The Kia Forte is a new entry into the compact car field with contenders like Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Cobalt. By comparison, including exterior, interior, performance, and price, the Forte looks awfully good.
The Forte boasts class-leading interior space, and, in our opinion, class-leading looks. The interior is classy and intelligently designed, which is to say everything is there where you need it. The seats are comfortable and supportive.
The Forte uses modern four-cylinder engines, notably a 2.4-liter in the upscale SX, which also has an available five-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic manual shifting.
Least expensive is the Forte EX, which comes with a 2.0-liter engine that gets an EPA-estimated 25/34 mpg City/Highway with either the manual transmission or four-speed automatic. Most fuel-efficient, however, is the EX with the Fuel Economy Package, which yields an EPA-estimated 27/36 mpg.
Most fun to drive is the Forte SX equipped with a larger 2.4-liter engine and five-speed automatic. We found the handling in the SX with its sport-tuned suspension taut. The ride is firm but never harsh. It gets 23/31 mpg.
A five-door hatchback version is going on sale for the 2011 model year.
The 2010 Kia Forte is available as the bare-bones LX, the well-equipped EX, and the fully equipped SX.
Forte LX ($13,695) uses Kia's trusty 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine with double overhead cams, and a 5-speed manual transmission, with a four-speed automatic optional ($1000). Upholstery is cloth. Air conditioning and a 60/40 split rear seat are optional ($1500), while power windows, door locks and cruise control are not available. Standard equipment includes a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 satellite sound system with USB and aux input jacks, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Forte EX ($15,795) comes with air conditioning, a six-speaker sound system, power windows, power doors, power mirrors, keyless entry, 60/40 split rear seat. The manual transmission comes standard, but there are two optional automatic transmissions, a four-speed and a five-speed. Wheels are the same 15-inch steel, but five-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels are optional. Options include leather upholstery with heated front seats and a power moonroof.
Forte SX ($17,195) uses a 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic ($1000). A sport-tuned suspension is standard, along with larger front brake rotors, and 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels. The upholstery is a sporty cloth, with metal-finish interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Full leather is optional. Fog lamps are standard.
Safety features that come standard on all Kia Forte models include frontal and front side airbags, airbag curtains, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, and a tire pressure monitor.