The 2010 Kia Forte Koup-the first coupe ever from the Korean automaker-brings a welcome dose of high style to this entry level brand. For the record, “Koup” is spelled with a “K,” to remind us all that this snazzy little two-door is a Kia.

Sharing the sedan’s 104.3-inch wheelbase, and at 176.4 inches long overall, the swifter Koup measures 2 inches shorter, and about 2 1/2 inches lower than the four-door. In fact, the Koup’s short clamshell hood is the only sheetmetal shared with the sedan. Wide, angular flared headlamps flank a narrow grille, making for a front end that reminds us of the Honda Civic.

But an exclusive trio of lower intakes help make this Koup distinctive. Fog lights set in the squared-off jaw line are available with SX trim. A deep character line sweeps from below the mirror and flows the length of the Koup’s body. The greenhouse aft of the door handle is muscle in miniature, complete with small, boldly-drawn rear quarter window and beefy C-pillar.

Sectioned wrap-around taillights, black rear diffuser, and twin exhaust tips are nice touches to the Koup’s tail. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are standard on the base EX. Our Racing Red SX wore black-accented split-spoke 17-inch alloys.

Also carrying over from the four-door to the two-door are the instrument panel, three-gauge cluster, and Soul-inspired boogey-board center stack, albeit with trim unique to the Koup. Also like Soul, speakers in our SX pulse red to the beat of the music from the six-speaker sound system.

Front buckets seats are supportive and comfortable. Cloth is standard with heated leather an option. Six airbags are standard, as is a tilt steering wheel. SX trim adds telescope.

The Koup’s stylish, well-fit cabin comes with features unexpected for its class; like Bluetooth with steering-wheel mounted controls and an iPod jack. The rear seat is compact coupe cozy, with the lower roofline taking its toll on headroom. But the 60/40 seatbacks do fold, turning the respectable 12.6 cubic foot trunk into a long, useful loading platform.

Variable-timing engines are also shared with the sedan-for the EX, a 156-horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder mated to either a standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic. For our SX, a 2.4-liter with 173 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. That outguns the Scion tC by 12 horsepower and 6 pound-feet. Front-drive trannies include a positive engaging 6-speed manual, and a 5-speed automatic with manual mode.

Our 6-speed Koup clocked a 0 to 60 time of 8.6 seconds, and a 16.6-second quarter mile at 87 miles per hour. With its vague, on-off clutch the Koup is clearly no stop-light warrior. But our impressions changed totally in the slalom. With MacPherson struts up front, and despite a torsion beam rear, the Koup threaded cones like a needle. Grippy tires and nicely balanced speed-sensitive steering help deliver above-average handling.

Even at high speeds, we couldn’t coax the Forte into stability control nanny-mode. The steering became noticeably heavier and crisper, and this little red bottle rocket just locked in.

All-disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist kept stops from 60 to a tidy average of 120 feet. The Koup shimmied a little at first jab of the pedal, but proved rock-solid all the way to a standstill.

With Government Fuel Economy ratings of 22 city and 32 highway, our manual 2.4 SX sounds efficient. But on our test loop, we recorded an only so-so 25.3 miles per gallon on regular gas.

The Forte Koup 2.4’s Energy Impact Score is 13.2 barrels of oil a year, and its Carbon Footprint is a moderate 7.1 tons of CO2 emitted annually. If fuel economy is your primary concern, the 2.0 EX is about 10% thriftier.

Base price for the Kia Koup EX manual is $17,290. Our SX manual starts at $18,390. And, optioned to the gills, it just barely crests $20,000, so it’s price competitive with the Honda Civic Coupe and Scion tC. But the Koup does come with a superior 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Kia Forte Sedan, so we expected good things from the Forte Koup, and we’re not disappointed. Kia has now fielded a compact car series that rivals the best Japanese designs. Plus, the Koup’s level of style and handling belies its price. The 2010 Kia Forte Koup is indeed a coupe coup d’


  • Engine: 2.4-Liter
  • Horsepower: 173
  • Torque: 168 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 8.6 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 16.6 Seconds @ 87 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 120 Feet
  • EPA: 22 MPG City/ 32 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 25.3 MPG
  • Energy Impact: 13.2 Barrels Oil/Yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 7.1 Tons/Yr