I agree with Mr. DeMatio that the Forte Koup is a great choice for someone who wants a semi-sporty, practical, affordable two-door. I think our Koup looks good inside and out, even if the wedge profile and wide-grille nose are quite derivative of the Honda Civic coupe.
The steering, handling, and brakes are all decently engaging, but the Koup's sporty premise is let down by its drivetrain. Not only does the engine sound coarse when revved, but the automatic transmission routinely fails to pick the right gear. Using the manual shift paddles helps somewhat; upshifts are crisp, but on downshifts the transmission seems to have trouble choosing ratios. Like Mr. DeMatio, I would prefer a manual gearbox.
The Koup SX is definitely a cool, fun little car, but the sticker price is a major issue. At $23,640 as-tested, this Forte Koup is priced about on par with the 2012 Honda Civic Si. The Si is far more fun to drive, and there's no question that I'd pick the Honda over the Kia.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editors
The Forte Koup is a pretty fun car. From the back, it looks quite a bit like a circa-2004 Acura RSX, which is not a bad thing. I've never driven an RSX, but I owned and loved sporty coupes when I was younger (a two-door 1993 Plymouth Sundance Duster and a 2003 Dodge Stratus R/T coupe), and this Kia reminds me of those cars: fun to cruise down a back road with the windows down, the radio up, and an arm out the window, working on your truck-driver's tan. Like in my old Mopars, the Forte is no sports car but can still be fun to steer through the twisties. My old Chrysler coupes had 3.0-liter V-6 engines and manual gearboxes, but this four-cylinder Kia feels almost as sprightly, even with its automatic transmission (a six-speed). It's probably just as well that it didn't have a stick shift anyway, as the Forte 5-door that we tested recently had a disappointing manual gearbox.
I climbed into the back seats and was pleased to find plenty of legroom and just enough headroom (I am only five-foot six, however). Like some of my colleagues, I really like the pretty metallic blue paint. I think the sub-$24K price is appropriate for this heavily optioned example, although the Scion tC presents some very stiff competition.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor