By Jonathon Taylor
The great thing about life is it just keeps coming right at you. For the most part, with experience, guile and a number of little lessons commonly called ‘the school of hard knocks’ you learn how to read life’s warning signs. So, with deft swerves of mind, mouth and body, you can avoid taking too many shots smack on the schnoz.
However, occasionally — no matter how prepared you might think you are — the odd curve ball does connect. These tend to make an impression (usually on the forehead) and leave you picking yourself up, dusting off any residual impact debris and asking, “What the hell was that?” What makes all this so much fun is these little lessons are just as likely to be good experiences as they are bad.
Either way, they remind you to never underestimate the power of the unexpected and that’s pretty much exactly how I felt after driving my first Kia. You see I figured I had Kias pegged based on nothing more than second hand comment. Now that was a mistake — the exact kind curve balls thrive on!
For a start the Kia Cerato Koup doesn’t look like my mind told me it should. With a hint of Holden up front and shades of Alfa Romeo GT out back, it punches above its weight beauty wise. Minimal overhang front and rear alludes to a compact and aggressive ride. And this is exactly what you get, as the handling has been tweaked to mirror its style.
The Koup is a nimble little number perfectly matched to our windy roads. What is nice is a balance has been achieved here, as it’s in no way overly firm or uncomfortable.
The power doesn’t completely blow your hair back but it was never designed to produce mind-meld type performance — this is a completely useable car designed for the realities of contemporary motoring. Perhaps the harshest of these realities is the price of petrol, so at 7.7L per 100km (manual) the Koup’s consumption rate is utterly tolerable.
On the practicality note, there’s plenty of room all round, particularly in the boot and for a two door coupe this kind of convenience makes a difference. The Koup comes in manual and auto, while the four door sedan is available in auto only. Both come in LX and higher spec SX versions and feature the same power unit — a two litre DOHC CVVT petrol engine.
All feature ABS brakes, electronic stability programme, duel front airbags and radio/CD/MP3 players with iPod and USB inputs. The SX deliver a higher trim spec, such as leather seats, 17” alloy wheels opposed to the LX’s 16”, power sunroof, six CD stacker and trip computer. Colour options, although a tad limited, are cool — a racing red, lime twist, ebony black and titanium silver.
What it is, is inexpensive. The LX is $27,990 and the SX $33,990. With this comes a five year/100,000km (whichever comes first) warranty programme with 24-hour roadside assistance, 12 months registration, WOF, a 1500km first service and full tank of fuel. Simple fact is the Cerato, in either incarnation, is one cost competitive entity.
Apart from leaps in looks, handling, reliability and great gadget action, perhaps the most compelling reason for buying new and late model cars is because they are just so much safer than those old steel boxes capable of converting any human into ‘spam in a can’ at a moment’s notice.
Ceratos have front active headrests which move forwards and upwards within milliseconds of the moment of an impact to cushion the head and prevent whiplash. There are six air bags and an electronic stability program (ESP). Fact is, you’d be mad to buy a new car without an ESP system — they’re just magic and arguably the single best safety feature since the seat belt, as ESP equipped vehicles have 30 percent less fatal single vehicle crashes than those without it. Add to this anti-lock braking system, seatbelt pretensioners and reverse warning sensors and the Cerato safety credentials more than meet the mark.
But as with many things, it’s the attention to detail that make the difference — like the rear view mirror dimmer for when your getting monstered by some midnight manic who won’t dim their lights.
Basically the Koup is an honest car, delivering exactly what it ascribes to be, and maybe a little bit more. It’s a handsome, compact yet roomy sports coupe that isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. It’s got all the equipment new cars need, is light on its feet and very cost competitive. If you take one for a spin, just be careful, or you’ll end up dusting yourself off and asking, “what the hell was that?”