Much like its sister company, Hyundai, Kia has been designing cars that not only offer its customers low-cost options to higher-priced brands, but also cars that offer high-quality workmanship and stylish appearances. We all knew that the Kia Forte is going to be up for a significant redesign when its 2014 model year debuts at the 2012 LA Auto Show, but we were not too sure what direction Kia would take it.
But now that the covers have been officially pulled and we have our answer.
We want to say that the Forte blew us away, but that just wouldn’t be fair to it. Sure, there are things about it that we like, but some elements of the car still leaves a lot to be desired. Then again, a car like the Forte, or any other in this segment for that matter, isn’t subject to an all-or-noting affection level.
There are things about it we liked. There are things we didn’t like. At the end though, the Forte received good marks from us because the things we liked outweighed the things we didn’t like.
Not by much. But hey, that’s still worth some salt to us.
Updated 03/21/2013: Kia announced that the 2014 Forte sedan will arrive at dealerships at a starting price of $15,900 - or lowest starting MSRP in the compact segment.
Find out what we think of the new 2014 Kia Forte after the jump
There used to be a time when Kias were generally characterized as boxy and boring. That’s no longer the case ever since it changed the overall design language of its vehicles.
The all-new Kia Forte shares in this design revolution and now comes with the kind of aggressive stance that customers will surely notice. The headlights, in particular, convey a bulging look that makes the Forte look like it’s wide awake at all time. Design notwithstanding, the lenses cut deeply into the front fenders and incorporate projector headlamps while the LED lights create distinct eyebrows, giving further credence to the Forte’s up-at-all-times look.
The overall shape of the Forte is also something that’s worth noting, particularly the sculpting along the vehicle’s lower flanks, tapering the sheet metal inward and giving a look of a versatile vehicle. Over at the back end, the up-kicked fender line and trunk design, with its deep horizontal crease, adds even more presence to the rear of the vehicle. Combine that with the complex curves of the taillights and you have a car that looks as good as it was being pegged to be.
Finally, the wheel-and-tire setup varies, depending on the trim you get. The LX manual rides on 195/65R15 tires with 205/55R16 tires on 16-inch alloy wheels available as an optional feature. Then there’s the top-of-the-line EX, which comes with the same 55-series tires, but low-profile 215/45R17 tires mounted on sporty 17" alloy wheels are optional.
The Forte Sedan’s interior doesn’t really jump out when you first get inside it, although a case can be made that the entire cabin was designed with all the pieces fitting into the right place. We appreciate the high-quality materials used in dressing up the interior, particularly for the market that it belongs to. The large instruments don’t feel too cluttered at all and the optional 4.2-inch LCD screen is a must have. The interior also has loads of chrome accents, adding a touch of panache to the overall look of the car.
As far as premium features are concerned, we were impressed by what Kia put into the Forte to justify all the harking about the car being more upscale than most in its market. From the standard Bluetooth hands free phone integration to the power windows, mirrors and door locks, all the way to the power sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents make for an interior that’s both comfortable and functional.
First of all, if you’re looking for a car that will offer mind-blowing power, the Kia Forte isn’t in your future. That’s not to say that the Forte doesn’t offer up attractive engine options. The LX model carries a 1.8-liter MPI in-line four-cylinder powerplant that produces 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 131 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. That’s suitable power for a car of its size, but if you’re looking for something a little more powerful, the 2.0-liter EX trim should satisfy your craving, thanks to its 173 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 154 pound-feet of torque. Power from the Forte LX is routed through a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic with the latter coming as standard for the EX trim.
Both the 1.8 and the 2.0 engines come with dual continuously variable valve timing and a lightweight intake manifold, resulting in a reduction of weight by 30 percent over a cast unit. Likewise, the aluminum “bed plate” located just below the cylinder block shaves off engine NVH levels, improving the Forte’s block rigidity by 30 percent.
To improve the all-new Forte’s rideability, Kia built a model that’s two inches longer than its outgoing counterpart. What this did was allow Kia to install a McPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle, allowing for an improvement on the on-center steering by utilizing larger bushings and revised front suspension geometry. Another new feature on the Forte is the electric power steering, which takes the reins from the hydraulic system from the previous Forte, reducing parasitic load on the engine. The driver can also vary steering effort thanks to the Optional Flex Steer system, all at a touch of a steering-wheel-mounted button, allowing him or her to choose from Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.
Kia isn’t going to skimp out the Forte when it comes to premium features. The Korean automaker gave the LX and the EX models plenty of premium features.
The LX, in particular, comes with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth wireless technology, power windows, air conditioning and power heated outside mirrors. The LX trim can also make use of the automaker’s Popular Package, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry with remote trunk release, and a sliding front armrest. The Eco Package comes with Kia’s ISG (Idle Stop & Go) system, dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation and unique “eco” badge.
For the EX, the list of premium features includes Kia’s next-generation UVO in-vehicle infotainment system with eServices, which can now be integrated with an optional navigation system. The EX also comes with remote keyless entry with trunk opener, a rear back-up camera display, a sliding center armrest and a cooled glove box.
Optional features include the aforementioned Flex Steer system that allows the driver to choose between three distinct steering profiles: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
The EX can also make use of the Premium Package, which includes: heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with class- exclusive air-cooled ventilation, leather seat trim, power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and push button start with Smart Key and a heated steering wheel.
Last but not least is the Technology Package, which comes with HID headlights, LED taillights, a 4.2-inch color LCD cluster screen and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation.
Forte LX manual
Forte LX automatic
The Honda Civic is considered the closest competitor for the Kia Forte, and rightfully so because they make up the best options in the market. Honda infamously admitted to building a flop of a 2012 Civic and it’s certainly made amends with the 2013 model, giving it a new look to go with what we expect to be more powertrain options than the Forte.
Therein lays the problem for the Forte. While you can make a case that design and aesthetics are all subject to the eye of the buyer, the possibility that the Civic will have more engine options allows customers greater to choose from. The other problem with the Forte is that the EX, despite being their top-of-the-line trim, only has 173 horsepower on tap. That could be an issue should Honda decide to give the Civic SI another go out in the dealerships.
The new look catches your eye
Plenty of optional features
Looks spacious inside
Wish Kia offered more engine options
Interior’s good, not great
Plenty of competition
Los Angeles, Nov. 28, 2012 – Pulling the silk off the all-new 2014 Forte sedan today at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, Kia Motors America (KMA) revealed a stunning European design-inspired sedan that makes it clear the Korean auto manufacturer has another winner in its line-up of sought-after cars and CUVs. Sitting on an all-new chassis that is longer, wider and lower than the previous-generation Forte, the all-new third-generation Forte will offer more room, more performance and more premium amenities when it’s expected to go on sale in the first quarter of 2013. The all-new 2014 Forte will be offered in LX and EX variants with a choice of an efficient 1.8-liter engine or a more powerful 2.0-liter engine.
"The all-new Forte significantly raises the bar, offering upscale amenities and eye-catching appeal," said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing & communications, KMA. "When you combine exclusive available features like a ventilated driver’s seat and UVO eServices in a car with such an attractive design, it’s very clear the all-new Forte sets a new standard for the compact segment."
Set to arrive at Kia retailers in early 2013, the all-new Forte will represent the heart of KMA’s small-car line-up, replacing the current Forte, which has been a sales success story since launching in 2009. Slotted between the Rio sub-compact sedan and the best-selling Optima mid-size sedan, the all-new Forte includes a raft of unexpected available premium features in a package that easily accommodates five passengers and their belongings.
Unexpected Premium Features
Offered in LX and EX trim levels, the all-new Forte proudly carries on Kia’s reputation for offering premium features that redefine automotive segments. The LX model comes standard with steering wheel mounted audio controls, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio1, Bluetooth® wireless technology2, power windows, air conditioning and power heated outside mirrors among the many features that make the Forte stand out from its competition. The optional Popular Package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry with remote trunk release and a sliding front armrest. The Eco Package includes Kia’s ISG (Idle Stop & Go) system, dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation and unique "eco" badge.
Stepping up to the EX trim broadens Forte’s appeal with additional comfort and convenience features. Kia’s next-generation UVO in-vehicle infotainment system with eServices is standard and can now be integrated with an optional navigation system. Additional standard EX features include remote keyless entry with trunk opener, rear camera back-up display3, a sliding center armrest and a cooling glove box. The new optional Flex Steer system allows the driver to choose between three distinct steering profiles: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Features found in the optional Premium Package include heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with class-exclusive air-cooled ventilation, leather seat trim, power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and push button start with Smart Key and a heated steering wheel. Opting for the Technology Package garners HID headlights, LED tail lights, a 4.2-inch color LCD cluster screen and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation.
Enhanced Performance, Improved Ride and Handling
The all-new Forte offers spirited performance thanks to two advanced four-cylinder engines. The LX features a 1.8-liter powerplant, while the EX comes standard with a 2.0-liter engine. Both engines feature dual continuously variable valve timing and a lightweight intake manifold that reduces weight by 30 percent over a cast unit. The aluminum "bed plate" located below the cylinder block reduces engine NVH levels and improves block rigidity by 30 percent.
With 148 horsepower available at 6,500 rpm and 131 lb.-ft. of torque on tap at 4,700 rpm, the 1.8-liter MPI inline four-cylinder engine found in the LX routes power to the front wheels through either a standard six speed manual transmission or an optional six speed automatic gearbox.
Forte EX enhances the driving experience with a 173-horsepower (at 6,500 rpm) 2.0-liter inline four cylinder GDI engine. With a robust 154 lb.-ft. of torque available at 4,700 rpm, the EX comes standard with a six speed automatic.
The all-new Forte rides on a chassis that is longer (by 1.2 inches), lower (0.6 inches) and wider (0.2 inches) than the previous Forte sedan. With its 106.3-inch wheelbase, two inches longer than the outgoing model, the all-new Forte rides on a McPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle. On-center steering feel is improved utilizing larger bushings and revised front suspension geometry. Electric power steering has replaced the hydraulic system from the previous Forte, reducing parasitic load. Optional Flex Steer puts the driver firmly in control with settings for Comfort, Normal and Sport, which vary steering effort at the touch of a steering wheel-mounted button.
The base LX manual rides on 195/65R-15 tires, while 205/55R-16 tires on 16-inch alloy wheels are optional. The top-of-the-line EX is shod with the same 55-series tires. Low-profile 215/45-17 tires mounted on sporty 17-inch alloy wheels are optional.
Sport Sedan Design From California
With an aggressive stance, broad shoulders and a windshield rake that can only be described as sporty, the all-new Forte looks as good parked as it does carving through a remote canyon road. Influenced by European sport sedan styling, the Forte’s modern aesthetic was born in California at Kia’s American Design Center in Irvine.
Dramatically swept headlight lenses cut deeply into the front fenders and incorporate projector headlamps. LED positioning lights create distinct eyebrows, making the Forte instantly recognizable in a crowd. Gentle sculpting along the Forte’s lower flanks taper the sheet metal inward, affording the car a taut, nimble appearance without diminishing its road presence. Around back, the up-kicked fender line and trunk design, with its deep horizontal crease, lend width and charisma while allowing the complex curves of the tail lights to flow over the rear haunches.
A Modern and Sophisticated Cabin
Opening the wide doors reveals a cabin sculpted in organic curves. Gentle ripples across the instrument panel convey serenity, as if small waves are radiating from a pebble dropped into a pond. The driver-centric cabin is canted 10 degrees and features high-quality materials and soft touch points. Large, easy-to-read instruments dominate the binnacle, and secondary controls fall easily to hand. The optional 4.2-inch color LCD screen nestled between the white-on-black gauges in the EX provides trip and ancillary vehicle information front and center to the driver. Tasteful chrome bezels ring the HVAC rotary knobs and the optional push-button start. Additional chrome accents, standard Bluetooth® hands free phone integration and power windows, mirrors and door locks enhance the all-new Forte’s premium feel. Optional leather seating trim, power sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents and HID head lights take the Forte to new levels of sophistication.