Kia KOUP Concept Hints at Future Production Car

By Chris Haak


Thursday at the New York Auto Show, Kia showed its KOUP (pronounced as if it’s spelled ‘coupe,’ of course) concept and strongly hinted that the car would soon see production. In fact, the press release (which you can read in its entirety after the jump) makes several mentions to features of the car being “realistic.” Also, it’s not difficult at all to visualize this car slightly toned down for production.

The Koup (I refuse to capitalize the name throughout this article, the same way I refuse to do so when referring to the names of Saturn vehicles) is certainly an attractive vehicle, with sporty proportions that finally give some weight to Kia’s years-old claims of differentiating itself from its Hyundai cousin through aggressively-styled, sporty vehicles. I do, however, have to call Kia out on the Koup’s overall shape, as it’s more than a little similar to a Honda Civic Si’s. The C-pillar treatment, however, is not the same as the Civic coupe’s. I’ve previously criticized the lack of originality in Hyundai’s and Kia’s design, but at least the Koup looks better than its potential inspiration instead of worse.

The Koup concept is based on the Spectra compact car, but has a far more powerful engine. According to Kia, the Koup has a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection. It’s rated at a strong 290 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. Since the rear wheel drive Hyundai Genesis coupe will have a four cylinder as a base engine, is it within the realm of possibilities that this engine could find its way under the hood of a Genesis model? 290 horsepower and a flat turbo-fortified torque curve is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, GM is considering adding a 2.0 liter turbocharged direct injection four cylinder to the rear wheel drive Camaro’s engine lineup.

I find the Koup more attractive than nearly any Kia I’ve ever laid eyes on, yet after staring at it for a while, I’m disappointed that in spite of some original styling cues that will hopefully make their way to other members of the Kia lineup, the car’s overall stance and shape are very reminiscent of the Honda Civic Si that it’s trying to knock down to size.

Continue reading for the press release from Kia.


Design Cues, Indicative of an Emotional and Powerful Driving Experience,
Reflect Brand Evolution

• Distinctive “check mark” shape furthers the performance-inspired appearance
• Realistic interior design makes KOUP a true driver’s car

NEW YORK, March 20, 2008 – Combining youthful exuberance with a sporty and sleek design, Kia Motors America (KMA) today globally debuted the KOUP concept at the 2008 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) during a press conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Illustrating the shape and evolution of future Kia vehicles, the simple yet bold and aggressive KOUP exterior is complemented by its realistic and sleek interior design. Originating from the Kia Motors America Design Center in Irvine, Calif., the KOUP concept embodies Kia’s philosophy of “Exciting and Enabling” with its balanced proportions and fluid design set to evoke an emotional driving experience.

“The Kia KOUP concept represents the future of the Kia brand and its dynamic vehicles that speak to our core philosophies,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer of KMA. “Kia strives to appeal to the emotional side of car enthusiasts who seek adventure and want to take a leap into the future with style and advanced technology, and the KOUP effectively delivers.”

First Glance

Curb appeal begins with the KOUP’s balanced proportions and fluid design. From the tab-shaped and purposeful upper grille to the high-tech and pragmatic headlamps, the front fascia’s form gives the vehicle a bold and aggressive stance.

The KOUP features an uncomplicated yet dynamic wedge shape along its sides stemming from its glowing, carbon fiber and black chrome enhanced LED lamp lenses.

While the KOUP’s overall form is simple and precise, it makes a design statement with positive tension created by a “swoosh” that swoops from the “C” pillar forward, down to the “A” pillar and flares all the way back around to the rear deck lid. A trailing horizontal lip along the deck lid tapers up toward the outer ends to meet up with the swoosh from the beltline. The rocker sill has a distinctive “check mark” shape and prominent wheel flares that give the KOUP a strong, lowered stance. The short overhangs and wide stance reflect its well-balanced and responsive character.

No element of high-style design is missing in the KOUP concept as illustrated by its greenhouse-integrated, panoramic-view glass with two panels extending from the windshield through the roof to the backlight, appearing as two parallel pieces of glass – similar to a fighter jet cockpit. Segregating the glass panels, an interior mood light runs the full length of the greenhouse. To further the performance-inspired appearance with sporty elegance, carbon fiber enhancements accent the KOUP’s chin spoiler, lamp lenses, cowl panel, side-view mirrors, rear bumper insert and rear diffuser, while flashy twin wheel spokes include carbon fiber inserts paired with an open design to show off the Brembo® calipers and cross-drilled rotors.

Inside the Cockpit

Conceived artfully and with graphic precision, the KOUP’s interior hones in on the desires of auto enthusiasts from the inward lean of the dashboard and Supervision instrument panel, enhancing the performance-inspired driving experience to the custom-designed, race-inspired steering wheel in front of a three-gauge instrument cluster. Carbon fiber accents on the shifter plate and seat tilt-adjust mechanism reinforce sporty performance.

Audiophiles and car enthusiasts alike will take heed of eight speakers, including large rear deck speakers matched to a juke box audio system, further harmonizing the driving experience. A built-in Bluetooth-enabled navigation system with Map On Demand (MOD) is just the beginning of the telematics services, including safe driving, car maintenance and life/assistance offerings.

The KOUP features a realistic interior design that integrates high-style materials, including rich and supple seat fabrics accentuated with concrete- and black-color trims. As a true driver’s car, the front seats contrast the rear seats with opposing colors and patterning and horizontal, padded silicone bars occupy the seat backs for extra comfort. High-tech details are integrated into the interior, including convenient smart key with push button start, and a six-speed automatic transmission with steering column-mounted paddle shifters.

Taking Flight

Powered by a commanding 2.0-liter Theta II turbocharged engine producing 290 horsepower paired with a GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) twin scroll turbocharger for greater power and efficiency, the KOUP delivers astonishing torque of 289 lb-ft at a low 2,000 rpm sustained to 4,000 rpm. By injecting fuel directly into the cylinder under high pressure using the Kia GDI system, the intake charge is cooled and combustion behavior is improved. Improved combustion assures excellent fuel economy and low emissions. Lower grille openings enable additional air intake for extra power.

Built on a front-wheel-drive unibody frame, coil springs and stabilizer bars complement an independent front suspension featuring MacPherson struts and an independent dual link rear suspension to provide the optimal balance of ride comfort and engine responsiveness. An engine-speed-sensitive, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system adds the finishing touch for precise handling. In keeping with the KOUP’s sporty essence, Continuous Damping Control (CDC) for quick movements and sharp turns paired with a sport-tuned, four-wheel independent suspension and strut tower bar offer a tighter grip for more spirited driving.


The KOUP concept features all of the standard safety features offered in Kia’s regular production vehicle lineup including six standard airbags and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Electronic Stability Control (ESC) paired with CDC stabilizes the KOUP for maximum contact with the pavement. The large 245/40ZR19 tires complete the KOUP’s impressive package. Also included is adaptive front lighting and cruise control, adding to the KOUP’s advanced safety technology.

The KOUP concept features all of the standard safety features offered in Kia’s regular production vehicle lineup including six standard airbags and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Electronic Stability Control (ESC) paired with CDC stabilizes the KOUP for maximum contact with the pavement. The large 245/40ZR19 tires complete the KOUP’s impressive package. Also included is adaptive front lighting and cruise control, adding to the KOUP’s advanced safety technology.

COPYRIGHT – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. I’m not impressed. It doesn’t look like anything original here, although it’s an improvement over what they have now.

  2. The production engine will likely have output in the low 200s, just like the engine in the Genesis.

  3. I beg to differ. This is a really attractive car. They should start making it TOMORROW!

  4. I agree w hunsicker, it’s a great-looking car. I saw it at the auto show this past weekend.

  5. I’m completely split on this one — derivative but pretty.

    Certainly the Honda Civic Si and Audi A5 are not the worst places to get your styling cues. I say build it and they will come.

  6. I think it’s beauty-ful. Let’s get it ASAP. Maybe Kia is finally going to have something to say in the market.

  7. Look at little Kia, all grown up! How do you like them apples?

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