Test Drive: 2010 Kia Fort? Koup

When the Kia Fort? sedan came out last summer, it was a revelation that the budget Korean automaker was committed to moving upscale and competing with Honda and Toyota for small car buyers. The sturdy Fort? was well-liked by the press and the market alike. And right at the end of the press introduction, Kia gave us a sneak peak at the 2010 Kia Fort? Koup. The two-door version of the Fort? had a generally sportier look to it, a more powerful engine, and generally represented more of everything I liked about the Fort? sedan.

Last week I was lucky enough to take my first ride in a Fort? Koup, and also to get a chance to take the Koup for a few hot laps around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I liked the Fort? sedan last year, and now I?m completely in love with the Fort? Koup.

The Koup comes with your choice of a 2.0-liter or a 2.4-liter engine. Both are normally-aspirated, 16-valve engines with variable valve timing. The 2.0-liter in the Fort? EX delivers 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque, which is nice enough. But the 2.4-liter engine in the Fort? SX offers 173 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque, and that makes a world of difference in the 2800-pound Fort? chassis. The Kia Fort? SX Koup is a wonderful sports car right off the showroom floor.

With the SX package, you get a 6-speed manual transmission (or a 5-speed automatic) that is well-matched to the engine?s strong points. The suspension is firm and responsive, and the interior is comfortable and nicely put together. Driving the Fort? SX Koup is a joy, being tossable in corners and confident in its handling.

Fuel economy is also excellent ? with the 2.0-liter Koup delivering 25/34 MPG and the 2.4-liter hot rod still offering 22/32 with the manual transmission. The Koup EX starts at $16,595 and the SX at an enticing $17,695. For an extra $1,000, you can have heated leather seats, which I would definitely buy.

The bottom line on the Kia Fort? SX Koup is that this is a great car for any buyer who wants a fast, sporty experience at an economy car price.

[Rating:9/10]

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