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Posted March 26, 2014 | Leave a comment
Tom Crosby: Forte strong in compact sedan market
By Tom Crosby
When a new Kia Forte came out in 2010, cash for clunkers surfaced and the Korean automotive manufacturer curtailed its marketing campaign as it watched new car sales drop.
This year the third-generation front-wheel drive, five-passenger Forte sedan is being touted in the marketplace by Kia as a worthy competitor to a pair of bestselling competitors, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Forte fills Kia's missing niche between the sub-compact Rio and the popular Optima mid-size sedan. A sexier, European look by noted auto designer Peter Schreyer reshaped Forte's beltline, pushed the wheels out, sloped the windshield, jazzed the front fascia and put character lines where they count.
Forte choices are between an LX or EX model, each with four-cylinders in either a 1.8-liter (LX) or 2.0-liter engine (EX). The base LX can be outfitted with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The EX comes only with a six-speed automatic tranny, instead of the previous four-speed, and horsepower is goosed 17 with 10 extra ft-lbs of torque. Our test-drive was the EX, outfitted with options such as 17 inch alloy wheels; a Premium Package adding -- among other features -- leather seat trim, push button start, heated/cooled seats and steering wheel, and a technology package that includes upgraded newly shaped head and tail lights, dual climate control and a navigation system with SIRIUS traffic.
Final price tag: $25,515, but with upgrades enough to inspire driver confidence and satisfy creature comfort needs.
Longer, lower and wider, rear seat access and comfort excels, and truck capacity is nearly 15 cubic feet -- attributes most often found in larger, more expensive vehicles.
Rear-view camera, Bluetooth, cooling glove box and sliding center armrest are standard in the EX. Responsive handling and ride come with a McPherson strut front suspension and coupled torsion beam rear axle with electric power steering.
Acceleration is adequate but considerable engine noise occurs when seeking maximum power. At cruising speed, noise levels have dropped up to 5 percent, Kia says.
Inside, the EX has a sporty look, with chrome touches around climate controls and a color 4.2-inch LCD screen between gauges on the dashboard. The center dashboard is slightly canted toward the driver and hosts the rear camera view, info controls and navigation screen. Navigation information lagged slightly behind real-time location, resulting in occasional missed turns. A main attraction is Kia's Microsoft-powered UVO (Your Voice) in-vehicle infotainment system with advanced voice- and touch-activated features that are linked to personal mobile devices.
LIKES: Design, ride, roomy, handling DISLIKES: Noisy under power, nav system
BOTTOM LINE: Should become solid competitor with Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla
2014 KIA FORTE EX
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