2010 Kia Forte SXPosted on September 15th, 2009
Kia’s stylish new compact sedan is an ALV super value
By Nina Russin
Kia and I have history together. When the Korean automaker began selling cars in North America fifteen years ago, I was one of the journalists who took an active interest. Driving the Forte brings back memories of the Sephia: Kia’s first North American model.
The Sephia couldn’t match the build quality of comparable Toyota and Honda sedans. What Kia offered was value: buyers who would otherwise be forced to buy a used car could afford a Sephia.
Over time Kia raised its internal bar, improving fit and finish across the model line-up. By the end of the 1990s, the automaker led its competitive segments in terms of standard safety, while maintaining its value pricing strategy.
Opening a North American design studio gave Kia the ability to respond quickly to styling trends. This year, a brand new production facility in Georgia gives Kia a similar footprint in North America to its Asian and European competitors.
The 2010 Forte replaces the compact Kia Spectra. Kia rolled out the first model, the Forte sedan, last spring. The two-door Forte Koup rolls into dealerships this Fall. So far, Kia hasn’t announced plans to build a five-door model. But considering the success of the Spectra5, it would be surprising if a hatchback isn’t in the works.
Three grades priced from $13,695
The Forte sedan comes in three grades: LX, EX and SX. Both the LX and EX fall within our super-value category, with base prices below $16,000. The upscale SX begins at $18,195, not including a $695 destination charge.
The SX comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine: the more powerful of two available blocks. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection.
Standard seventeen-inch wheels on the SX give it a bigger footprint than the LX or EX, which run on 16 and 17-inch rims respectively. Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control.
SX test drive
Last spring, I had the opportunity to drive the Forte LX and EX during a media program in Seattle. This week, I got behind the wheel of the sporty SX.
In keeping with Kia’s value strategy, the Forte comes well equipped with comfort and convenience features, including air conditioning, satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod interface, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and cruise control. The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to create a pass-through that extends the trunk’s cargo floor.
When I stepped into the Forte, I was reminded how much Kia has evolved in fifteen years. The Forte is an attractive sedan, inside and out. It’s also very solid, with excellent fit and finish throughout.
The test car has optional leather upholstery in place of the standard cloth, and a power sunroof package. The leather package adds front seat heaters.
Designers did an excellent job of making the car’s modest size interior ergonomic. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view. A dead pedal keeps the driver comfortable during longer trips.
Visibility to the sides and rear of the car is good, with minimal blind spots. I found the six-way manual driver’s seat easy to adjust, with adequate lower lumbar support.
The 2.4-liter engine adds 17 horsepower over the 2.0 liter block in the Forte LX and EX. The car loses about two miles-per-gallon in fuel economy compared to the other grades, but the extra power comes in handy merging onto the freeway, and passing other vehicles at speed.
The five-speed automatic transmission is smoother than the four-speed transmission on the LX and EX. In addition to producing less shift shock, it also has a bigger overdrive gear, to maximize fuel economy. Since the SX weighs about 100 pounds more than the LX or EX, the overdrive gear makes a significant difference.
Sport tuning on the SX suspension gives it a slightly firmer feel than the other two grades. The standard independent front and torsion beam rear setup provides a compliant ride. Stabilizer bars on both axles help to keep the chassis flat in the corners.
A speed-sensitive steering system provides more assist at low speeds, yet maintains positive on-center response on the highway. While I didn’t drive the Forte aggressively, I noticed no tendency for the front-wheel drive car to understeer. A turning radius of just under 34 feet makes it easy to maneuver into tight parallel parking spots or do the occasional U-turn.
Four-wheel disc brakes on all grades make the Forte a safer car to drive in wet weather, and an easier one to maintain. Drum brakes tend to fill up with water on wet roads: drums don’t stop as evenly as discs. Because the rotors on disc brakes stay drier, they don’t build up the rust ridges typical of drum brakes, which can be a maintenance nightmare. Four-channel antilock braking enhances the driver’s directional control on wet roads.
Seating for up to five passengers
The Forte interior is attractive and functional. Adults of most sizes should feel comfortable in the front seats. Despite a small floor tunnel, three passengers can sit in back. The floor tunnel takes some legroom away from the middle passenger.
The drive and front passenger have access to map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, as well as cupholders in the center console. Two twelve-volt power points at the base of the center stack recharge portable electronic devices. A USB port makes it possible to plug in an iPod or flash drive.
Dual overhead reading lamps up front and a dome lamp in the back of the car illuminate the interior at night. A fold-down armrest in the center seatback has two cupholders for second-row passengers.
The Forte’s trunk is deep as well as long, making it easy to load up with cargo. Levers to either side of the trunk-lid release the rear seats to fold them flat. While no compact sedan meets our bicycle friendly standards, it’s possible to load a road bike in back with the wheels removed.
Ten year factory warranty
Kia’s ten year/100,000 mile factory warranty includes round-the-clock roadside assistance for the first five years or 60,000 miles. The Forte sedan is on display at Kia dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An affordable, nicely equipped compact sedan with an exceptionally high level of standard safety features. The quality of the fit and finish throughout the car is a reflection of how much Kia has evolved in a relatively short time.
Model: Forte SX Sedan
Base price: $18,195
As tested: $20,490
Horsepower: 173 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 168 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway
2 responses to “2010 Kia Forte SX”
Mine is on the way in 2 days…SX. I can’t wait i think its the surprise of the year.
Well done on your site, sir! Thanks!
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