So, you want to buy a small sedan for the family? Something that gets great mileage, offers decent room inside the cabin and the trunk and is also able to give out a little power here and there. Let’s not forget fuel economy, this little sedan needs to get 30 miles per gallon or better on the highway. So, what shall you buy?
The Forte is the kind of... sort of...the successor to the Spectra, but that really isn’t the case at all. Gone are the bland and boring looks of the old Spectra, replaced by a great soulful product. Kia needed this car in a big way considering all of the competition in the segment from Honda , Toyota , Mazda , Ford and Chevrolet .
With a muscular body style, the Forte continues the wonderful looks that came previously on the Soul. With a pronounced shoulder line that extends back to the rear, the car has a very butch look. The stance is wide and low, giving the Forte good cornering ability. The sweptback headlights and curved grille help give the front fascia a clean appearance.
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The Forte is offered in three trims. The LX, EX, and the higher end SX are available.
The test EX came with the usual assortment of goodies, including power locks, windows, mirrors and premium audio with steering wheel controls. The test car had heated leather seats, Bluetooth, and a power moonroof. Not bad for less than $20,000. The quality is very good on the dash and the car didn’t develop a single rattle on the trip.
The dial layout is easy to read, but the lack of an oil temperature gauge was upsetting. The seats were supportive and easy to adjust. The buttons were easy to understand and the color scheme and button layout were brilliant. I-Pod users will love the ease of use with the USB port and my HTC Incredible smartphone was able to plug in via an aux cable to stream online radio.
On the road the Forte felt more like its big brother, the Hyundai Sonata , rather than the previous Spectra. The ride was quiet and the car took bumps with ease. On the highway there is little tire roar or wind noise, resulting in a relaxing ride. The Forte can really eat the miles away.
Under the hood, the Forte came with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder 156 horsepower motor that also cranked out 144 pound-feet of torque. Open up the checkbook a bit more for the SX and you will be treated to the 2.4-liter engine with 173 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque.
The motor in the EX is strong, but suffers from an outdated transmission. While most companies are giving out five-speed automatics, Kia has opted for an old four-speed. The car has good power off the line, but there seems to be quite a lag between second gear and third where the power simply vanishes. Like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe , the Forte could really use a new transmission. On the highway, fourth gear is good, but for quick overtakes a bit more power, or another gear, is needed. Drop down to third and the engine gets louder, but no faster.
Ride quality comes from the front-mounted MacPherson struts and coil springs combined with torsion beams, coil springs, and struts in the rear. The drive isn’t BMW-tight, but it’s not Toyota soft. Kia found a nice mix with the 2010 Forte.
Like the Sonata, the Kia Forte EX has the competition worried and rightfully so. Not to mention the warranty that is offered with the car. The manual is what we would usually prefer, but after our week-long test of the Forte Koup, we would suggest the automatic, not the four-speed. If you are in the market for the Forte, the SX would be the right choice.