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Motoring: Kia hopes to make mid-sized sedan its forte

Credit: Nauman Farooq

Nauman Farooq took the Forte for a spin in Phoenix, Arizona during Kia’s launch of the vehicle.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 13th, 2014

Thanks to the downwards economy this past year, the compact car segment has had probably its best year ever. Instead of buying midsized sedans like the Nissan Altima and the Honda Accord, people bought cheaper cars like the Hyundai Elantra and the Mazda3.

Now Kia wants to get a big piece of this action with their new Forte sedan. Does it have what it takes to win people over?

From a styling point, yes. All new Kias are designed by a man who used to draw Audis for a living, and it shows. The new designs are fresh and exciting, and the Forte is no exception. From just about any angle, this new Forte looks attractive. I especially like the new belt line design, which starts from the A-pillar and goes to the very back of the car.

The interior is less exciting to behold, but at least it is very functional. All the switches are in the right spots, and the quality of fit and finish is just fine. I particularly like features such as its optional heated steering wheel, makes commuting in the winter a lot nicer.

What really impressed me about the Forte was how comfortable the seats are, even on a long trip, and how well insulated it is, so it makes for a quiet companion.

It is not very frugal, though, as I averaged just 8.8 litres/100km with this vehicle, which is well behind its competition. Still, based on comfort and features, the Forte is a very good choice.

You get a choice with the engines, too. The base model gets a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder motor that produces 148 hp. My tester had the upgraded motor, which is a 2.0-litre, gasoline direct injected, inline four-cylinder motor that produces 173 hp. Either motor can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Power is sent to the front wheels only.

As with most cars in this segment, driver enjoyment takes a back seat — just drive a Toyota Corolla and you'll know what I mean. But the 2014 Forte is quite enjoyable. Sure, it won't handle like a Jaguar, but it handles very well for a car in this segment and the steering is nicely weighted (you can also change the steering feel by pressing a button, an idea I might have given Kia).

My only slight gripe with this car are the brakes, they really need to be stronger. They work fine, but would have liked a bit more aggression from them. Just in case you don't stop in time, there are six airbags to cushion your crash, though I hope none of them are ever put to use.

Now for the best bit of news: the price. You can get into a 2014 Kia Forte sedan for as little as $15,995. My top spec model with heated seats, heated steering wheel, automatic gearbox, and sunroof did push the price tag to a whopping $26,195. That is a lot of money for a compact car, but if you look at it as a junior luxury vehicle, it starts to make some sense.

If you're looking for a car in this segment in the New Year, do go for a drive in this new Forte sedan, I am sure you'll be plenty impressed.
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