2014 Kia Forte5
The Kia Forte5 is the forthcoming hatchback variation of last year’s new Forte sedan but packs some interesting and timely updates that make this one of the few hot hatches offered in the U.S. market. The highlights include a powerful turbocharged engine, sophisticated front and rear LED lighting, and a cabin with some boy-racer appeal via carbon-fiber-style surfaces and a six-speed manual box.
Let’s face it: hot hatches just aren’t sexy here. As much as our Euro counterparts get excited about the Fiesta ST, there’s a collective “huh?” in U.S. showrooms over the same car. It just seems too tall, too narrow and diminutive for someone to commit to years of payments. The Honda Civic Si is about as close to the recipe as possible and even this is only offered in staid sedan or also-staid coupe bodywork.
This is set to change with the new Forte5. The name is the dorkiest part: the style of low, crisp and wide proportions makes this car look more like a slammed Sportage or Cayenne than an econobox. The mechanical packages on the Kia show a half-step improvement versus corporate sibling Hyundai, with the turbo engine finally delivering some of the sportiness Kia says defines its products.
So where does the Forte5 site within the Forte line that also includes sedans and coupes? Right in that hot-hatch sweet spot, just moved a little further toward “cool” from the embarrassing current hatchbacks: the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Spark.
Click past the jump for the full review of the Forte5 ahead of its arrival in U.S. dealers at the end of summer 2013.
2014 Kia Forte5
Transmission:6-speed automatic / 6-speed manual (Est.)
Horsepower @ RPM:201
Torque @ RPM:195
Energy:Direct gasoline injection, single turbocharger
0-60 time:6.9 sec. (Est.)
Top Speed:116 mph (Est.)
At first glance, there is some Scion xD about the front air dam of the Forte5 but luckily that’s just an illusion from the similar paint and bumper shape. The rest of the Forte5 actually looks far crisper than the Forte sedan on which it is based. The “tiger nose” grille is now pinched and dramatically increases its sportiness versus more-plain Kia models, like the European-market Kia Carens wagon.
The Forte5’s cab-forward proportions mean the car always seems leaning forward and ready to pounce. The familiar headlights are oversized with LED running lights forming a swish outward from the grille and over the main beams. HID low-beams are optional and LED fog lights make an appearance for the first time. The SX model jumps two wheel sizes from standard, and rolls on 18-inch wheels with dark-colored accents. The wheel and tire package helps the Forte5 look purposeful and ready for hard driving.
The steeply-raked windshield melds nicely with the curvy roof and glasshouse to effectively recall the new Sportage, arguably Kia’s best-looking model. A front three-quarter window lends excellent visibility but doesn’t compromise the Forte5’s style. A rising swage line puts definition in the sides, as do some deep scallops in the doors that evoke the BMW Z4 among others. It’s a helpful touch that defines the lower half of the car and provides a classier shape than the similarly-curvy Kia Rio5.
Out back, the SX trim packs LED taillights that look like they could be from an Audi A6, a slim rear glass and bulging fenders. As noted before, it looks fantastic for this segment of dullards. Dual chrome-tipped round exhausts poke out from a carbon-fiber-style diffuser panel that gets the job done. The exhaust tips reinforce the sporty credentials of the SX, as does its “GDI Turbo” badge.
The Forte5 shares the Elantra’s long wheelbase, but is a half-foot shorter overall and slightly wider.
2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior Dimensions:
|Overall length||171.3 in.|
|Overall width||70.1 in.|
|Overall height||57.1 in.|
|Track||61.2 inches (front) / 61.7 inches (rear)|
|Weight||2,912 pounds (manual), 3,122 pounds (automatic)|
2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior Features:
|16" Alloy wheels||Standard||N/A|
|18" Alloy wheels||N/A||Standard|
|Dual exhaust with chrome tip||N/A||Standard|
|Dual body-color remote mirrors||Standard||N/A|
|Dual body-color power mirrors with turn-signal indicators||N/A||Standard|
|Body-color exterior door handles||Standard||Standard|
|Variable intermittent windshield wipers||Standard||Standard|
|Auto-off projection-style headlights||Standard||Standard|
|LED rear taillights||N/A||Standard|
|Front fog lights||Standard||Standard|
|Tinted glass with windshield sunshade band||Standard||Standard|
|Power sunroof with tilt||Optional||Optional|
|LED positioning lights||Standard||Standard|
|Power folding side-view mirrors||Standard||Standard|
|Rear hatch spoiler||Standard||Standard|
The interior follows the fake-carbon-fiber route but the result is pretty interesting and unique for a major manufacturer in the $20,000 compact segment. Dress-up kits are a mainstay feature in the European hot hatch markets, where body-color trim pieces can snap into place for a garish appearance. Citroen DS3 Racing and Renault Clio RS, please step forward.
So, the carbon-inspired bits are better than yellow or orange trims all around the interior. The rest of the interior package is extremely current but does look very dark, much like a Volkswagen Golf inside. The sense of quality is just about at VW levels as well.
Kia’s never been shy about calling out every single feature it includes as standard. For example, exterior and interior door handles are offered as standard equipment so you can put the big brick down and lift up on those standard door handles… However, amid the embarrassment of features are some important, class-exclusive options, like the ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The priciest options are the navigation system, power seats and leather trim.
As far as dimensions, the Forte5 packs some real practicality advantages over its coupe and sedan siblings as well as the opposition. The Forte5 has a noticeably huge back seat with more than 3 inches of extra legroom versus a Corolla and a handy 23-plus cubic-feet of flexible space in the cargo area. Of course, this expands to a wagon-like load floor with the SX’s standard split-folding back seat.
2014 Kia Forte5 Interior Dimensions:
|Headroom (Front/Rear)||39.4/38.7 in.|
|Legroom (Front/Rear)||42.2/35.9 in.|
|Shoulder Room (Front/Rear)||56.1/54.9 in|
|EPA Passenger Volume||98.2 cu. ft.; 96.8 cu. Ft. w/ Sunroof|
|EPA Cargo Volume||23.2 cu. Ft.|
2014 Kia Forte5 Interior Features:
|2014 Kia Forte5 Interior Features||EX||SX|
|AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio system||Standard||Standard|
|Six speakers with door-mounted tweeters||Standard||Standard|
|Navigation with HD Radio||Optional||Optional|
|USB/auxiliary input jacks||Standard||Standard|
|Bluetooth wireless technology||Standard||Standard|
|Steering-wheel-mounted audio control buttons||Standard||Standard|
|Supervision meter cluster with 4.2" TFT LCD display||Optional||Optional|
|Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters||N/A||A/T|
|EcoMinder fuel-efficiency monitor||A/T||A/T|
|Outside temperature display||Standard||Standard|
|Dual-zone automatic climate control||Optional||Optional|
|Power door locks with remote keyless entry||Standard||Standard|
|Push button start with Smart Key||Optional||Optional|
|Door handle pocket light||Optional||Optional|
|Heated steering wheel||Optional||Optional|
|Tilt and telescopic steering column||Standard||Standard|
|FlexSteer driver-selectable steering assist||Standard||Standard|
|Dual 12V power outlets||Standard||Standard|
|Dual map lights with sunglasses holder||Standard||Standard|
|Auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink||Optional||Optional|
|Glove box light||Standard||Standard|
|Cargo net hooks||Standard||Standard|
|Cloth seat trim||Standard||Standard|
|Leather seat trim||Optional||Optional|
|10-way power adjustable driver’s seat||Optional||Optional|
|Driver’s memory seat with two presets||Optional||Optional|
|Ventilated driver’s seat||Optional||Optional|
|Heated front seats and rear seat cushions||Optional||Optional|
|60/40 split-folding rear seat with adjustable rear headrests||Standard||Standard|
|Center console with armrest and storage area||Standard||Standard|
|Rear-seat center armrest||Standard||Standard|
|Front door map pockets with bottle holder||Standard||Standard|
|Leather-wrapped steering wheel/gearshift knob||Standard||Standard|
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
As Hyundai and Kia both evolve their lineups in fast-forward, often the advanced technology isn’t quite ready. This was the case for the Hyundai Elantra, which lacks the new 1.6-liter turbo four in the Forte5 SX. This new Kia packs some serious heat from its downsized engines, 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque from just 1,750 rpm. This equates to a projected 6.9-second 0-to-60 MPH sprint for the SX manual, which jumps to 8.2 seconds with a slush-o-matic transmission (automatic).
The base 2.0-liter four is new as well, and also packs direct injection that helps bump it to 173 horsepower – about 30 more horsepower than the top Honda Civic and Corolla as well as nearly 40 more than the base Golf and Fiesta. This engine is expected to reach 60 mph in 9.5 seconds as an automatic, the EX’s only transmission.
So a manual box on the highest-powered model? That’s right! Three cheers for Kia. There’s a vacuum of cool, fast cars for buyers in this segment and the Forte5 is set to mop them all up.
2014 Kia Forte5 Driveline Specs:
|Engine Size and Type||2.0L I-4, DOHC gasoline direct injection (GDI)||1.6L I-4, turbocharged DOHC gasoline direct injection (GDI)|
|Peak power||173 horsepower||201 horsepower|
|Peak torque||154 pound-feet||195 pound-feet|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||Six-speed Manual or Six-speed Auto with Paddle Shift|
|0-60-mph||9.5 seconds, est||Manual: 6.9 seconds, est; Auto: 8.2 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||116 mph, est||116 mph, est|
|EPA Fuel Economy||29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, est||29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, est|
This new model has yet to be crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, but the previous-gen Kia Forte sedan is still an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2013, so all signs are good. The car comes packed with safety features that are standard across both trim levels.
- Restraint & Safety Systems
- Dual front advanced airbags
- Dual front seat-mounted side airbags
- Full-length side curtain airbags
- Front and rear 3-point seat belts
- Front seat-belt pre-tensioners
- Height-adjustable front seat-belt anchors
- 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock Brakes System (ABS)
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
- VSM (Vehicle Stability Management)
- Traction Control System (TCS)
- Brake-Assist System (BAS)
- Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
- Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) – manual transmission only
- Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
- Front and rear crumple zones
- Side-impact door beams
- Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)
The pricing for the Forte5 model is not available yet, but should only increase modestly versus the 2013 Forte it replaces. The 2013 Forte has base prices at $18,300 for the EX up to $19,800 for the SX model. The new SX model comes standard with the six-speed manual transmission, so the new one with an automatic, nav and leather will likely top $22,000. This is still exceptional value versus a similarly equipped Civic, Corolla and especially Volkswagen Golf.
The obvious competitors like the Civic and Corolla are only available in sedan body styles and lack the optional turbo engine upgrade like the Forte5 SX. For this reason, the primary competition for the Forte5 is the Ford Fiesta ST and the Volkswagen Golf.
The Forte5 also competes directly with the new Hyundai Elantra GT, another five-door hatch. The Elantra GT is positioned as a less-sporty option for older buyers.
The Fiesta ST is Ford’s latest attempt to bring some kind of passion to its smallest car line. If gasoline cost $8 per gallon, the Fiesta might get a second look. In its current U.S.-specifications five-door hatch and four-door sedan bodies, the Fiesta is too embarrassing on the road for most people to consider. The ST packs a wallop, though, with the standard overboost feature taking the 1.6-liter turbo four well past 200 horsepower and pound-feet of torque.
Lots of enthusiasts immediately think of the GTI when imagining a hot hatch. The Forte5 nearly matches the GTI for power and performance, but is far cheaper to buy than the VW. Base Golf models are closest to the Forte5’s low-twenties price tag. These Golf models are much slower but also pack sophisticated interiors and driving dynamics. The new Mk VII Golf is tipped to arrive here in early calendar 2014.
The 2014 Kia Forte5 enters the market for fast small cars virtually unchallenged by the segment leaders on performance. The hatchback body style also offers a more cosmopolitan look than the sedan and also packs some real benefits in back-seat and hauling space.
The turbo 1.6-liter engine is just the icing on the cake. Loosely derived from Hyundai-Kia’s World Rally entries, the Forte5 SX with manual gearbox is shaping up to be the must-have compact of 2014. It’s stylish and doesn’t feel too narrow or tall like the Fiesta, while offering similar acceleration to the much-pricier VW Golf GTI.
The biggest question mark surrounds the driving feedback that Kia is able to deliver. The company just opened a permanent testing facility at the hallowed Nürburgring and promises more than 6,000 development miles will be done on all new cars around the ‘Ring before the settings are finalized.
The Forte5 represents the first salvo in Kia’s battle to be taken seriously not only for style and tech, but on the handling dynamics front as well. So far, Kia’s that are sporty and ride hard are still not very adept in the chassis department, so there’s room for improvement.
As far as the basic building blocks go, the Forte5 is ready to be finessed into the first U.S.-friendly hot hatch in years.
|Driving||B+||Big Wheel/Tire Package Promises Good Grip|
|Performance||A||Turbo 1.6-liter Delivers Good Power and Sprint Stats, even the base 2.0 is acceptable|
|Look||A||Mini-Cayenne Appearance From Some Angles|
|Value||B||Pricing Not Set, But SX Still Good Value At Estimated $22k|
|Overall||A-||The Best Forte; Most Respectable Hot Hatch in U.S.|