Kia’s motto, “The Power to Surprise” has been all fluff up until recently. With the Kia Soul released this year and now the Forte, I’m looking forward to whatever else this car maker has up their Korean sleeves.
The just-released Kia Forte replaced the yawn-inducing Spectra as their compact sedan, and stands up to some very big players in this segment – the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus are all direct competitors. So now that Kia is finally getting their act together, will the Forte stand a chance against these superstar compacts?
It’s really hard to compete with cars like the Civic and Corolla, but Kia is doing exactly that with the 2010 Forte. Pictures don’t do it justice, but it’s actually a very attractive car, penned by a former Audi designer. A bit of everything thrown in – some Civic, some Sentra, some Corolla, and even some Volvo styling cues help the Forte achieve a conservatively aggressive appearance while still standing out on its own. Interior design is great. While not particularly engaging, the dash and controls are extremely well laid-out and easy to use, as are the steering wheel mounted controls. As in all Kias and Hyundais, it comes standard with the excellent aux/USB/iPod jack with iPod integration.
Driving the Kia Forte is typical of small-medium sized cars. Plenty of room up front, a little bit cramped in the back. The trunk on this thing is huge, which is surprising the first time you see it. The driver info display, which shows overall and trip odometer should also include fuel economy. In a car that people will buy partially because it gets 27 city / 36 hwy mpg (which by the way is highest in its class,) should display the real-time and average economy. In the Forte’s defense, it did include the “EcoMinder” system (standard on all automatics,) which lights up a little “Eco” indicator when you’re getting maximum efficiency. It’s a nice reminder for you to keep light feet while driving if fuel economy is a concern. Steering in our model came from the optional motor-driven power steering system, which took a little bit of getting used to. Low speeds feels completely normal and light, but once you started to get up to speed, the steering tightens up noticeably, which Kia says will help increase fuel efficiency 2-3% I like it.
Our Forte EX test model came with a 2.0-liter 156 hp four-cylinder engine paired to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The EX (and the lower LX trim) comes standard with a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual, but we have the Fuel Economy Package, which updates the car to a 5-speed auto. I wish the 5-speed was standard in all trims; I don’t think there’s a place for 4-speed autos anymore. If you step into the sporty SX model, you get a 173 hp 2.4-liter engine with a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. Both engines are appropriately powered for this segment.
The 2010 Kia Forte is good enough to compete with other cars in this segment like the Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic. It gets more power, better fuel economy, and more space than you’ll get in many of the other cars, with no sacrifices. A $13,695 starting price ensures even the lowest budgets can get inside a good new car, and the top of the line SX model doesn’t disappoint those who are looking for more fun. A 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty is also second to none. Kia’s got a real winner on their hands with the 2010 Forte, and I can’t wait to get into a new Forte Koup when it’s finally released.
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2010 Kia Forte EX with Fuel economy package
As tested: $18,090
Starts at: $13,695 (LX)