Monday, October 27, 2014


The 2015 Kia Forte is the Korean answer to such powerhouse compacts as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. To accomplish its mission of world domination, Kia equips the Forte with a long list of standard and available features, including some features -- such as a heated steering wheel and a heated rear seat -- not offered by the competition. It then tosses in a trio of body styles that include a coupe (spelled Koup), sedan and 5-door hatchback.

The Forte is larger than most small cars, filling the space between a compact and a midsize sedan. Its exterior styling is impressive, and its interior is comfortable, if not posh. Kia's lineup of frugal 4-cylinder engines provides plenty of go power while returning excellent fuel economy. There's even a manual-transmission option, a feature that's fast fading from the automotive landscape.

We're particularly impressed with the level of standard and available equipment at the Forte's price. The base LX trim level offers Bluetooth and an iPod interface as standard, while high-end amenities like xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry and even a ventilated driver seat are available.

There are also three different engines for the 2015 Kia Forte, two of which are competitive in terms of power and acceleration. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder on EX models makes the new Forte one of the quickest cars in the segment, while an even stronger, turbocharged 1.6-liter engine is available on SX versions of the Forte coupe and hatchback. The downside, though, is that none of these engines excels in the fuel economy department, even with this year's slightly improved EPA numbers.

There are many fantastic choices in this class of 2015. The more expensive Ford Focus and Mazda 3 are class leaders for their sophisticated blend of comfort, dynamism and impressive real-world fuel economy. Also notable are the Honda Civic, Kia's cousin the Hyundai Elantra and the 2015 Volkswagen Golf. These are well-rounded models with lots of refinement and comfort. But with its roomy interior, upscale features, strong engine lineup and sharp styling, the 2015 Kia Forte is an excellent choice for an affordable sedan, coupe or hatchback.The 2015 Kia Forte is available as a sedan in LX and EX trim levels. The two-door coupe (Koup) and four-door hatchback (Forte 5) are available in EX and SX trims.

Standard features on the LX sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary input jack.

Optional for the LX is the Popular package, which includes keyless entry, cruise control, two additional speakers, upgraded seat trim and other interior upgrades, including extra storage, a sliding console armrest and a fold-down rear center armrest.

Spring for the EX, and you get all of the above plus a more powerful engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, adjustable steering effort, foglights, LED running lights, power-folding outside mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a cooling glovebox.

Both Forte sedans are available with Kia's Uvo eServices infotainment system with a rearview camera and upgraded wheels (16-inch alloy wheels for the LX and 17s on the EX).

For the EX the optional Premium package adds a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a ventilated eight-way power driver seat with memory (still a manual-adjustment seat on the Koup), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and illuminated exterior door handles.

The EX Technology package includes xenon headlights, LED taillights, an upgraded display screen, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear seat vents, a navigation system, HD radio and upgraded Uvo functionality.

The EX hatchback and coupe essentially mirror the sedan. The SX versions include those features but with a sportier mission and mechanicals: a turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels and unique front and rear styling. Option packages for the coupe and hatchback essentially echo those for the EX sedan.

The LX is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 145 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. Power runs to the front wheels through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA fuel economy estimates for the Forte LX sedan are 31 mpg combined (26 city/39 highway) for the 1.8 with the automatic. With the manual transmission it's rated at 30 mpg combined (25/37).

The EX gets a 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. On the sedan and hatchback, this engine comes only with the six-speed automatic, but on the coupe, you can also get it with the manual transmission. Forte EX sedans with the 2.0-liter engine rate 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway), but we were impressed with the 32 mpg the Forte EX achieved on our Edmunds evaluation route. EX hatchbacks and automatic-equipped EX coupes rate 28 mpg combined, but have slightly lower highway figures. Manual-shift Forte EX coupes come in at 27 mpg combined (24/33).

The SX versions of the Forte Koup and Forte 5 have a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. On both body styles, you have a choice of the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Kia Forte SX hatchbacks rate 24 mpg combined (21/29) with either transmission. For the Koup, fuel economy estimates stand at 25 mpg combined (22/29) with the manual or (22/30) with the automatic.

In Edmunds testing, a Kia Forte EX sedan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, while a Forte SX Koup with a manual transmission did the sprint in 7.0 seconds. Both times are exceptionally quick for the compact car segment.

Every 2015 Kia Forte comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional. The optional Uvo telematics service includes roadside assistance, emergency crash notification and secondary driver (i.e., teenage) monitoring features including notifications for exceeding curfew, vehicle speed and vehicle location limits.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Forte EX sedan came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, while a Forte SX Koup turned in a 118-foot effort. Both are slightly better than average for this segment. Government crash tests of the 2015 Forte weren't available as of this writing. The 2014 sedan and hatchback both earned an overall score of four stars (out of five), with three stars for overall frontal-impact protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection. Within that three-star frontal rating, the Forte earned five stars for driver protection, but just two stars for the front passenger.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Forte its highest score of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test as well for the side-impact, roof-strength and whiplash protection (seatbelts and head restraints) tests. In the agency's small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, however, the Forte scored the lowest rating of "Poor."

Far from being an economy car stuffed with gadgets, the new Kia Forte boasts a handsome cabin furnished with quality materials that, in the higher trim levels, would give premium-brand compacts a run for their money. What's more, the Forte's high-tech features are well designed and easy to use. The touchscreen interface, with its large, logically positioned "buttons," is one of the best examples of this technology, regardless of market segment or price range.

Seat comfort front and rear is very good thanks to thick, well-bolstered seats. Even 6-foot adults should be comfortable sitting in back. The Forte sedan is also very generous when it comes to cargo capacity, boasting a trunk capacity of 14.9 cubic feet. The Forte 5 hatchback offers 23.2 cubic feet Even the two-door Koup is surprisingly practical, with a 13.3-cubic-foot trunk that rivals many compact sedans. Its backseat is also spacious enough for adults and reasonably easy to reach. Unfortunately, the driver seat is mounted a bit high, and as a result some of our taller editors found it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel.

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