When I’m watching “American Idol,” I often wonder how many potential contestants who try out for the show are good, but not great. If you heard them singing at your school or church you’d probably think, “Dang, they’re good!” In Hollywood, however, they’re not impressive enough to stand out in the crowd. These people are like the 2010 Kia Forte. The Forte is a good car. But, in the words of “Idol” judge Simon Cowell, it risks being forgettable.
Can this car be a winner? Ask Kris What’s-His-Name or the Soul Patrol guy. Sometimes, with the right blend of charisma, it can, but this segment of cars rarely pulls off a Kelly Clarkson, especially in the family category.
The Forte’s 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder was really peppy. Like a nervous “Idol” contestant, it was almost hyper, but I adjusted my lead foot accordingly. It was a bit of a trick to get the front-wheel-drive Forte tamed in the snow and ice, but the car’s traction control system helped. It wasn’t ideal, but I wasn’t stuck at home, either.
My test car, the top-of-the-line SX, had a sport-tuned suspension. I was excited to try it out, but it didn’t thrill me. This isn’t a car I’m going to be racing around a track, and for the kind of everyday driving I do, the Forte does just fine.
If I were Paula, er…Kara, I’d say, let’s give it a chance! Is the Forte goin’ to Hollywood?
Like a perky “Idol” contestant, the Forte SX looked promising. The exterior is modern looking and sports a nice grille and fog lights. The 17-inch wheels are sporty and fun, and there are relatively few cheap-looking plastic accents. The Forte really does look the part of a fun, inexpensive car that young up-and-comers might like to drive.
Even better, the Forte looks good from the back (and if you think that doesn’t matter, just ask a woman who’s buying jeans). The taillights and sculpted trunk are so attractive that the Forte appears to be a fancier, more upscale car from the rear. That being said, it doesn’t beat you over the head with its glitziness. There are no superficial accessories here, folks. It just looks good and doesn’t need all kinds of chrome and special paint to divert your attention.
The Forte’s doors were easy for my kids, ages 5 and 7, to open and close. I bet younger kids would also do just fine on that front. You may want to watch your head when you’re getting the kids into their child-safety seats, as I bonked mine a few times on the door frame. I guess that’s an occupational hazard of owning a sedan.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
The interior is really the best part of this car. It’s the Forte’s forte! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) The leather-trimmed seats are comfortable and heated, which made me happy. Granted, heated leather seats are optional and will cost you $1,000, but when the base price is $17,495, an extra $1,000 seems worth it.
There’s a good balance of silver- and black-colored plastic trim, not enough to irk me or make me feel like this car is something it’s not. All the dials and gauges were well laid out and easy to read. This is a car that has everything you want and nothing you don’t.
The center console had room for a small bag of wipes and a few other items, and the top shelf can house lip balms or cell phones. Actually, you’d probably put your cell phone on the cool shelf above the gearshift. It’s a flat space with a grippy bottom and two 12-volt outlets, an MP3 jack and a USB input right in front of it. Nice space planning, Kia!
In the backseat, the kids had plenty of legroom, even with my husband’s seat pushed all the way back. The cupholders are located in the center armrest, which is a kid-friendly position and much appreciated by this mom.
The Forte’s trunk is huge, and 60/40-split backseat folds down easily to accommodate longer items. I’m not sure the Forte’s the next “American Idol,” but based on the interior, this Kia’s definitely going to Hollywood!
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Forte offers enough room in the second row to fit a rear-facing child-safety seat, and its Latch connectors are out in the open and easy to use. There’s no digging between seat cushions to use them. The tether anchors were easy to find, too. My kids’ booster seats fit well, too. However, the backseat’s seat belt receptors are floppy, which can frustrate younger kids who are just learning how to buckle up by themselves.
The Forte comes with standard antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control.
Kia packed the Forte with dual-stage front-impact airbags, side-impact airbags for the front row and side curtain airbags for both rows. Nice.
In Diapers: The second row is roomy enough to fit a rear-facing child-safety seat.
In School: Kids will also appreciate the backseat legroom and the easy-to-reach cupholders.
Teens: This is good first-car material here, folks.