Kia Forte stands out among compacts
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media February 25, 2013 2:42PM
2014 KIA FORTE
ENGINE: 173-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder GDI
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: expected to exceed
27 city/37 highway
BASE PRICE: $15,995 (plus $850 destination)
Updated: February 27, 2013 12:57PM
The outgoing Kia Forte compact is a tough act to follow due to its competitive price, solid drivetrain, decent interior, and a great warranty. So when Kia introduced the really slick-looking 2014 model at the Los Angeles Auto Show last fall, it piqued my interest to see how much they improved on the existing model.
Set to arrive at Chicago-area Kia dealers shortly, the 2014 Forte will be offered in LX (just under $16,000) and EX variants with two engine choices. The new front-drive Forte compact sedan rides on a longer (by 1.2 inches), lower (0.6 inches) and wider (0.2 inches) chassis than the current model launched in 2009. Forte is Kia’s No. 3 sedan slotted after the just-introduced Cadenza, strong-selling Optima, and ahead of the subcompact Rio.
Forte’s new look is completely different from the outgoing Forte with a long, low and flowing body sculpt. Short overhangs blend into wider fenders that house attractive 16-inch or optional 17-inch alloy wheels. Along the sides, the hockey stick chrome trim below the windows and the lower door “boomerang” body crease convey a sporty attitude.
Sinking into the Forte’s comfortable driver’s seat and behind the wheel, it was easy to acclimate to the driver-focused layout Kia designed. Details abound, including richer interior materials and textures and thoughtful touches like a sliding sun visor, driver focused dash, and plenty of accessible storage.
Kia always has stressed value by offering unexpected levels of refinement and premium features that are at the top of their vehicles respective segments. Several EX model highlights include steering wheel-mounted audio controls, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth wireless technology, and air and power/heated outside mirrors. Upgrades on the test car included 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry/remote trunk release, and sliding front armrest.
EX trimmed Fortes “tech up” with Kia’s next-generation Google-powered UVO in-vehicle infotainment system with eServices and optional navigation system activated through your smart phone. Uncommon options include rear camera backup display, cooling drink glove box, heated front and rear seats, driver’s seat with class-exclusive air-cooled ventilation, leather seat trim, and a heated steering wheel. My test vehicle had the optional technology package, which adds HID headlights, LED tail lights, a 4.2-inch color LCD cluster screen, and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation.
Front seat leg, torso and headroom is generous for a compact, and three rear seat passengers will have plenty of foot and head room. The trunk also is quite large for a compact at 14.9 cubic feet.
I also found the Forte to be insulated well from outside noises unless you accelerate hard, or the pavement gets coarse, then the tires transmit some noise into the cabin.
The LX models are powered by a 1.8-liter, 148 horsepower four-cylinder, multi-point injection engines with a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic (Sportmatic) transmission.
The test vehicles provided were the 2.0-liter, 173 horsepower four-cylinder engine EX models with six-speed automatic transmissions. A manual is not offered with the 2.0L engine.
Acceleration is average and the engine is a little buzzy when pushed hard but quieter than the outgoing model. The 2.0L engine does have enough power for passing/merging and climbing steep hills.
Kia did not release Environmental Protection Agency mileage numbers, but the current generation’s numbers of 27/37 should be improved upon.
Driving the Forte was a better than expected experience, and I especially liked the steering wheel mounted FlexSteer button. This allows the driver to adjust steering resistance between normal, comfort and sport, with sport providing the most noticeable change.
Additional standard driving aids include traction control, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, and hill assist control. All these standard driving aids work in concert to provide you a better feeling of control, in addition to offering excellent value.
After testing the new 2014 Kia Forte sedan I would put this car up against Corolla, Civic and Cruze. All are established best sellers, but the Forte’s excellent value, sleek exterior styling, tech features and roomy interior could make this sedan the surprise of the compact segment this year.
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