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Motoring: Kia Forte compact car with nice price

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 11th, 2010

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

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 Kia's are designed by a man who used to draw Audi's 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.

KiaThe interior is less exciting to behold, but at least it is very functional. All the switches are in the right spot, and the quality of fit and finish is just fine.

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 also very frugal, thanks to its clever eco-mode which lets the revs relax on a cruise, I averaged just 7.1-litres/100km with this vehicle, which is almost hybrid good. So if you're looking for a comfortable, economical daily driver, this is a very good choice.

You get a choice with the engines too. My test car had the base engine, a 2.0-litre, I4, that produces 156hp. Even when mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox, it was still plenty quick for daily use (a five-speed manual is also offered).

If you want a bit more power, a 2.4-litre, I4 is also available, which produces 173hp, but having spent a week with the 2.0 engine, I don't honestly see the need to spend extra for 17 extra horses. Plus, the bigger engine is likely to consume more fuel.

With most cars in this segment, driver enjoyment takes a back seat, just drive a new Toyota Corolla and you'll know what I mean. However the Forte is quite enjoyable and tossable. 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.

My only 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. I hope none of them are ever put to use. Now for the best bit of news, the price. You can get into a Kia Forte for as little as $13,695. My decently equipped model with heated seats, automatic and sunroof was still less than $19,000. So it is very affordable.

So if you're looking for a car in this segment, do go for a drive in this new Forte, I am sure you'll be plenty impressed.
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