2014 Kia Forte


2014 Kia Forte review

By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

The second all-new Forte since 2009, the new Kia illustrates the Korean automaker’s aggressive move to the compact sedan forefront. No-excuse standard features, a surprising list of options, aggressive pricing and good mechanicals are highlights.
  • Great bang for the buck
  • Smooth, easy power
  • Quiet, especially at idle
  • Low backseat headroom
  • A few hard plastics here and there
  • Steering a little sticky

In 2011 Kia hit one out of the park with the redesign of its Optima full-size sedan. The Optima was a surprisingly large leap in sophistication, but Kia maintains that it was the launch of the 2009 Forte that actually signaled the brand's emergence as a main player; however, its significance was unfortunately lost in the depths of the Great Recession. Now Kia is already releasing another all-new Forte, and this time the message will be tough to miss, even in the crowded compact sedan market.

Model lineup
Kia has consolidated their Forte sedan trims to two levels, the entry-level LX and the more upscale EX. The LX is available only with the more basic 1.8-liter engine, while the EX is solely powered by a direct-injected 2.0-liter unit.

The EX trim's exterior receives fog lights and chrome door handles, and has the option of HID headlights, LED taillights, puddle lights and larger aluminum wheels.

The LX interior is well appointed for such an inexpensive compact. Sirius XM satellite radio is standard, as is Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat for good pass-through cargo loading.

The EX trim adds a few niceties, including a rear-seat center armrest and a standard rear camera, but it's main claim to fame is the ability to option up with distinctly non-entry-level items such as a 10-way power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control and a heated steering wheel. Choosing the Premium package is the quick way to getting a full suite of these near-luxury features.

The Forte's forward-looking design includes an upgraded infotainment system that utilizes the driver's smartphone to enable Google-based navigation, voice-activated music management and hands-free phone service, among many other capabilities. Because the system is run by the customer's existing smartphone and access plan, Kia's UVO is fee-free and easily updateable.

Forte LX rolls on standard 15-inch steel or optional 16-inch aluminum wheels; the EX offers a 17-inch optional aluminum upgrade.

Under the hood
Good, basic motivation is the EX's 1.8-liter 4-cylinder calling card. The engine, a conventional double-overhead-cam design, uses industry-standard multipoint fuel injection to make 148 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm. It is paired to a 6-speed manual or optional automatic transmission with the same number of gears.

Moving up to the EX's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine shows Kia is not afraid to bring the latest technologies to the price-slashing compact car sales competition. A gasoline direct-injection engine, the 2.0 hustles up 173 horsepower at 6500 rpm with 154 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm. It is paired with the 6-speed automatic.

All Fortes are front-wheel drive; there is no all-wheel-drive option.

Inner space
Kia's philosophy is to build perfectly competent vehicles that aren't entirely devoid of style or mechanical personality, using designs that will never offend. The Forte's interior exemplifies Kia's skill: It's graciously contemporary without a hint of avant garde.

Typical of compact sedans, the Forte's front-seat room is good and the rear seats are child-friendly, so trips in the Forte with four adults require front-seat legroom compromises (and hopefully a shorter trip).

Materials are generally good, especially in the front seats, but cost-cutting is inevitable at this price point and you'll find some hard plastics on the back of the front seats. Kia doesn't skimp on build quality, and that shows throughout the cabin. The Forte's interior should exceed most customers' expectations.

On the road
Kia's "succeed and never offend" creed also describes its road manners. We drove the 2.0-liter EX and it proved pleasantly powerful and refined.

Noise is effectively squelched, with surprisingly low road rumble (tire noise) and not a peep from the new, more rigid structure. The Forte is extremely quiet, with slight wind noise around the windshield and side glass as the only audible feedback, and it's minor.

Car control is very good, with a well-tuned throttle response and easily modulated brake pedal. The new Forte now has electrically assisted steering; the feel is a bit nonlinear, which can be forgiven due to the first-time effort.

In all, the Forte is an insulated, sustaining drive, equally adept at around-town or cross-continent trips. It doesn't excite, but it isn't supposed to, either.

Right for you?
With Kia renewing the Forte twice in the last five years, it's clear the Korean automaker is intent on earning at least its share of the compact car market. This shows in the car's premium approach in an aggressively priced segment.

Kia has not announced pricing for the 2014 Forte, but says consumers can expect only a slight increase above current prices. This makes the entry-level LX a low $16,000 purchase and an EX a barely $20,000 proposition — several thousand more when loaded. That makes it an approachable little car for almost any need.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)

Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, threetechnicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.


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BB03 - 9/19/2014 3:06:15 AM