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Published on Sun, Aug 21, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 Kia Forte 5-Door SX 2.4L (Doug Stokes photo)

Five is just the right number By Doug Stokes For me this one really (pardon) drives home the fact that Kia has truly arrived as a quality car manufacturer. I know, I know, people more in the know than this writer have been saying that for a while now. But driving this new Kia for a week, just around town, no long trips, no special road runs to trick places … simply a pleasant week with a most accommodating machine, showed me how very easy it was to like. There's one other confession to be made here, in all of my years (more than 30) of writing down what I think about various automobiles, the toughest to write about are always the ones that I like the best. This is one of them. I sit now with a steely resolve to get this written, hang with me will ya? I drove a new Kia Forte Koupe a few months back and was suitably impressed with that machine. It was contemporary-looking, it handled nicely, and I really liked it quite a bit. This one though, the five-door Forte SX, is even more likeable. And so, I ask myself (just for you faithful reader): Hey, what’s not to like?

(Doug Stokes)

The first thing that I need to do is find out who sport-tuned this one, and pin a hero medal on that person. This car has a lithe, almost playful spirit that enthusiastically encourages fun and games, but it’s eminently practical at the same time. The window-sticker on this model looks like a small novel with line after line of good stuff adding feature after feature and ending up at $23,640 (and that included a $695 “inland freight and handling” click). Yeah, I know, you can get a pretty darn good Kia for around $18,000, but the extra bucks here buy you a car that belts out 173 horsepower and an almost-equal push-you-back-in-the-seat 168 pound-feet of torque delivered through a near-perfect 6-speed automatic transmission (I might even be cajoled into to calling it a "Slicks-Speed".) This strong, 2.4-liter, 16-valve, double overhead cam engine has four letters associated with it that made all the difference: CVVT. Standing for “continuously variable valve timing”, that tongue-twisting phrase combined with the above-mentioned automatic transmission means that this machine never feels out of revs, horsepower, or breath.

(Doug Stokes)

Seemingly always in the precise gear for the situation, the SX trim adds a paddle-shifter and the option of clicking the keyboard for super-crisp up and down-shifts as quickly as my fat, little ink-stained fingers could hammer the nicely-placed paddles. Mark my words, this is a very cool driver’s combo: an engine that never runs out of revs and a transmission that I can really call a “good gearbox” with absolutely no fear of contradiction. As previously noted, this Kia's handling rates high with me. Taut without being tight or high-strung, there is a high level of confidence in the curves. One thing that I can use is slightly more "bucketed" bucket seat. The driver's seat is particularly wide and capacious, I'd like a bit more bolster, please. While we're looking at the smart leather (with the cool red thread setting it off) package that’s on our seats, we'll note that it adds a cool, even $1,000 to the overall ticket. Heck, the power sunroof is only $750! Confession two: Not a golfer, but I'm pretty sure that you can get two regulation size bags into the trunk (the ones with built-in bars and barbeques don't count here).

(Doug Stokes)

This Kia works quite nicely in the stopping department. Disc brakes all around and 17-inch wheels with fairly aggressive all-weather rubber and all the alphabet stuff like ABS, and ESC, and EBFD (anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, electronic brake force distribution) work in concert to add to the overall sense of a machine that wants to please the person who's driving it. Our test vehicle has the "SX Technology Package". For $1,800 we get a neat-looking nav system with back-up camera display, automatic temperature control, push-button start with smart key, and "chrome-color" (?) exterior door handles. For me (and I'm a recovering Luddite mind you) could easily keep that money in my pocket, I really like this car but none of this group of goodies is involved much at all in my lusting after this spicy little redhead (it’s okay, the paint color is listed as "Spicy Red"). Shape-wise, this 5-door is a contemporary hatchback that has not a bad line or a dropped note in the styling song anywhere. And the interior works every bit as nicely as the exterior. Un-boxy with the car positioned nicely over the wheels and a rear seat area, accessible through a well-proportioned door, that works for two American-sized people (and perhaps even three for a short shot).


By the way uncle EPA’s (new, tougher) numbers for this ride are 23 city and 32 highway(miles per gallon). We'd call those numbers pretty accurate in our experience. Luckily, we never had many encounters (this Kia week) with the real California fuel mileage assassin: stop-and-go driving. Do that for 50 percent of your commute per day, and you too will argue that the sticker numbers are still a bit optimistic. Of course, there's the tail that wagged the dog (and not at all in a bad way): the 10 Year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and the 5 Year/50,000-mile Roadside Assistance package that comes standard. That warranty comes from the U.S. side of the supply line a number of years back, and, in my book and in those of many other observers of the car industry, THE source of the sea change that took KIA from cheap transportation to world-class contender. Here's the deal, before you buy something else, just go take a little drive in one of these. The Koupe was kool, but the Forte 5-Door is formidable. To see the latest “that’s a Kia?” offering, read about the new sport sedan here For more information about Kia products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Kia Forte 5-Door SX 2.4L Price: $16,895 (base) $19,395 (SX) $23,640 (as tested, with leather package, SX technology package, power sunroof, 6-speed electronically controlled Sportmatic, with overdrive, inland freight and handling) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 23 city/32 highway Engine: 2359 cc DOHC all-aluminum four-in-line, with continuously variable valve timing Horsepower: 173 @ 6000 rpm Torque: 168 pound-feet @ 4000 rpm Transmission: 6-speed electronically controlled Sportmatic, with overdrive Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion Suspension: Front independent suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar Torsion beam rear suspension with monotube shock absorbers and coil springs Brakes, wheels and tires: Front and rear power-assisted disc brakes with anti-lock brake system, electronic stability control, and electronic brake force distribution 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/45R17 all-season tires Dimensions Length: 170.9 in. Width: 69.9 in. Height: 57.5 in. Curb weight: 2896 lbs.

(Doug Stokes)

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