2015 Kia Forte5 SXPosted on June 1st, 2015
Sporty hatch targets active urbanites
By Nina Russin
Although Kia’s product line has moved up-water with products such as the K900 and Cadenza, value remains the brand’s core attribute. In no case is that more apparent than in the compact Forte, available as a coupe, sedan and five-door hatchback.
Although it shares chassis components with the Hyundai Elantra GT, the Forte5 SX appeals to driving enthusiasts with a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine as compared to the naturally-aspirated two-liter block in the Elantra rated at 173-horsepower.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard in the Forte5 SX, but buyers can opt to add a six-speed automatic with Formula-style paddle shifters. Base price is $21,890 excluding the destination charge. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension come standard on the upscale model.
Options on the test car include a premium package that adds leather seating with heated front seats and a ventilated driver’s seat, power sunroof, power driver’s seat and a heated steering wheel. A technology package adds navigation, xenon headlamps, HD radio and dual-zone climate control. Final MSRP is $27,100.
Test drive in Arizona
This week I drove the Forte5 around the Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler, Arizona metropolitan areas as well as a section of the Gila River Indian community south of town. With standard features including a rearview camera, satellite radio, remote keyless entry and start and Kia’s enhanced UVO entertainment system, the newest Forte offers a lot of bang for the buck.
There’s substance under the hood as well. The 1.6-liter turbocharged block develops peak torque, 195 foot-pounds, as low as 1750 rpm and maintains it to 4500. The engine’s long, flat torque curve gives the Forte excellent acceleration off the line and better climbing power than some of its competitors.
While I prefer cars with a clutch pedal, the six-speed automatic transmission is well mated to the block, progressing smoothly through the gears. The manual gear select option enables drivers to hold onto gears longer for more aggressive performance.
The suspension consists of a MacPherson strut independent setup in front and solid torsion beam in the back. The torsion beam doesn’t have the performance of an independent rear axle but it’s compact and durable. On a car of this size, the live rear axle works pretty well in terms of ride.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Forte5 in firm, linear fashion.
An electric power steering system is fairly well tuned to the car. There’s a slight hesitation in on-center response but the driver does not feel disconnected from the wheels. Low-speed maneuverability is excellent with a 34.8-foot turning circle.
Visibility around the car’s perimeter is quite good. The standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle image to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the car’s trajectory according to steering input. The camera eliminates blind spots caused by the rear pillars and makes it much easier to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine, wind and road noise intrusion to the interior so passengers can converse or enjoy the audio system.
Premium options on the test car make the Forte feel like a more expensive car than it is. Product planners included some important standard features such as air vents behind the center console, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and Bluetooth interface not found in competitive products.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view and appreciated the seat ventilation feature at a time of year when daily temperatures in Phoenix reach the triple digits.
Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions including bright sunlight. All passengers have easy access to power points. The newest version of UVO includes an enhanced roster of apps owners can download from iTunes or Google Play and access through their smartphones.
Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for longer items, enabling the Forte5 to meet our bicycle friendly qualifications while the sedan and coupe models do not.
The Kia Forte5 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. Kia’s ten-year 100,000-mile warranty protects owners against repair costs due to manufacturing defects and includes five years of roadside assistance, up to 60,000 miles.
The versatile Forte5 is on display at Kia dealerships nationwide.
Like: Turbocharged engine offers good power and fuel economy with minimal parasitic power loss at altitude. Kia’s compact car offering is value-packed with standard features that make it seem like a more expensive vehicle than it actually is.
Dislike: Live rear axle doesn’t offer the performance of an independent setup.
Model: Forte5 SX
Base price: $21,890
As tested: $27,100
Horsepower: 201 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 195 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 21/29 mpg city/highway2015, Best Value 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety
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