Common sense Forte also sporty, fun, loaded with goodies
Kia cranks out another winner with its updated Forte compact sedan, a near sport sedan with a modern sporty look and common sense price tag and performance.
The Forte is stellar in nothing, but good at everything. Such solid execution from a car maker creates the dilemma auto writers despise, precious few nits to pick.
What Forte does well is deliver smooth modern looks and a fairly quiet interior that’ll easily hold four adults while providing comfort, a big trunk and all the amenities of higher priced sport sedans.
A base Forte LX comes with a 1.8-liter I4 that delivers a reasonable 148 horses with a torque rating of 131. Yet the tested metallic blue Forte EX, its top level model, packs a 2.0-liter I4 with direct injection that’s capable of 173 horses and 154 ft.-lbs. or torque. Not monster power to be sure, but sufficient to hurry the car onto a freeway or away from a stoplight.
Putting the power to the pavement is a 6-speed automatic with Sportmatic, which means you can shift manually if you want. Plus the EX adds 17-inch alloy wheels for $300. The base car comes with 15-inch steel wheels. This gives it more rubber and much better looking wheels.
Forte is front-wheel drive and handles well on dry or snowy pavement. Traction was good even in slippery fresh snow conditions and Forte turns into corners well.
Driver’s also get to select the steering effort they prefer. A button on the steering wheel hub allows you to dial in Comfort, Normal or Sport. Comfort delivers a light steering feel that really feels light and easy. Normal firms up the steering effort a bit, but is still enjoyable day to day. Sport makes steering effort much heavier, but it feels more precise. Fun!
Ride is good as Forte has a 106.3-inch wheelbase, right at the size that makes most cars feel more refined, no matter how chippy our roads may be. The MacPherson struts up front along with gas shocks and the rear torsion beam suspension with coil springs is nothing fancy. But they get the job done and keep costs down, no doubt. There also is a stabilizer bar up front.
Stability and traction control are standard along with a hill assist system and four-wheel disc brakes, laudable at this price point.
Forte feels light on its wheels, but stable and easy to control, an easy car to drive and enjoy.
My single performance concern is gas mileage, as the EPA rates this at 24 mpg city and 36 highway. I did about 60% city driving this week and got just 21.8 mpg, a full 2 mpg less than the trip computer estimated. Granted we had fresh snow twice during the drive and several days of 0-15-degree weather. I also only used the Active ECO system once and that’s designed to make the car shift earlier at lower rpm to keep gas consumption down. But the car feels like it’s dawdling with ECO on.
Inside, the test car was fairly quiet and well insulated from road noise. This one added the Premium Package ($2,600) that upgrades the cloth seats that are standard, to leather with perforated butt pocket and back cushion. These were comfy with moderate contouring and the driver’s seat was powered, with a power lumbar and both ventilation and three-level heat. The passenger’s seat also was heated as were the outboard rear seats, also part of the package.
Kia delivers a handsomely styled and easy to use dash and control cluster. The main gauges are black with white numbers and sit under a well sculpted hood to avoid reflections. The dash is textured black with a black carbon fiber-patterned trim around the center stack, which is set in a flat black surround that makes the touch screen and other buttons and dials stand out.
Radio channel buttons are large on the touch screen, so easy to use while driving, as are the 10 audio selection buttons below the screen that allow you to dial in the functions or radio bands you’re after. Volume and tuning knobs are moderately sized. I wish most automakers could make their audio systems function this easily.
Forte comes standard with a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel that includes a bunch of buttons on its hub for things like phones, the trip computer, cruise control, radio volume and the steering effort button. A back-up camera also is standard, as are fog lights, and mirrors that fold flat to the doors once you turn off the car and lock it.
Digital devotees will enjoy the UVO eServices telematics in a slide-top cubby in front of the shifter that also has USB and other electronic connections.
Because the test car added that premium package the car also had a button on the dash to heat up the steering wheel, an awesome feature for Wisconsin. The package also adds two seat memory buttons to lock in your favorite driving position, a sunroof, plus push-button start and extra outside lighting, both in the side mirrors to light the pavement next to the car’s doors and a door handle light that lit the dimple around the handle. Both are helpful.
A Technology Package ($2,300) adds Xenon headlights, a navigation system, HD radio, LED taillights and a dual-zone climate control system, which included large dials to help the driver or passenger easily select their preferred heat level. It was quite cold much of the test week and the heat came on relatively quickly, a big plus.
The test car had virtually everything on it that most folks would want, but I would add a flat-bottomed steering wheel that would not only give it a touch more legroom when entering and exiting, but would add a bit more sport to its interior.
On the practical side, the rear seat splits and folds down and the car features a large 14.9 cubic foot trunk. That’s excellent for carrying a family of four’s luggage.
Forte EX starts at $19,400 and with an $800 delivery fee and its options this one hit $25,515. That may seem high, but given all its goodies, the test car was an excellent value.
If that pushes a bit beyond your budget, a base LX with six-speed manual transmission starts at $15,590 and is rated 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.
The LX with an automatic lists at $17,400. Included in the price is Kia’s 10-year, 100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, a 5-year and 60,000-mile basic warranty along with roadside assistance program for the same period.
Forte is a good value in many ways, but it’s also a pleasant family sedan with enough of a sporty edge in looks (inside and out) and performance to warrant a serious look.
FAST Stats: 2014 Kia Forte EX
Hits: Sporty looking compact sedan loaded with premium features, such as heated seats, ventilated driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, backup camera, adjustable steering effort. Comfortable well laid out interior, good power and ride with three steering effort levels. Big trunk for hauling too.
Misses: Not much, but I wish it had a flat-bottomed steering wheel and gas mileage wasn’t as good as you’d think, or EPA estimates.
Made in: South Korea
Engine: 2.0-liter, GDI I4, 173 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic W/Sportmatic
Weight: 2,837 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Cargo: 14.9 cu.ft.
Base Price: $19,400
Dealer’s Price: $18,400
Premium package (sunroof, leather seat trim, power driver’s seat w/memory and ventilated, heated front seats, heated outer rear seats, push button start, heated steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror w/Homelink, front door handle lights, outside mirror puddle lights, engine immobilizer), $2,600
17-inch alloy wheels, $300
EX technology package (Xenon headlights, dual-zone climate control, navigation w/Sirius traffic, HD radio, Supervision meter cluster w/4.2-inch color LCD, LED taillights), $2,300
Carpeted floor mats, $115
Test vehicle: $25,515
Sources: Kia, http://www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Kia