best to downshift to fourth.

Although smaller, the rev-loving, smooth turbo engine has a lot more torque than the non-turbo and a torque band that goes all the way from 1,750 to 4,500 r.p.m. Throttle response is instant, with little to no turbo lag.

Estimated fuel economy with the turbo engine with the manual transmission is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on highways. It’s 22 and 30 with the automatic.

2015 Forte Koup

The Koup SX looks different than the non-turbo EX version. The SX has an aggressive front fascia with a larger bumper and grille openings, black gloss grille inserts, larger front brakes and alloy sport pedals. The lower front fascia and rear valance also include carbon fiber-look trim.

Also standard are 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome exhaust tips, power folding outside mirrors and LED tail lights.

Actually, the Koup SX has a good amount of equipment. It include air conditioning, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, rear-camera display, 60/40 split-folding rear seats with a center armrest, push-button start, cruise control, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls and power folding outside mirrors with turn signal indicators.

The electric steering is sharp with acceptable road feel, and the Koup SX stays glued to the road during sweeping curves, thanks to such items as a good suspension, traction control, electronic stability control and a vehicle stability management system. There’s also hill-assist control.


Stops are quick and sure with four-wheel anti-lock brakes with a brake assist feature. They’re controlled by a firm pedal.

Safety features include full-length side curtain air bags.

The ride is generally firm, but compliant. However, a few roads caused the car to become a little floaty.

The Koup SX doors are long and heavy, and low seats mean occupants must plop themselves into the car. But doors have easily gripped outside handles for quick entry. Front seats are supportive in the right places, and the backlit gauges can be quickly read in bright sunlight. Controls are easy to use, as are all cupholders. Doors have storage pockets with bottle holders.


The interior is generally quiet, and there’s decent room for four adults, or for five in a pinch, partly because the middle of the backseat is soft.

The decent-size trunk has a wide, but rather high, opening. And its lid has a hefty inside handle to help close it. But the folding rear seatbacks don’t sit entirely flat if shoved forward for more cargo room. The seatback release levers are in the trunk for security purposes.

Here is the Kia Forte 5-Door making a debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

My test Koup SX had several enticing option packages. They included a $1,900 Premium package with a power tilt/slide sunroof, leather seat trim and heated front seats and steering wheel. There also was a $1,900 Technology package with dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation system and a supervision meter cluster with a 4.2-inch color LCD display.

The hood is held open with a prop rod, instead of hydraulic struts, but fluid filler areas can be easily reached. The engine oil dipstick is very conveniently put directly right in front of the engine.That’s the one most car owners who look under the hood bother with.

An auto that combine sportiness with practicality is generally a winner, so the Kia Forte Koup promises to do well.

Check out this TFLcar match-up video with the Kia Forte Sedan.