June 20, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 09:18
Replacing the nondescript Spectra, Kia’s compact sedan, for 2010 is the Forte, and it’s a better car in every way — roomier, more fuel-efficient in some of its trim levels, more powerful, and with a bigger trunk. And did we mention it’s better looking?
Behind the Forte’s eye-popping design is Peter Schreyer, whose triumphs have included the Volkswagen New Beetle and Audi TT.
The slump in U.S. automotive sales, cured for now by the Cash for Clunkers program, finds 2010 Fortes in the showrooms alongside unsold, heavily marked down 2009 Spectras. For folks dragging their clunkers into Kia dealerships for government-subsidized discounts, choosing between these compacts is not as easy as it might sound.
That’s because the Spectra had become something of a drag on the reputation a company that was making headlines with high-quality, high-value models such as the Sonata midsize sedan and Sedona minivan. While the Sedona was winning accolades for safety, the Spectra for several model years received “Poor” ratings in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (The 2009 Spectra’s IIHS ratings ranged from marginal to average; the Forte hasn’t been tested.)
How much better is the Forte? This is the most nicely proportioned new model we’ve seen since Mazda redesigned the Mazda6. The Forte’s cabin is roomier than the Spectra’s in most categories, and its trunk is 2.5 cubic feet bigger. Equipped with a 156-horsepower engine and four-speed automatic transmission, the Forte gets slightly better fuel economy than the comparable Spectra despite the horsepower boost.
Our top-of-the-line SX model, with a 173-horsepower engine and 5-speed automatic, came up 1 mpg short of the Spectra SX, with 138 horsepower and 4-speed automatic. (We averaged 27 mpg.) But the Forte does much better at the lower trim levels, delivering an average of 28 mpg with the 5-speed stick shift compared with 26 for the less powerful Spectra.
On the road, the Forte is competent but unexciting, with its sleek lines promising more performance and crispness than the hardware can deliver. The ride is pleasant and fairly quiet, and leg room is sufficient for tall drivers. Rear-seat head room is satisfactory for adults, though knee room can be tight unless the front seats are slid forward an inch or two.
The $18,195 Forte SX is loaded with standard features, including Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio, cruise control, and power windows and locks. Antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and many other safety features are standard on all trim levels. The optional leather package and power sunroof brought our test car’s price to $20,490. The base Forte LX starts at $13,695.
This fall, Kia plans to roll out a sporty, two-door version of the Forte called the Koup, giving Kia another market entry point as it takes on the class-leading Honda Civic.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 173 horsepower, 168 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Weight: 2,868 lb.
Suspension: McPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 17x7-inch alloy
Tires: P225/45R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 14.7 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gallons
Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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