2017 Kia Forte EXPosted on October 11th, 2016
Compact sedan with refreshed styling
By Nina Russin
The Kia Forte’s heritage dates back to 2010 when it replaced the Spectra: one of the most popular models produced by the South Korean automaker at that time. More affordable than its competitors from Honda and Toyota, the Spectra was a big hit among compact sports car enthusiasts, with some pretty cool customizing options.
The Forte is more of a mainstream offering, taking many of its styling cues from the larger Optima sedan. The 2017 Forte features refreshed exterior styling and a new, more powerful base engine. Buyers can choose between three trim levels of which the EX model tested is the most upscale.
Pricing for the EX starts at $21,200, excluding the $850 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Premium plus package that includes navigation, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, rearview camera, power driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, Xenon headlamps and a power sunroof ($4490), bringing the final MSRP to $26,540.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
This week I drove the upscale EX through Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as along some rural roads in the Gila River Indian Community south of town. The experience left this writer with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, the Forte is a very solid, stylish car with advanced safety features unusual in its segment. But I found myself missing the rebel spirit of the old Spectra. It was the sort of car that screamed SEMA show, beckoning aficionados of coffee can cat back exhaust systems, custom rims and wild paint jobs to join its ranks.
Power for the Forte EX comes from a two-liter direct injection engine rated at 164-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. The engine has plenty of power to merge into high-speed traffic and keep up on the highway, but because it’s naturally aspirated, it lacks some of the pep of turbocharged competitors.
The six-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears, with no obvious shift shock during normal driving conditions.
An electric power steering system is nicely tuned to the car, with a pleasantly heavy feel at speed and decent on-center response. A 34.8-foot turning circle makes it easy to maneuver into parking spots on the street, or perform the occasional U-turn.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels give the Forte EX an ample footprint for better high-speed performance. The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson setup in front and coupled torsion beam rear axle. The solid rear axle works fine on the front-wheel drive chassis, since most of the vehicle weight is over the front axle.
Active safety features such as the rearview camera with cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring make the Forte a good choice for commuters who deal with rush-hour traffic on a daily basis. Forward collision warning with autonomous braking automatically stops the sedan if the driver fails to react to a stopped vehicle in front. As driver distraction becomes more and more of a problem, it’s a valuable feature to have.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the vehicle’s interior, making it easy for both rows of passengers to converse on the highway or enjoy the audio system.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob, adding a measure of safety after dark. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view, with plenty of lower lumbar support for longer drives.
Second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for larger items. However, cyclists should count on adding a hitch rack or opt for one of Kia’s crossover vehicles with taller, more spacious cargo areas.
With the rear seats in place, the Forte’s trunk has plenty of room for groceries, luggage and smaller camping equipment.
Kia’s UVO infotainment system developed in conjunction with Microsoft enables owners to interface with their smart phones for apps and audio. Satellite radio and Bluetooth interface are both standard on the EX model.
The Kia Forte comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. Kia’s ten year/100,000-mile factory warranty includes six years of roadside assistance, up to 60,000 miles.
The Forte sedan is on display at Kia dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish compact sedan with advanced infotainment and active safety features.
Dislike: Two-liter engine lacks the pep of turbocharged competitors. Expensive option package significantly increases the sedan’s final MSRP.
Model: Forte EX
Base price: $21,200
As tested: $26,540
Horsepower: 164 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 151 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 25/33 mpg city/highway