2010 Kia Forte
No longer satisfied being labeled the cheap-o brand from Korea, Kia is launching a massive reinvention tour – á la Britney – in America. It all started with the debut of the 2010 Soul
earlier this year – a car whose looks and price-point are grabbing attention. But one good car does not a better brand make, and it is up to the 2010 Forte to follow through. If the Soul is Kia’s champagne and cigarettes, the Forte is their bread and butter. The four-door sedan is the replacement for the Spectra (you’re not alone if you’ve never heard of it), and it’s going after the likes of the Honda Civic
and Toyota Corolla
– not easy competition from which to win buyers. After surveying everything from the sexy exterior to the segment-matching drive, we think that the Forte has the chops to make other compacts quake in their rubber. Three trims are available, from a base LX with option-only air conditioning to the high-end SX with a robust 2.4-liter engine. The standard features list – yes, even on the LX – is longer than Shaq’s arm span, and includes Bluetooth connectivity and a USB jack. The Forte won’t be starting any revolutions, but it will play a large part in elevating the Kia name.
What's to Like
Exterior looks may have been snatched from the Honda and Lexus design studios, but they combine to create a good-looking Kia. Standard features like Bluetooth are offered as freely as government bailouts, and an MSRP of $13,695 makes the starting price irresistible.
What's Not to Like
Not offering standard air conditioning on the base model is a seriously poor decision. The same can be said for leaving out a navigation option for the car. While the larger engine has plenty of power, the 2.0-liter engine feels gutless at times. There are only two – count ‘em, two – cup holders in the rear, which happen to be located in the armrest. How’s that supposed to work if you’ve got a full car?
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The truth is there aren’t any life-changing drives to be found within the budget compact car segment. So to say that the Forte’s drive is good, not great, is a general acknowledgment of the group’s talent as a whole. Steering is light and a tad vague, but bumps in the road are nicely absorbed by the compliant suspension, which adds a responsive feel to the drive. The Forte has two engine options on hand. The first, a 2.0-liter found in the LX and EX, seems slightly underpowered during uphill climbs. However, its 156 hp easily competes with the rest of the field and is more than capable for daily commutes and weekend adventures. The larger 2.4-liter engine available only in the SX trim makes full use of its 173 hp and ably moves the Forte along. Road noise on both is minimal, and the comfortable, quiet cabin environment is ultimately a relaxing place to pass the time.
Engine and Drivetrain
The LX and EX trims feature a 2.0-liter engine, which produces 156 horsepower and 144 lb-ft of torque. Power is driven to the front wheels via either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. For the SX, a larger 2.4-liter engine has been swapped in, giving it 173 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque. Both the manual and auto receive another gear over those in the LX and EX.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
A powerful, 360-watt Infinity sound system will be an available option in place of the standard setup found in the Forte. Since they’ve made it difficult to add aftermarket head units to the sedan, we’d recommend shelling out for this hard-hitting system. If you opt for the EX or SX trim, you’ll find yourself in the company of cruise control and split folding rear seats, while the SX gets extra features like a tilting/telescoping steering wheel and trip computer.
Key Technology Evaluation
While we’re miffed there’s no navigation unit available, Kia’s voice-activated Bluetooth setup is one of the most intuitive and simple systems we’ve seen. Use the hands-free calling through the steering wheel controls – a cluster that looks better than most in the market – for accessible chatting. The Forte’s MP3 player interface is also easy to use as well and accommodates most types of players.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
As you’d expect with four different transmission options, the fuel economy numbers vary from 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for the SX auto to 25 city, 34 highway for the LX and EX trims. Kia has made available a fuel economy package, which utilizes silica tires to reduce rolling resistance and minor aerodynamic modifications to bring the EX’s fuel economy up to 27 city, 36 highway.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The interior isn’t groundbreaking, but driver comfort has clearly been given a focus. Seats are comfortable and the driver gets to stare at a ruby-red backlit instrument panel and well-designed center stack. Cubby space isn’t extraordinary, but you’ll find there are intuitive places to store your belongings. There’s a large amount of trunk room as well.
The Forte brings in huge style points with its sleek exterior design. It may have taken cues from other manufacturers, but the wedge-shaped profile and broad nose look more expensive than its MSRP. 17-inch wheels are fitted onto the SX, while 15s are standard on the LX and EX.
Market Segment and Pricing
Currently, none of the competition – a group that includes the Honda Civic
, Mazda Mazda3
, Toyota Corolla
, Ford Focus
and Chevrolet Cobalt
– can beat the base MSRP of the Kia Forte. The LX begins at $13,695, but with limited standard features Kia anticipates most buyers to move up to the $15,795 EX trim. At the top of the model range is the SX at $17,195. Destination adds $695 to the final tally. Hotly anticipated, the two-door ‘Koup’ will follow later this year.
What We Think
Kia hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the new Forte, but it is leaving its old brand image behind as it unloads the Spectra name. The Forte proves itself as a worthy contender among heavy hitters like the Civic and Mazda3, but nothing – sans the exterior design – sets it drastically apart from the pack. Considering Kia’s pole position before, we think the step forward is impressive and a positive one for the manufacturer.
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