2014 Kia Forte EX Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler
By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel
The 2014 Kia Forte represents another home run from Kia
Why does “compact” always seem to be a euphemism for “barebones” or “cheap”? It’s a challenge these days to find a small sedan that brings big-car luxury features while still keeping with the price points offered in the compact segment. Kia aims to change that with the Forte. All-new for 2014, the Forte is wider, longer, and lower than the outgoing model and boasts a fairly amazing list of available features.
The Forte has been refreshed in Kia’s new corporate image; a slightly squished version of the now-familiar tiger nose grille makes an appearance up front. Kia uses words like “complex curves,” “European design-inspired,” and “dramatically swept” to describe it – we say it’s design reflects the evidence of Peter Schreyer’s touch and vision. It just looks wide, low, and aggressive. High-end features stand out, such as LED running lights and HID headlights in the front, and LED taillights in the back – features not typically seen in this segment.
The 2014 Forte is available in two trims. Even the base LX trim comes equipped with air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and USB/iPod/auxiliary input jacks – all this for the entry price of just $15,900. An option package will add 16-inch alloy wheels, mirror-mounted turn signals, keyless entry, nicer interior trim, two additional audio speakers, cruise control, a sliding console armrest, a fold-down rear center armrest and dual lighted vanity mirrors.
If you opt for the uplevel EX trim and you’ll get all of the above, plus an upgraded engine, adjustable steering effort, foglights, LED running lights, chrome accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Kia's Uvo voice-activated infotainment system, and a rearview camera. Option packages for the EX will add 17-inch wheels, a sunroof, smart-key entry and ignition, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a ventilated eight-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, xenon headlights, LED taillights, dual-zone air-conditioning with rear seat vents, a navigation system, and more.
Our tester came equipped in the EX trim with all of the above options. Towards the end of the list there, did you feel a little overwhelmed with all the toys? Xenon headlights. LED taillights. Heated seats. Heated steering wheel. Navigation. Are we still describing an imported compact sedan?
Yes. And this, at an as-tested MSRP of just $25,515.
As you sit in the cabin, it’s hard not to marvel at the value. Sure, some of the interior materials aren’t as nice as you might find on an up-level midsize or fullsize premium sedan – there’s plenty of hard plastic to be seen. But build quality feels every bit the peer of top-end cars like the Kia Cadenza ( Dan’s Cadenza Review). No shortcuts have been taken. The cabin is quiet, comfortable, and engaging. Little touches – like the use of the same font on physical buttons as on dashboard displays and the navigation system’s screen – really drive home the point that Kia’s put a great deal of investment and thought in their interior designs.
Particularly nice touches we noticed include a compartment beneath the radio and forward of the shifter with a closeable cover – large enough to tuck a smartphone away, with power, audio, and USB jacks, solving the where-do-I-put-my-phone conundrum drivers face in many cars. Here, it’s tucked away so as to be out of sight and not create a distraction for the driver. We also like what Kia calls the “supervision meter cluster” that comes with the EX Technology Package – an upgraded instrument cluster sporting a color LCD between speedo and tach to display trip computer, navigation instructions, or entertainment info. It looks great and it’s very easy to read. We only had one gripe about the interior and it’s a minor one, one we’ve seen in other Kia’s as well: The driver’s seat is heated and ventilated, but the front passenger’s seat is merely heated. Clearly a cost-saving measure, it comes off looking as such, and we wish Kia would add this feature for the front passenger as well.
The Forte comes with two engine choices – the base LX model sports a 1.8-liter four-cylinder making 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. Our EX came with a 2-liter direct-injected four-cylinder which increases output to 173 horsepower and 153 pound-feet of torque. Power delivery via the six-speed shiftable automatic is smooth and uneventful, although we’d call overall response and performance merely adequate – driving the Forte is not a push-you-back-in-your-seat experience, but power is sufficient to ensure a high-speed highway merge is a routine affair. An “Eco” mode is available which dulls throttle response, although no corresponding “Sport” mode is made available, which would be a nice addition. Note that the forthcoming Kia Forte Koup (coupe) will sport an available 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, bringing output closer to 200 for both horsepower and torque; we look forward to seeing it and to driving it.
Driving the Forte is a pleasant experience. It’s not a sports car by any stretch of the imagination given those output numbers, but it’s a comfortable cruiser for long trips. The suspension is fairly stiff and bumps are evident, but it holds corners well without a hint of wanting to slide. We averaged an excellent 33 MPG for combined fuel economy during our time with the Forte – handily exceeding the manufacturer’s estimate of 28, an impressive return.
We believe that the 2014 Kia Forte represents another home run from Kia and we highly recommend it. Although a bit lacking in the performance department, this compact sedan is fun to drive and loaded with features and luxury – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a collection of this many high-end features for this price.
2014 Kia Forte EX Base Price: $15,900.00 Price as Tested: $25,515.00 Engine Type: Gas Direct Injection (GDI) 4-cylinder Engine Size: 2.0-liter Horsepower: 173 @ 6,500 RPM Torque (lb-ft): 154 @ 4,700 RPM Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission Wheelbase / Length (in): 106.3 / 179.5 Curb Weight: 2,837 Pounds per HP: 16.4 Fuel Capacity (gal): 13.2 Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded Tires: Nexen CP671; P215/45HR17 Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson strut / Torsion beam Ground clearance (in): 5.5 Drivetrain: Front wheel drive EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / observed: 24 / 36 / 33 Base Trim Price: $19,400.00
Options and Charges
Premium Package: $2,600.00 (Power tilt/slide sunroof, leather seat trim, power adjustable driver’s seat with memory, ventilated driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated rear seats, pushbutton start with smart key, heated steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror with Homelink, front door handle pocket lights, outside mirror puddle lights, engine immobilizer)
EX Technology Package: $2,300.00 (Xenon HID headlights, dual zone automatic climate control, navigation system with SIRIUS traffic, HD radio, supervision meter cluster w/ 4.2” color LCD, LED taillights)
17-inch alloy wheels: $300.00
Carpeted floor mats: $115.00
Price as tested: $25,515.00