By Jonathan Pitman
Since its inception, Kia, the Korean-based car company, has grown to become well know with its commanding lineup and reasonable selection of features on all models. Something you would generally expect on higher end models. The new Kia Forte is another one of those examples. With its styling, although not as unique as most other cars in its class, it still offers lots of options. One thing that stood out the most was the available Bluetooth technology and volume controls on the steering wheel and leather wrapped steering wheel, which adds to the list of things that makes the Forte more convenient for the consumer without breaking the bank.
The test car was the Kia Forte 2.0 EX, which is considered the middle of the line as far as the trim. The higher end Forte has the 2.4 liter engine boosting more horsepower, 173 ponies to be exact. But, the test vehicle in this case, the Forte 2.0 EX, comes only with a 2.0 liter 16 valve DOHC CVVT 4-cylinder engine with a 156 horsepower. One thing that I noticed as soon as I stepped into the vehicle and started the engine was the rough idle when cold. However, that problem deteriorated as the car warmed up. The Forte also receives a respectable gas mileage rating with 36 MPG highway and 27 MPG in the city. With both of those numbers you might want to dance or scream for joy given the price of gas. While everyone is feeling the pinch at the pump, you might be surprised at how much you will save.
On the road, the Forte 2.0 EX accelerated from 0-60 in 8 seconds, which seems slightly slower compared to the Nissan Sentra SR. The Forte, although new to the lineup, is still frozen in time with its standard 4-speed automatic. However, the 5-speed automatic was equipped on the test car as an option and was more enjoyable from a thrill prospective, but still is not as impressive as other cars with a similar feature. The handling was very responsive and hugged the corners without holding back. That’s thanks to the suspension selection. The suspension is equipped with an independent front suspension with stabilizer bar and a torsion beam rear suspension. Braking was also impressive with front and rear disc brakes that helped stopped the vehicle within a reasonable distance giving the driver the best control possible. Merging on the highway was not a problem for the Forte despite not having the best 0-60 time. It still manages to use all of those ponies to accelerate the vehicle to comfortable highway cruising speeds. I guess the Forte can be a little shy sometimes.
The Kia Forte 2.0 EX, has a number of safety features that give you peace of mind. For example, the anti-lock brakes (ABS) contribute by maximizing brake power and using a pumping action to help you stop in the event of an emergency. Also, the brake assist system, (BAS) is based on the amount of pressure that’s applied to the brake pedal. Another safety feature is the electronic force brake distribution (EBD), which senses the weight load in the vehicle, then applies the necessary brake power to each wheel, and electronic stability control (ESC), that helps keep all wheels on the pavement in the event that you take a corner too fast or initiate an emergency maneuver that may cause the vehicle to tip or roll over. Traction control is also equipped, which reduces the amount of slippage and increases traction so that you don’t slide. Also on the list of safety features is the air bag system. There are 6-standard airbags on the Kia Forte, all to keep you protected in the event of a crash from every angle. Something that will hopefully relieve some of your worries is the tire pressure monitoring system that will alert you in the event that your tire pressure is low.
I found the exterior styling very typical and not very impressive. It seems that all of their vehicles have a similar look that can get boring after a while. But despite that, the Forte offers lots of wheel options including 15, 16, and 17-inch wheels. The 17-inch wheels being the sportiest, offers more appeal to a vehicle that could use some visual punch. Fog lamps are available giving the consumer more seeing distance in foggy conditions. An interesting feature that is optional on the exterior is the turn signals located on the mirrors outside of the vehicle. I found that they were positioned in a place that other drivers would be more likely to see it. Auto off headlights are also available, which helps prevent the consumer from accidentally leaving the lights on and therefore draining the battery.
The interior styling is a different story. As you enter the cabin, you will notice how comfortable the front seats are, and how bold the dash looks with its fancy looking knobs, and how the gauges are easy to read. I am not sure what happened to the temp gauge in the test car, but it is usually found next to the fuel gauge. Instead, the Forte only has the temp sign that illuminates if the vehicle were to overheat for some reason. Also at your ready is the AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with 6-speakers that radiates sound. I was hoping that the Forte would have a premium audio system with 9-speakers or something like that but instead 6-speakers is the top of the line radio according to the Kia website. The comfort level in the rear seats was reasonable, but knee room was lacking making it rather uncomfortable to be seated there for long periods. The rear headroom was okay, but I think the Forte still needs improvements in this area. Unlike the rear seating, the trunk space was nice and offered plenty of room for large suitcases and other large items.
Overall, for a car this reasonably priced, you get lots of standard features and options. But there is still work that needs to be done before this car can be labeled the better one. For example, adjustments in seating and exterior design should be at the top of the list for improvements. However, I think these improvements are minor and with the proper adjustments there is no reason why this vehicle should not appeal to consumers. You should also be pleased to know that the test car featured costs under $20,000.