WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES
2014 Kia Forte EX
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Published on Thu, Jan 9, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Reed Berry
2013 seems so yesterday now that I’m reviewing my first 2014 automobile. There’s always a bit of trepidation just before road testing the first vehicle of a new year because, good or bad, it tends to set the tone for the next twelve months. Fortunately, the 2014 Kia Forte EX has quite a bit of eye appeal and a lengthy list of interesting features so it appears as though I may be off to a good start.
I can remember a time when the thought of road testing a Kia wouldn’t have sounded like a very attractive proposition. After all, the first models introduced in the U.S. back in the early 1990s didn’t exactly have the “wow” factor. In fact, they were rather unexciting in design and viewed simply as budget-friendly basic transportation vehicles. Over the last two decades, however, Kia has certainly come into its own with an intriguing line of stylish and intelligently designed vehicles.
As I approach the sleek, sporty Forte, some really interesting things start to happen without any effort from me. The proximity sensor in my pocket, which takes the place of an actual key, causes the side mirrors to open from a folded position and area around the door handles is illuminated for convenient access to the vehicle after dark. That may not seem like a big thing but, from a safety standpoint, it’s huge. The quicker you get into your vehicle means less time outside your vehicle which, on an unfamiliar street or in a secluded parking lot, could help you avoid danger in the dark.
As I slide into the driver’s seat, I like what I see and feel. This car fits me like a glove. I’ve always been more of a car person than an SUV or truck kind of guy, and I have a healthy respect for any car with that “just right” feel. Forte is spacious without feeling too big, and the well organized cockpit puts all controls within easy reach. The dash has an interesting look. A fairly typical bumpy textured surface is accented with a simulated carbon fiber finish. Some may say the two patterns clash, but I think it gives the interior a cool, edgy appearance.
The seating is quite nice, and for good reason. While I’m sure the standard seating is reasonably comfortable, my test vehicle is equipped with upgraded seating as part of a $2,600 Premium Package. The leather trimmed seats are heated (as is the leather-wrapped steering wheel) and the power adjustable driver’s seat is ventilated for added comfort. The Premium Package also includes a power sunroof, push button start and an auto-dimming mirror among a number of other amenities.
Another somewhat pricey add-on is the $2,300 EX Technology Package. I must admit, the Xenon headlights and LED taillights are a nice addition to the vehicle and the automatic dual-zone climate control certainly keeps the vehicle comfy, but HD radio? Puh-leeze. HD radio is a decade-old technology that most people still don’t have or even understand and, in a moving vehicle, don’t really benefit from to any great extent. In theory, HD radio is supposed to make over-the-air radio broadcasts sound better as well as providing additional programming streams.
When reception is ideal, HD radio makes the normally flat-sounding AM band sound as crisp and clear as the FM band or even satellite radio. The problem is that in a moving vehicle, that clear signal drifts in and out and what you end up with is a fairly annoying mix of clear audio alternating with muffled, muddy sound. Fortunately, today’s smartphone technology trumps the less-than-perfect HD radio platform because we can simply tune in our favorite station on our phones, plug into an auxiliary jack, and listen to radio stations – even AM stations – with impressive and more consistent sound quality.
HD issues aside, Forte has ample entertainment options thanks to Kia’s UVO (short for “your voice”) voice and touch-activated telematics and infotainment system. It features Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius/XM Satellite radio (three-month subscription included), plus USB and auxiliary input jacks for your iPod and other devices. The system also includes a variety of safety and convenience features, including “Parking Minder” to help you remember where you parked the car and a rear camera for safe backing.
A touch of the push-to-start button (another feature of the aforementioned premium package) and I’m ready to roll. Forte is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which certainly doesn’t make it sound like a ball of fire but hey, this thing has 173-horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission so power is certainly not lacking. The vehicle accelerates smoothly and efficiently, unlike some of the vehicles I’ve road tested in the recent past that seemed to have a bit of a lag or hesitation in the lower gears.
Forte also has “Sportmatic” mode which allows you to shift manually without a clutch if you prefer. Many newer cars have this feature, but I really don’t find myself using it except to test in vehicles I’m reviewing. To me, a car is either automatic or has a true manual transmission with a clutch and an actual shift pattern. A faux manual transmission with (+) and (-) signs for upshifting and downshifting isn’t really my thing, but nice to know the feature is available to those who want to use it. Forte seems to handle quite well. Not necessarily a stand-out among other vehicles in its class, but it certainly does a respectable job. Steering is responsive, and adjustable, thanks to FlexSteer which offers standard, sport and comfort settings to suit your style of driving. The ride is solid and smooth. Traction control and electronic stability control are among Forte’s safety features, as is an anti-lock braking system. There are airbags throughout the vehicle, including full-length side curtain airbags. So, as car buyers spin the wheel trying to decide which compact sedan to park in their garage, what would make them choose Forte over a Honda Civic or Ford Focus? Forte certainly has a lot going for it, from a comfortable, neatly appointed interior and cool tech features to an impressive fuel economy rating of 24 city and 36 highway. However, the comfort and convenience packages on my test vehicle (along with a few other options) has taken the price all the way from a base MSRP of $19,400 to nearly $25,000. At that price level, there are a number of worthy competitors that will undoubtedly make the short list as buyers try to find the car that best suits their lifestyle. For more information on Kia products, go to www.kia.com Name of vehicle: 2014 Kia Forte EX Price MSRP: $19,400 As tested: $24,715 EPA fuel economy estimates: 24 city/36 highway Engine type: 2.0-liter four-cylinder Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) Horsepower: 173 @ 6500 rpm Torque: 154 @ 4700 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive Steering: Electric motor assist Brakes: Front: Vented disc Rear: Solid disc Wheels: 16” alloy wheels standard; 17” alloy wheels optional Dimensions Overall length: 179.5 Overall width: 70.1 Overall height: 56.5 Curb weight: 2,857 lbs