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  • 2011 Kia Forte SX 5-Door

    Posted on August 30th, 2011 ninarussin

    Sport grade adds wow factor to Kia’s compact platform

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Kia Forte 5-Door

    Two years ago, the Kia Forte replaced the Spectra as the automaker’s compact offering. More recently, the Forte 5-door replaces the Spectra5. The Forte hatchback comes in both EX and SX grades. The sporty SX features a more powerful four-cylinder engine than the EX, larger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.

    Base price on the Forte SX 5-door model is $19,395, excluding the $695 delivery charge. Standard convenience features include Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, keyless remote entry, power mirrors, an ambient temperature display and a USB port.

    The test car adds three option packages. Leather trim with heated front seats and an automatic dimming rearview mirror costs $1000. A technology package which includes keyless start, navigation and automatic temperature control adds $1800, while a power sunroof costs $750, bringing the price as tested to $23,640.

    Four-cylinder engine combines power with fuel economy

    2011 Kia Forte 5-Door

    Power for the Forte SX comes from a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 173 horsepower, with 168 foot-pounds of torque. Peak torque is available from 4000 rpm, providing good acceleration in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range which drivers use merging onto highways.

    Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter engine is 22 miles-per-gallon in the city and 32 on the highway according to EPA estimates. I averaged just over 27 miles-per-gallon on my 100-mile test drive.

    While the bigger engine’s gas mileage falls two mpg short of that offered by the 2-liter block, it is this writer’s belief that the extra power is worth the investment. The bigger engine is more competent at altitude, climbing steep grades, and passing slower cars on the highway.

    A six-speed automatic transmission can be manually shifted using the gear lever or shift paddles on the steering wheel. Both work seamlessly, adding an extra dimension to the driving experience on winding two-lane roads.

    Electric power steering seems nicely tuned to the car, offering plenty of assist at low speeds, with good on-center response on the highway. The Forte’s 33.9-foot turning radius makes it easy to park on the street or perform the occasional U-turn.

    The sport suspension includes monotube shocks, which help keep the chassis flat during aggressive driving. Engineers also added stabilizer bars to the independent MacPherson struts on the front axle. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels and tires give the Forte SX an ample footprint.

    Test drive in eastern Arizona

    I drove the Forte SX 5-door around the Phoenix metro area as well as a section of the Tonto National Forest east of town. The experience reconfirmed my original reaction to the car when I drove it earlier this year: the Forte SX is a great value which doesn’t compromise on quality.

    Fit and finish is solid throughout the car, which translates to excellent ride and handling, as well as a quiet interior. Engineers have solved the vibration problems which formerly plagued large four-cylinder engines. Not only is the 2.4-liter block is the Forte SX vibration free: it has enough power to handle the changes in altitude I experienced on the drive route east of town.

    Visibility around the car is quite good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes on the freeway. The optional rearview camera which comes with the navigation package makes it easier and safer to back out of vertical parking slots. A standard rear wiper keeps the back glass clear in rain and snow.

    Driving the car on a winding two-lane road is a lot of fun. I used the gearshift lever to select gears manually, keeping the car closer to peak torque on some of the upgrades, and downshifting through the corners. Both the lever and shift paddles are intuitive to use.

    The Forte’s four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in firm, linear fashion.

    Versatile interior for active lifestyles

    Kia Forte 5-Door Interior

    What I like best about the five-door configuration is its versatility. The enlarged cargo area makes it easy for the owner to load large items in back. A road bike will fit with the second-row seats folded flat, as long as the front wheel is removed. The car’s low lift-over height makes it easier for small drivers to load items in back.

    A hidden area under the cargo floor has dividers to keep smaller items from shifting around. A locking glovebox provides additional secure storage.

    Both first and second-row passengers have ample access to cup and bottle holders, all of which are large enough to hold 20-ounce water bottles. Dual 12-volt power points recharge portable electronic devices, while the USB port makes it easy to hook up an iPod.

    I found the driver’s seat comfortable for my two-hour test drive, with plenty of lower lumbar support. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Redundant audio controls, cruise controls and the Bluetooth interface on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.

    Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight. A digital display at the base of the gauges indicates average and real-time fuel economy, driving range, elapsed time, trip meter and odometer readings.

    Second-row passengers have ample head, hip and legroom in the outboard positions. The floor tunnel and center console take up much of the legroom for the middle passenger.

    Standard safety

    The Kia Forte SX 5-door comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, active front headrests, traction and stability control. Kia’s ten year/100,000 mile factory warranty includes 24 hour roadside assistance for up to five years or 60,000 miles.

    The Kia Forte SX sedan and 5-door are on display at dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: An affordable, safe and well-equipped five-door hatchback, which is fuel efficient yet fun to drive. The five-door configuration makes the cargo area easy to access, and provides more room for large cargo items.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Kia
    Model: Forte SX 5-door
    Base price: $19,395
    As tested: $23,640
    Horsepower: 173 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 168 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 23/32 mpg city/highway

     

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