The Forte is Kia's new entry in the compact-car segment, replacing the Spectra when it hits dealerships in summer 2009. Offered in LX, EX and SX trim levels, the Forte is available with a choice of four-cylinder engines and comes standard with numerous safety features, including an electronic stability system. Competitors include the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla.
(Skip to details on the: Forte Koup)
The Forte sports crisp styling that gives the sedan an athletic shape. You don't have to look too closely to find resemblances to other small cars. The front end, for instance, looks similar to a Honda Civic coupe, and the Forte's taillights remind me of the Mitsubishi Lancer's.
The base LX sedan has standard 15-inch steel wheels, while the midlevel EX model gets 16-inch alloy rims. The performance-oriented SX trim, which features a sport suspension, has 17-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. A sunroof is optional.
The five-seat cabin features mostly good materials and panel fit. Some of the elements, like the available steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, have a high-end feel that you don't see in every compact car. The audio system's display has attractive red graphics.
The front bucket seats are finished in cloth, and leather upholstery is optional. The backseat is quite spacious for a compact car and can comfortably accommodate taller passengers. The 14.7-cubic-foot trunk is sizable for this class, and it can be expanded by folding the 60/40-split backseat. The release levers for that function are in the trunk.
The base LX trim goes without niceties like air conditioning, cruise control, and power windows and locks, but that should help keep its starting price low. The EX has all those features plus remote keyless entry, map lights and steering-wheel audio controls. The SX adds a telescoping steering wheel and cloth seats with red stitching.
Under the Hood
LX and EX models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 156 horsepower. Choosing the SX trim brings a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 173 hp. Both engines are offered with a manual transmission — a five-speed for the base engine and a six-speed for the SX trim — or an automatic.
Standard features include all-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags, an electronic stability system and active head restraints for the front seats.
The Forte's two-door offshoot — Kia calls it a "Koup" — comes in the sedan's two upper trims, EX and SX. Drivetrains follow suit, with the EX getting the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the SX getting the 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Standard alloy wheels measure 16 inches on the EX and 17 inches on the SX; the latter trim also gets larger brakes and a sport-tuned suspension. Unique styling elements recall Kia's Koup concept introduced at the 2008 New York auto show; among them are vertical fog light insets, a blacked-out grille and lower air dam, and a lower air diffuser in back.
Inside, the front seats have larger side bolsters than the sedan. Leather upholstery with heated seats is optional. Trunk volume measures 12.6 cubic feet, down slightly from the sedan's 14.7 cubic feet. That beats the Honda Civic coupe's trunk (11.5 cubic feet) but falls short of the two-door Ford Focus (13.8) and Chevy Cobalt (13.9). Like the sedan, the Forte Koup includes six airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system as standard equipment. Back to top