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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Forte is continued evidence that Kia welds a pretty wicked engineering wand. What could be cast off as a tight-fitting compact has been magically turned into desirable sedan through simple yet great styling accents (and – okay – a slightly larger wheel base) plus features that will mesmerize you with what the car offers and not what it doesn’t.

I drove a 2017 Kia Forte sedan with a new 147-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Forte sedan is available as a base LX, a new sportier S, and EX trims with my EX test drive featuring the following standards: leather seat trim; heated front seats; push-button start; UVO eServices infotainment; Bluetooth connectivity; leather-wrapped steering wheel; seven-inch touchscreen with a rear camera display; ambient interior lights; a six-speaker audio system with door-mounted tweeters; seventeen-inch alloy wheels; fog lights; and LED turn signals on side mirrors. Total vehicle cost as described without packages or options comes to $21,200.

The Forte receives lots of useful pluses for the model year, including a new engine, better seat upholstery, and an excellent warranty package. Available as a sedan or hatchback, competitors are fierce and include the Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, and Ford Focus.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The sedan cabin creates a convincing mirage of space both for the front and rear passengers – I fit five with little to no complains (my crew was on the tinier side – kids between 5 and 12 years of age) that could click into seatbelts with no problem. The revised front-end styling will draw you in, but it’s the top-quality materials that will leave you aghast plus its high-tech attitude where features (like screen commands) are always easy to use. What I like about the EX trim is many standard features were once paid options, and that my EX trim also featured a pricey but tempting $4,490 Premium Plus Package that added a fancy meter cluster, navigation, loads of safety tech (Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert), ventilated front seats, sunroof, and Xenon headlights.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2017 Kia Forte sedan receives ratings of “Good” in key crash-test areas but does have a “Poor” in headlights with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It has an overall 5-Star rating with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Standard safety equipment includes an advanced airbag system, electronic stability control, traction control, vehicle stability management, LATCH for kid seats, hill-assist control, electronic brake-force distribution, and rear child-safety door locks.

Cost Issues: The base Forte sedan LX trim starts at $16,600 with my decked-out EX trim and the Premium Plus Package reaching a price of $25,690 – still a screaming deal. The 2017 Honda Civic sedan starts at $18, 740 and the Toyota Corolla at $18,500.

Activity & Performance Ability: One trick Kia cannot hide is that the new 2-liter engine feels just like the Hyundai Elantra’s powertrain, which is still a little too restrained to be labeled sporty or aggressive. Sure, there is kick, but not when compared to Mazda’s SKACTIV-G technology. You will appreciate the secure steering, road feel and certainly fuel economy with the Forte sedan for everyday driving. 

The Green Concern: The 2-liter gets a fuel economy of 25-city and 33-highway for a combined 28. The 2017 Honda Civic sedan’s 2-liter gets 31-city and 40-highway for a combined 34. The Toyota Corolla’s 1.8-liter can stretch its fuel economy to 30-city and 40-highway for a combined 34 with the LE Eco trim.

Well worth the look, the 2017 Kia Forte sedan is reasonably priced even with all the bells-and-whistles added. And while some competitors might have sportier powertrains and even better fuel economy, they can’t touch the Forte’s level of technological ease and savviness plus overall cabin construction.

©2017 Katrina Ramser Parrish

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