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Published on Fri, Apr 23, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Bill Wright Who are those guys? When I first asked the question a while back, I was referring to auto manufacturers from Korea—Kia, in particular. Now, five years later, I still am. Back in 2005, I was fascinated by how far Kia had come in its 12 years in America. Now, as I analyze the week I spent driving the 2010 Kia Forte SX, it’s become apparent that no grass grows under the feet of the folks at Kia.
It didn't take a lot to convince me to get behind the wheel of the Forte. To paraphrase Renée Zellweger’s line to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, they had me at "six-speed manual transmission.” I get odd looks whenever I say something like that around here, only a masochist asks to drive a manual in Southern California traffic, but hey, I spend a lot of time in Europe and my daily driver on that side of the pond happens to be a five-speed manual, so a six-speed must be 20 percent more fun. The Forte SX is quite a jump, style-wise, from its predecessor, the Spectra. The Spectra was truly an 'Econobox.' Its styling was safe (read boring) and it didn't do anything particularly well except being a good value. The Forte is Kia’s way to show that they’re raising the bar. From the “Shocking Blue” color (Kia actually calls it Corsa Blue, but I think that it is somewhat bluer than that) to clean lines of the new styling. This is “not your father’s econobox.”
The comfort of the occupants has certainly not been overlooked. It has optional leather seat trim and heated front seats along with a convenient sunroof. The standard version also comes with quite the laundry list of features, including: power windows, power external mirrors, power door locks with keyless remote access, cruise control, six speaker stereo with Satellite Radio, and a lot of cup holders. Also available is the convenient Bluetooth Hands-free connectivity and USB + Aux input capability—a feature even old guys like me, finds very handy. The Forte SX sports a 173 horsepower engine with 168 pound feet of torque which is channeled through the aforementioned six-speed manual transmission before arriving at the 17 inch wheels. The Forte’s handling is also not like that of its predecessor, and is therefore a lot more fun to drive. The torsion beam, stabilizer bar and other bits that go into the “Sport-Tuned Suspension” are apparent the first time that a corner is approached aggressively.
Dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, combined with full length side curtain airbags are on hand just in case the unforeseen happens on the road. Other safety measures include: Anti-Lock Brakes with Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control and Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems. This is not the sort of standard feature list that one expects to see on a vehicle where the MSRP is less than $20,000, which makes this vehicle quite the steal, given its low price.
For more information about Kia products, go to kia.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Kia Forte SX sedan Price: $13,695 (base LX model) $19,490 (as tested SX model) EPA rated fuel economy (city/highway miles per gallon): 22/32 Engine: 2.4-liter 16-valve DOHC CVVT four-cylinder engine Horsepower: 173 at 6000 rpm Torque: 168 pound-feet at 4000 rpm Transmission: Six-speed manual Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Sport-tuned independent front with stabilizer bar and torsion beam rear, electronic stability control Brakes: Antilock braking system (ABS) with brake assist (BAS) and electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Traction Control System (TCS) Wheels and tires: 17-inch alloy wheels and P215/45R17 tires Dimensions Length: 178.3 inches Width: 69.9 inches Height: 57.5 inches Curb weight: 2853 pounds