Since Kia and Hyundai have common ownership, it’s logical that there might be common models within their lineups. And so it is that the Kia’s Forte is the equivalent of Hyundai’s Elantra. Even so, during their first year of production, sales of the Forte were less than a third of Elantra’s. Kia responded quickly with an all-new 2014 Forte.
With a chassis that is longer, lower and wider than the previous Forte sedan, the new Forte has an aggressive stance, broad shoulders and a sporty windshield rake.
Headlight lenses are cut deeply into the front fenders and incorporate projector headlamps. LED positioning lights create distinct eyebrows, making the Forte instantly recognizable in a crowd.
The increase in size translates well inside, with comfortable seating for driver and front passenger. The rear seat provides adult-size comfort in the outboard positions, but the center seat is useful only for the smallest and most patient. The 14.9-cu.ft. trunk is roomy by compact sedan standards and rear seatbacks fold forward to expand that capacity.
The all-new Forte delivers surprising performance with either of the two available four-cylinder engines. The LX has a 1.8-liter powerplant, while the EX comes standard with a 2.0-liter engine. Both engines use dual continuously variable valve timing.
With 148 horsepower and 131 lb.-ft. of torque, the 1.8-liter port-injected, inline four-cylinder engine in the LX uses either a six speed manual or optional six speed automatic transmission.
Forte EX moves the driving experience up a notch with a 2.0-liter, direct-injected, inline four-cylinder engine with 173-horsepower and 154 lb.-ft. of torque. The gear ratios of the standard six-speed automatic are nicely matched to the engine’s torque characteristics.
The LX, with its smaller engine, is perfectly adequate for running light-duty errands around town. The larger engine makes the EX more satisfying to drive, with brisk acceleration and smooth operation. Fuel economy numbers are almost identical with 25/36 mpg for the LX and 24/36 for the EX.
The all-new Forte rides comfortably on a McPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle. Electric power steering has replaced the hydraulic system from the previous Forte, reducing parasitic load while maintaining good on-center feel and steering response. Optional FlexSteer lets you control settings for Comfort, Normal and Sport, which vary steering feel.
The driver-oriented cabin features high-quality materials and soft touch points. Large, easy-to-read instruments dominate the binnacle, and controls are easy to reach and operate. The optional 4.2-inch color LCD screen that fits between the white-on-black gauges in the EX provides trip and ancillary vehicle information front and center to you.
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 move the Forte a bit upscale.
The LX model comes standard with steering wheel-mounted audio controls, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth wireless technology, power windows, air conditioning and power heated outside mirrors among the many features that make the Forte stand out from its competition. The optional Popular Package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry with remote trunk release and a sliding front armrest.
Stepping up to the EX trim includes additional comfort and convenience features. Kia’s next-generation Google-powered UVO in-vehicle infotainment system with eServices is standard and can now be integrated with an optional navigation system. Additional standard EX features include remote keyless entry with trunk opener, rear camera back-up display, a sliding center armrest and a cooling glove box.
Features found in the optional Premium Package include heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with class-exclusive air-cooled ventilation, leather seat trim, power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and push button start with Smart Key and a heated steering wheel. Opting for the Technology Package adds HID headlights, LED tail lights, a 4.2-inch color LCD cluster screen and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation.
Starting prices range from $15,900 for the LX and $19,400 for the EX.