When a car company redesigns an already great-selling sedan, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. The new 2014 Kia Forte EX sits on an all-new chassis that is longer, wider and lower than the previous-generation Forte, offering more room, performance and premium amenities than previous models. We had the chance to test drive the new Forte and came away with some of the following impressions.
The crimson red paint color on the skin of the Forte looked as good as just about any finish on a car in this class. With an aggressive stance, broad shoulders and a windshield rake that can only be described as sporty, the all-new Forte looks as good parked as it does at speed. Influenced by European sport sedan styling, the Forte’s modern aesthetics were born in California at Kia’s American Design Center in Irvine. Dramatically swept headlight lenses cut deeply into the front fenders and incorporate projector headlamps. LED positioning lights create distinct eyebrows, making the Forte instantly recognizable in a crowd. Gentle sculpting along the Forte’s lower flanks taper the sheet metal inward, affording the car a taut, nimble appearance without diminishing its road presence. Around back, the up-kicked fender line and trunk design, with its deep horizontal crease, lend width and charisma while allowing the complex curves of the tail lights to flow over the car’s haunches.
Opening the wide doors reveals a cabin sculpted in organic curves. Gentle character lines evoke ripples radiating from a pebble dropped into a pond. The driver-centric cabin is canted 10 degrees and features high-quality materials and soft touch points. Large, easy-to-read instruments dominate the binnacle, and secondary controls fall easily to hand. The optional 4.2-inch color LCD screen nestled between the white-on-black gauges in the EX provides trip and ancillary vehicle information front and center to the driver. Tasteful chrome bezels ring the HVAC rotary knobs and the optional push-button start. Additional chrome accents, standard Bluetooth hands-free phone integration and power windows, mirrors and door locks enhance the all-new Forte’s premium feel. Optional leather seating trim, power sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents and HID head lights take the Forte to new levels of sophistication. Although our test vehicle came with cloth seats and no sunroof, we were more than pleased with the quality of the materials and the fit and finish of the interior space. Speaking of space, the roominess is plenty and quite deceptive until one sits inside the 2014 Kia Forte EX.
The Forte EX enhances the driving experience with a 173-horsepower (at 6,500 rpm), 2.0-liter inline four cylinder GDI engine. With a robust 154 lb.-ft. of torque available at 4,700 rpm, the EX comes standard with a six-speed automatic.
The all-new Forte boasts a chassis that is longer (by 1.2 inches), lower (0.6 inches) and wider (0.2 inches) than the previous Forte sedan. With its 106.3-inch wheelbase, two inches longer than the outgoing model, the all-new Forte rides on a McPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle. On-center steering feel is improved utilizing larger bushings and revised front suspension geometry. Electric power steering has replaced the hydraulic system from the previous Forte, reducing parasitic load. Optional FlexSteer puts the driver firmly in control with settings for Comfort, Normal and Sport, which vary steering effort at the touch of a steering wheel-mounted button. Fuel economy for the 2.0-liter powerplant is 24 miles per gallon city/36 highway/28 combined, which is what we expected. There isn’t a whole lot of power, but the ride is much smoother than expected, especially on highway driving.
The good looks of the 2014 Kia Forte EX will grab your attention first, but at a starting price of $16,700 (and with a destination charge included), that is what will get the most news clippings. When I was driving the Forte, more than a few folks asked how much the car costs, and when I told them it started under 17k, the reaction was strong. There were times when I felt that this was a less expensive vehicle when trying to accelerate into traffic, but when you consider the value pricing, good looks and MPGs, I would guess that most buyers would sacrifice some power for the overall packages of the 2014 Kia Forte.