2014 Kia Forte First Test
In It To Win It: New Compact Sedan has an Ample Bag of Tricks
With the 2014 Kia Forte sedan now in the picture, the Korean automaker has reinvented its compact sedan twice within the last five years. While that may seem excessive, the cutthroat compact car segment is like the fashion world. You might only be 27 years old, but that translates to 59 in model years. With the 4-year-old Forte losing relevance, Kia had to act fast. Luckily, it already had a winning formula, thanks to the current-gen Optima midsize sedan, which is the brand’s best-selling model to date.
The Optima has earned lots of brownie points for its sleek styling, performance, and smorgasbord of premium features, and the 2014 Forte doesn’t deviate from that formula. Defined by curvaceous body lines, the familiar tiger nose grille, sweeping head- and taillights, and a sharply raked windshield, the Forte commands attention, especially EX models equipped with LED accents above projector halogen headlights. (HIDs are optional.) The strips are slanted into the grille, resembling furrowed eyebrows that may intimidate those who look in their rearview mirrors. It’s wider (0.2 inch), longer (1.2 inches), and lower (1.0 inch) than its predecessor, with a wheelbase 2 inches longer at 106.3 inches.
Looks aside, lots of tinkering went on beneath the skin. A reworked direct-injection, 2.0-liter I-4 feeds 173 horses and 154-lb-ft of torque to the front tires via a six-speed automatic transmission, allowing the compact to scoot from 0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and reach the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 87.3 mph. The numbers are leaps and bounds over the last Forte EX we tested in 2011, which needed 9.2 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill and 17.1 seconds to pass the quarter-mile line at 83.2 mph. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla may best the Forte in compact sales, but the Korean compact puts them to shame in this category—the cars needed 9.1 and 9.8 seconds to get from 0 to 60 mph, respectively. Away from the track, the 2.0-liter buzzes happily when you put the pedal to the metal, making highway merging easy. The Forte’s cabin is surprisingly quiet for a car that belongs in the compact segment, with hardly any vibrations felt through the steering wheel, floor panels, or pedals. Kia engineers can pat themselves on the back for this, since an aluminum bed plate located beneath the engine block diminishes engine noise, while other NVH materials inside the doors reduce wind noise.
In our figure-eight test, the new Forte took advantage of its increased torsional rigidity, producing an improved time of 27.6 seconds at 0.60 g (average) versus the previous car’s 28.9 seconds at 0.56 g (average). Although it’s no sports car, the Forte embraces squiggly canyon roads with delight, as it eagerly turns into corners without too much body roll. The Forte is offered with a three-mode electrically boosted steering system (Normal, Comfort, and Sport), but the differences between the Normal and Sport modes aren’t easily discernible, and Comfort made steering feel more disconnected than comfortable. A stiffer chassis and recalibrated rear torsion beam allowed the Forte to float over hard impacts while delivering a smooth and balanced ride. Meanwhile, the compact stops from 60 mph in 117 feet compared with the outgoing car’s 141.
Like the Optima, the Forte is packed with all the standard amenities you could reasonably expect in its segment, including Bluetooth, satellite radio, power windows/locks, air conditioning, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Our EX tester further spoiled us with a Google-powered UVO infotainment system with eServices, hands-free keyless access, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and rearview camera. Fully loaded with the Popular and Technology Packages, our tester boasted navigation, power folding mirrors, HID headlights, heated front and rear seats, ventilated 10-way adjustable power driver seat, and dual-zone climate control. Heck, it even had a heated steering wheel, but even more useful are the puddle and door handle lamps, which come in handy at night.
The Forte sedan’s controls and the 4.2-inch LCD touch screen are easy to reach thanks to the angled center stack, and the navigation is intuitive. Although the Civic and Corolla offer 0.3 and 0.4 inch more rear seat legroom, respectively, my rear passengers happily stretched their legs to utilize all 35.9 inches of Forte legroom, and they didn’t complain about the 37.3 inches of headroom, a smidge more than both Japanese rivals have to offer.
Although every single creature comfort was available in our fully loaded EX tester, I wonder if we would get the same kick out of the 2014 Forte sedan in LX trim, with its 1.8-liter I-4. Either way, the improved ride quality is what impressed most. Fuel economy figures have not yet been released, but expect them to fall within the lines of the outgoing EX’s 26/36 mpg city/highway. Estimated to start at about $17,000, the redesigned Forte is in it to win it with its bag of tricks and treats. Further pricing details will be revealed closer to the Forte’s on-sale date this spring.
|2014 Kia Forte EX|
|BASE PRICE||$17,000 (est)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$25,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/173-hp/154-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2944 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||179.5 x 70.1 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.0 sec @ 87.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||117 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.6 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||26/36 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||130/94 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.65 lb/mile (est)|