When I knew that I was going to be driving a Kia Forte from Plymouth to Traverse City and back within the matter of a few days’ time, I thought that I would be not pleased, given that it is a long ride and I was going to be in a small car.
Which just goes to show you that sometimes what you “know” and what you “think” aren’t necessarily the case. It was actually a good ride.
A line used by Kia to market the Forte is “Loved by those who love technology.” Maybe. But in my experience, that misses the point of this competent, stylish compact.
Kia used to use the tagline, “The Power to Surprise.” And that nails it. I’ve been in plenty of Kias in the past few years, and each and every time I have the opportunity to drive one, I am surprised at how well the company pulls it all off, from the stretched sheet metal on the outside to the comfortable and supportive seats on the inside. (“Seats?” you wonder. “What’s so special about the seats?” Well, there isn’t a whole lot special about the buckets in the front (where I sat, so I am speaking from a position of posterior perspective). But the point is, you might be surprised at how many cars are now coming with seats that are not particularly comfortable. Many car makers, for example, seem to be truncating the length of the bottom cushion, which becomes particularly vexing for those who have long legs (i.e., there’s insufficient thigh support) and even not ideal for those of us who don’t.)
Yes, it has tech, like its UVO infotainment system, USB port, Bluetooth, satellite radio, etc., etc., etc. But at the end of the day, people probably buy cars that are (1) attractive to them as they approach it from the outside, (2) reliable (Kia has that 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty setup that was probably once more important than it seems to be today, when people pretty much take for granted the quality of a given car, and there is no reason that isn’t the case with the Kia), and, especially nowadays (3) fuel efficient (no matter how the price at the pump swings up and down, know that it probably refutes the observation “Whatever comes up must come down” because it is unlikely to be a couple bucks a gallon until the time when we are all driving Teslas and so there is a surfeit of fuel), and the Forte is that, stickered at 24/36/28 EPA city/highway/combined mpg. And, of course, there must be sufficient roominess, especially when we’re in the smaller car category, and it turns out that the Forte, compared with the likes of the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra (which shared much of the same genetic material as the Forte), is the roomiest, both for passengers (96.2 cu. ft.) and cargo (14.9 cu. ft.).
The Forte EX has a 2.0-liter gasoline direct injection four cylinder engine that puts out 173 hp. You are not going to win any drag races in this car. Nor are you meant to. But you can drive it on I-75 with confidence that you’re going to be able to keep up with traffic and be able to power around those people for whom being poky is a way of driving.
Call me easily amused, but here was my biggest surprise with the Forte EX. The first night I brought it home and parked it in the driveway, I hit the “lock” button on the fob (I have failed to mention that the car has pushbutton start, sort of surprising in itself). The sideview mirrors, which feature LED turn signal illuminators on the outer shell (!), automatically folded parallel to the side of the car. Were this a car of a much loftier category, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But if you want to know what surprise and delight is about, check out things like that on the Kia Forte.
Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC, GDI I4
Horsepower: 173 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 154 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 179.5 in.
Width: 70.1 in.
Height: 56.5 in.
Curb weight: 2,837 lb.
Passenger volume: 96.2 cu. ft.
Cargo volume: 14.9 cu. ft.
EPA: 24/36/28 city/highway/combined mpg