Kia’s compact Forte fills several slots in the Korean maker’s lineup.
The Forte is available as a sedan (from $16,815, including destination), coupe ($19,415) or four-door hatchback ($20,225).
Forte is available with a choice of two four-cylinder engines — one turbocharged, one naturally aspirated. Transmission choices include a pair of six-speeds, one an automatic and one a manual.
There is no stripped-down Forte. At least in the hand-cranked-windows, vinyl-upholstery sense of the word. Even the most basic Forte comes with heated mirrors, air-conditioning, full power accessories, tilt-and-telescoping steering, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an iPod interface and a crisp four-speaker sound system.
On the other end of the spectrum, my loaded “Koup” (K = kool?) tester ($26,436) had heated leather seats and a heated steering wheel; a ventilated driver’s seat; dual-zone automatic climate control; xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights; and a navigation system.
Those little “puddle lamps” that cast a reassuring puddle of light next to the front doors when the driver approaches in the dark? Those, too.
The Forte doesn’t push the performance envelope, and its ride is reasonably mature. Its short wheelbase, solid rear axle and pliant body structure suggest there’s a rough ride ahead, but Forte’s dynamics are more than acceptable. Shoppers in this price range will find the Forte’s ride and handling in line with expectations.
High-end SX versions, like my tester, boast a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine, sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels. The electrically assisted power steering system has three-driver selectable modes. Owners will find the one that feels best, then set it and forget it.
Assertive drivers will pick the SX trim for its suspension tweaks. Most will prefer the less edgy ride-and-handling of other choices.
The base engine, a 173-hp naturally aspirated four, can be had on sedans and hatches, but not the Koup.
The Forte cabin is tastefully designed and its ergonomics are quite good, though some long-waisted drivers note a lack of headroom. The steeply sloping roofline hinders rearward visibility and cuts into rear-seat headroom.
The front seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, but not confining. Rear-seat legroom is surprisingly generous and the trunk is roomier than you’d expect; its volume rivals that of some compact sedans.
A sliding driver’s seat simplifies the act of slithering into and out of the rear seats. But putting a child seat back there might be seen as a cry for help.
The Koup’s interior is gathered around a set of large and easy-to-read, white-on-black gauges and one of the industry’s user-friendly infotainment touchscreens. Carbon-fiber-look accents and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob provide the requisite feel of sport. Chrome accents add sparkle.
All trims but the base sedan and hatchback are available for a pair of piggy-backed options packages. They bring extras that not long ago were reserved for the upper classes; leather upholstery, heated front seats, ventilated driver’s seat, power sunroof, heated steering wheel, navigation, dual-zone climate control, HID headlamps.
All that in a sturdy little compact pa15,ckage. From Korea, no less. How the world has changed.
2015 Kia Forte Koup SX
Vehicle base price: $15,890
Trim level base price: $21,590
As tested: $26,436
Options included Aurora black paint; sunroof; ; heated front seats; heated steering wheel; ventilated driver’s seat; auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink; xenon HID headlights; dual-zone automatic climate control; navigation system with Sirius Traffic; HD radio; Supervision Meter Cluster w/4.2” color LCD; carpeted floor mats.
EPA ratings: 25 combined/22 city/30 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified