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2010 Kia Forte SX Review

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2010 Kia Forte SX

SEE ALSO: Kia Specs, Prices, Comparisons and Reviews

By Steve Purdy
The Auto
Detroit Bureau

Kia has come a long way in just a few years. With each new generation of vehicle, and each market segment they enter, they continue surprised me at how competitive, update and competent they become. The same can be said for sister company Hyundai.

The new Kia Forte replaces the compact Spectra in the lineup. Early Spectras were competent, economical and durable but they would never be accused of being stylish. The Forte changes all that. Without going overboard the Forte models, sedan and coupe (they call it Koup), are thoroughly up to date in style and content, in fact, perhaps a bit a head of the curve in content.

The Korean-built Forte fits right in with the competition in the compact class with 96.8 cubic-feet of interior volume and 14.7 cubic-feet of trunk space. With front, transverse engine and front-wheel drive it’s conventional in just about every measure compared to Civic, Focus, Corolla, Mazda3, Cobalt and a myriad of others. Many analysts conclude that the compact car class is due for a surge in popularity resulting from economic and market factors. Kia is at least with, if not ahead, of the curve.

The Forte looks a bit like Honda’s popular Civic from some angles. The broad front grill and jeweled headlight complex lead seamlessly into the high, barely-perceptible side crease. While we wouldn’t describe it as bold, brash or ground-breaking it is certainly attractive and has character. It will certainly fit into the oft-criticized trend of looking like most other cars - but, that’s probably a good thing for upstart Kia striving to fit in. Contributing to the ambiance our SX (top-of-the-line) model comes standard 17-inch, good-looking alloy wheels shod with low-profile (45 aspect ratio) tires.

The base price on the entry-level LX model is $13,695. Our SX lists at $18,195 and with just the leather package, power sunroof and destination charge we’re looking at $20,490. Standard equipment is impressive at both the LX and SX levels. Our SX includes heated power mirrors, 5-speed automatic transmission, disc brakes all around, AC, solar, tinted glass,

AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius audio system with 6 speakers (LX gets same system with 4 speakers), USB port and auxiliary jack, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with steering wheel controls (standard on all models), dual 12-Volt power outlets in the console, split folding rear seat with fold-down armrest and cup holders, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, keyless entry, and tilt/telescope steering wheel.

The SX also comes standard with the larger 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-banger making a respectable 168 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the lesser LX and EX models is the 2.0-liter, 156-horsepower unit. Fuel mileage is listed as as being very close to the same with the former doing 23-city/31-highway and the latter managing 25 and 34. With a 13.7 gallon fuel tank we have a solid 350-mile-plus range even when pushing it.

Zero-to-60mph time is not impressive at 8.6 seconds but the gearing on the 5-speed automatic jumps it off the line nicely. In addition that trans is just about the smoothest shifting I’ve encountered in this class. I have the habit of shifting into neutral at stop lights and bumping it back into gear when the light changes. You’d be surprised at some the lurching and jerking that goes on with some more expensive cars. We can barely feel the transition with this car.

With the EX we can get a Fuel Economy Package comprised of a 5-speed stick transmission, electric power steering, “smart” alternator, low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic enhancements. Kia claims 27-mpg city and 36 highway with that combo.

Our SX tester comes with the “sport-tuned” suspension which seems a bit stiff and harsh on rough pavement and pitted parking lots. We have a lot of both here in Michigan. On good roads it feels well balanced between nice ride and firm handling, but we’re excessively jostled through the bumps. I’m wondering if the stiffness might make for some great fun on a road course or in the mountains. The reviewers at Car&Driver say it handles as good as the respected Mazda3 and I believe that.

Our test car’s optional $1,000 Leather Package includes heated seats and red stitching accents on the seat edges and door panels. It certainly isn’t luxury car leather but it looks and feels fine. The door panel trim is a bit soft with virtually no padding, making for a cheap feel. Overall the environment inside is fine with mostly good materials and good, simple, easy-to-manage controls. Like the outside, the inside design is conventional but attractive.

The 2,868-pound Forte comes with the full contingent of safety features equal to just about everything else today. Six airbags, lots of electronic chassis and driving controls (ABS, Traction Control, ESP, Brake Assist, active head restraints) tire pressure monitoring and so on. All safety systems are standard on all models.

Kia and Hyundai, as you may know, pioneered the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty to give them initial legitimacy in the US market. They continue to provide that along with 5-year/60,000-mile coverage on the whole vehicle.

With competition getting more intense in all automotive classes we may see the stiffest competition in the next few years in this compact class. Compact, by the way, is no longer synonymous with cheap and economical. Today’s buyer is after content and coolness as well. Forte seems right in the heart of that market.

And, if you want extra cool take a look at the Forte Koup.

SEE ALSO: Kia Specs, Prices, Comparisons and Reviews

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved