2010 Kia Forte: First Drive

As the name suggests, it’s Kia’s strongest model yet

2010 Kia Forte: First Drive

Every Monday I roll into the office in a new press car and the same group of guys always ask me the same question. “What are you driving this week?” Then, through a democratic process, they pass judgment on the car.

FAST FACTS

1. The Forte has a powerful 2.0L base engine with 156hp and 144 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Pricing for the Forte ranges from $13,695 to $17,195 ($15,695 to 20,995 CDN), but the $16,795 ($19,195 CDN) EX model with the automatic transmission is sure to be the most popular.

3. A $600 fuel-economy package for the mid-level EX model adds a five-speed transmission and a few other items to increase mileage from 25/34 mpg (city/hwy) to 27/36 mpg.

4. The top level SX model gives you a 2.4L four-cylinder engine with 173hp, 17-inch wheels and a six-speed manual (or optional 5 speed auto).

If it’s an Audi R8, they all come take a look. If it’s a new Corolla, they pass. Surprisingly, every one of them wanted to see the new Kia Forte. So did my father in law… and my brother in law.

As all of them knew nothing about the car, I’ll have chalk up their interest to Kia’s brilliantly dorky marketing campaign. And as those TV commercials don’t mention the engine, fuel-economy, safety features or handling, there’s just one thing that’s drawing people in. The look.

A FRESH NEW CAR WITH A FRESH NEW DESIGN

By all accounts the Forte has a clean European design to it, with a side profile that barely has any lines all – just nice smooth sheet metal coated in a surprisingly high quality paint. My tester came with a metallic brown (which Kia calls bronze) coating. I know what you’re thinking. “Brown? Yuck!” But it’s actually very nice – especially in the sun.

I won’t be the first, or the last, to accuse Kia of lifting the design of the Forte’s headlights directly from the Honda/Acura parts bin. In a way it’s a compliment. The rest of the front end looks great too with Kia’s new corporate grille adding just the right amount of chrome around a gaping black grille. Below there’s a three part intake setup that adds to the car’s sporty flare.

Out back, Kia’s designers didn’t neglect any details either. The trunk juts out just a little in a style reminiscent of the original Audi A4.

EX models even come standard with turn-signal indicators built into the side mirrors.

So… it’s got your attention, but can the Forte keep it? You bet!

MOST POWERFUL STANDARD ENGINE IN ITS CLASS

Those TV spots for the Forte do give you one piece of info about the car – the price. Base LX models start at $13,695 ($15,695 CDN), but you’re much more likely to find yourself in an EX for $15,795 ($17,995 CDN). Those who want a little extra performance can also opt for the SX model. But we’ll get to that later.

The price on the base LX model sounds great, but without any power options or even AC it’s not a very attractive package. The EX, however, comes well-equipped and when you add an auto tranny and the optional Premium Package that includes a sunroof as well as 16-inch wheels and tires, the damage is an acceptable $17,595.

So what else do you get for your money?

For starters there’s a powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood, making 156hp and 144 ft-lbs of torque. That’s 18 more ponies than the Forte’s sister car, the Hyundai Elantra. In fact, it’s more horsepower from a base-trim engine than you’ll find in any other compact car.

Is Kia going after the youth market? You bet!

With all that power, fuel-economy would normally suffer. But it doesn’t. LX and EX models get 25/34 mpg (city/highway), edging out the Elantra and coming close to the Civic and Corolla.

The transmission is a four-speed unit and while we’d like to complain that a five-speed should be standard… that wouldn’t be fair. Five-speed autos are still a rarity in the compact car segment.

Besides, with all that power the four-speed doesn’t feel like it’s holding the car back and fuel-economy certainly doesn’t seem to be hurting.

OPTIONAL FUEL-ECONOMY PACKAGE DELIVERS 27/36 MPG

Those who do want a few extra miles per gallon (and who doesn’t?) can opt for a five-speed auto as a part of Kia’s $600 fuel-economy package. Also included are improved aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, electric (versus hydraulic) power steering and a low-drag alternator. These features combine to up fuel-economy from the 25/34 mpg rating to a best-in-class 27/36 mpg.

CABIN DOESN’T LIVE UP TO THE EXTERIOR

When getting into the car the door handles do feel a little cheap and the interior is a bit of a let down compared to the Forte’s sleek exterior design. And yes, there is an over-abundance of hard plastic. Still, it’s far from bad and we’d rate it mid-pack in terms of materials and design.

There’s only one interior color, black, which is probably a good thing, as black always tends to look a little more up-scale, even when the materials aren’t.

The design of the dash and materials used are definitely a nice step up from the last Kia I drove – a significantly more expensive Optima. Still, I strongly suggest opting for the metal finish for the center stack and door trim, which breaks up the monotone monotony. Our tester didn’t have it, but when examining other cars in the Kia press fleet, the difference was noticeable.

We don’t want to get carried away with add-ons, but the optional leather shift knob and steering wheel would also be ideal. Having some leather to hold on to, instead of that hard plastic, would enhance the feel behind the wheel. Kia also offers a full leather seat package if that’s what you’re after.

As for the gauges, they look sporty and are more premium than you’d expect. They also include Kia’s Eco Minder light. It illuminates green when you’re driving efficiently, playing off the idea that a significant part of fuel-efficient driving is driving style.

Standard equipment on the mid-level EX includes power windows and locks with remote keyless entry, AC, a tilt wheel with redundant audio controls and cruise control, Bluetooth, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability, USB and auxiliary jacks and even floor mats (which is nice because a dealer charging you extra for floor mats is just annoying).

Unfortunately telescopic steering is only offered on the more powerful and more expensive SX model.

SX MODEL GETS BIGGER ENGINE WITH 173 HORSEPOWER

The base 2.0-liter is more than sufficient, but if you demand a little more from your car then the 2.4-liter found in the $17,195 ($19,195 CDN) SX model will serve you well with 173hp and 168 ft-lbs of torque. SX models also get two more speakers, a standard six-speed manual (yummy), a sports suspension, larger front brake rotors and 17-inch wheels with 215/45/17 tires.

In the safety department the Kia boasts the same list as most any other compact car, with the usual six airbags (driver and passenger front and side, as well as side curtain for all outboard seats). Also included are four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Both traction and stability control are standard, as is a tire pressure monitoring system.

Rear passenger room is surprisingly roomy for a compact. Even with the front seats a good way back there’s still ample legroom for most passengers (not just children). Cargo room is also excellent with a 14.7 cubic foot trunk and 60/40 split folding rear seats will increase cargo space significantly when needed.

THE DRIVE

From the driver’s seat, the Forte acts much like it looks. The steering is tight and the both the gas and brake pedals provide plenty of feedback. This dynamic will certainly appeal to younger buyers, although the touchiness of the controls might be a turn-off to more mature ones.

As for handling, it’s just ok, and the Forte tends to feel a bit vague in the corners at speed.

I hate to rag on the car’s torsion-beam semi-independent rear suspension setup too much, as generally most driver’s, under most driving conditions, aren’t likely to feel the difference between it and the fully-independent kind. Still, it has issues; and not in terms of handling, but in regards to comfort.

On stretches of uneven asphalt, the rear of the car has a discernable inability to soak up bumps. As a result the undulations are translated up through the chassis to the front of the car. The good news is that Kia can likely make some adjustments (and hopefully will do so with future models) to correct this.

THE VERDICT

The Forte is the car that will finally give Kia a presence in the ultra-competitive compact car class. And while the competition is tough, the Forte has a lot going for it.

Younger buyers will love the powerful engine choices as well as the tight steering and immediate throttle response. More sophisticated buyers might find those last two a bit much, but are sure to like the safety features, spacious rear seating area and the large trunk. And everyone will appreciate the fuel-economy.

The name says it all; Kia’s new Forte will be a strong competitor for years to come.

PLUS

  • Most powerful engine offered in a base-trim compact car
  • Impressive design, especially for a Kia
  • Accessible price-point

MINUS

  • Inadequacies of rear suspension mean bumps are translated up through the chassis
  • More mature buyers might find the steering and throttle response too immediate
  • The base model is really base

RELATED READING:

2009 Toyota Corolla – Basic Transportation Done Right 2009 Nissan Sentra 2.0 SL – Classy… for a compact 2009 Hyundai Elantra Review – Reworked Elantra a Genuine Honda Civic Competitor 2009 Ford Focus – More and Less 2009 Honda Civic Sedan – Civic sensibilities – Honda’s people’s car gets massaged for ‘09

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked