Life has never been so good for compact car buyers on a budget and the 2010 Kia Forte sedan is evidence of that fact. Not only is this car well priced with an incredibly generous warranty but it also has enough style and panache to please even the most demanding fashionista. It also manages the difficult task of being both economical and fun to drive in equal measure.
So what is this little Kia’s magic formula? Well, if you haven’t noticed Kia has had some of the freshest interior and exterior designs on the new car marketplace for the last few years starting off with the adorable Soul. It managed to pull off a boxy look without resorting to the visual dorkiness that is such a drawback to competitors like the Scion Xb and Nissan Cube.
The trend has continued with the all new 2011 Sorento, the Forte Koup as well as the upcoming Sportage and Optima sedan. In over two years of new car launches Kia has yet to unveil a car that was not only a true style leader in its class but one that also shows how far this South Korean automaker has come in the quality, reliability and inventiveness of its engineering department.
Suffice it to say, you aren’t going to find a better compact car than the Kia Forte EX sedan for the price. While the regular Forte sedan is a great car I got the distinct pleasure of driving the more economical version with the $600 Fuel Economy Package which adds a five speed automatic (a four speed unit is used in regular EX automatic models), electric power steering, a “smart alternator” that only runs when the battery needs charging as well as low rolling resistance tires.
As a result of adding this package fuel economy is improved by an impressive 10% to 27 city/36 highway when compared to regular Forte EX sedan. Suffice it to say, this affordable package is definitely worthwhile especially if you are a high mileage commuter.
Although one may wonder why Kia doesn’t make these features standard on every Forte you must remember that new technologies cost money and giving buyers a choice as to whether or not they want to pay the extra money for them makes more sense than jacking up the base MSRP thereby putting a car as good as the Forte EX sedan out of reach for some buyers.
So now you know a bit about the background of the Forte EX so why don’t we have a look at what makes this compact car special, what Kia might be able to improve upon and what this puppy is like to drive. So if you are shopping for a compact sedan be sure to read this comprehensive guide to all aspects of the 2010 Kia Forte EX.
Does anyone else think this sedan looks a bit like a shrunken Audi A4 especially from the rear and the sides? I know Kia’s styling chief Andrew Schreyer used to work for Audi so I am sure it is just a very stylish coincidence.
The Kia Forte is truly the style leader in the compact sedan class and if that is because they have the visual chunkiness of many Audi designs so be it. Why should you be deprived of owning a stylish car just because you can’t pay luxury brand prices? If you don’t like the exterior styling of the Forte, well, you were born without any taste and I am sure you have some sort of fruit pattern wallpaper in your dining room.
Let me get this out the way first. The dashboard in the Forte is one of the most artfully simple and straightforward designs in any car at any price. The steering wheel is the perfect size, the gauges are in giant pods right in front of you in clear view and the controls for the AC and stereo are sublime. This is how it should be done. Nothing in the interior is overly styled or complex but it is gorgeous because of that fact.
Plastics and seat trim also appeared durable and there was plenty of stowage space in the large glovebox, center console and side pockets for all of your junk. The trunk is also big enough to hold the whole State of Texas with 14.7 cubic feet of space available even before you fold down the standard 60/40 split rear seats.
There is one aspect of the interior, however, that is my only issue with the Forte. While I love that Kia has the cajones to march the beat of its own drummer by offering unique interior colors, I wish that the EX model was offered with the stylish black seats that are only available with the sporty SX model. Not that it would be any great hardship to upgrade to the SX what with its standard 2.4 liter 173 horsepower engine.
The grey interior in my EX test vehicle gave the Forte an airy feeling but I feel that Kia is limiting sales of this model by only offering it with that color or a reddish-brown seat fabric known as “Coffee.” Oddly enough, I don’t really care for the “Coffee” color scheme with cloth seats but it really make the Forte EX’s interior look very rich when you order it with leather. Either way a nice beige or black interior color option might not go amiss.
As you would expect from Kia the standard feature count is positively huge. It comes with standard power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, power mirrors, air conditioning, floormats, cruise control, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth, a best in class 6-speaker CD audio system along with one of the easiest to use iPod integration systems in any car at any price. The Forte EX also comes with a litany of standard safety features including stability control which all helped earn it a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
Aside from the aforementioned Fuel Economy Package you can also order your Forte EX with leather ($1,000) and a Premium Package ($900). If it were my money I would definitely be tempted most by the Premium Package as it gives you a power moonroof and very stylish 16-inch alloy wheels for not much cash.
The Forte EX comes standard with a 2.0 liter 156 horsepower 4-cylinder that revs quickly and offers plenty of power for most any situation. The five speed automatic that comes as part of the Fuel Economy Package makes this little Kia a very comfortable and quiet cruiser. The automatic is also very good at downshifting to the right gear for those moments when you need a little extra forward thrust.
What surprised me most, however, about the 2010 Kia Forte EX was how much fun to drive it was on the Ortega Highway in Southern California. This very challenging mountain road has all manner of switchbacks, blind corners and S-turns yet the Forte held the line and cornered better than many other alleged “sport sedans” that I have driven.
Steering feel was very linear and unlike some electric power steering setups the one in the Forte offers plenty of natural feel. There was a bit of body roll and tire squeal around corners but that was mainly due to the low rolling resistance tires. All in all, the Forte is a great drive whether you use it as a commuter or if you want to tackle a curvy driving road. And that’s rare in an economy car.
How Dog and Kid Friendly is It?
Given the solid construction of the interior, scratch resistant plastic surfaces and sturdy looking seat fabrics, the Kia Forte EX sedan would make a great car for kids or dogs to use as their personal means of transportation. The rear seat is also wide enough to hold two giant car seats or a couple of German Shepherds. Also, the trunk is large enough to hold a baby stroller or a couple 100 pound bags of kibble.
Although I knew going into this review that the Kia Forte EX sedan offered an incredible amount of style, content and value for the compact sedan shopper, I didn’t realize how much fun I would have driving it. If you are looking for a new compact sedan the Forte EX belongs on your top three shopping list with the Civic and Mazda3.
Not only does the 2010 Kia Forte EX offer affordability, safety and economy but it also has a spiritedness and soul (pardon the pun) that you don’t often find in this price class. Great car, great value, great fuel economy, great fun to drive and great styling. Could you ask for more?
Vehicle Tested: 2010 Kia Forte EX Sedan (automatic)
Base Price: $16,795
Price as Tested: $17,395
Options on Test Car: Fuel Economy Package ($600)-Includes five speed automatic, electric power steering, “smart” alternator and low rolling resistance tires.
Other Options Available: Leather Seats-($1000), Premium Package ($900)-includes 16 inch alloy wheels and power moonroof.
Engine: 2.0 Liter 4 cylinder
Power: 156 horsepower/144 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: Five Speed Automatic
Economy: 27 city/36 Highway
Trunk Size: 14.7 cubic feet
Safety: IIHS “Top Safety Pick” for 2010
Warranty: 6 years/50,000 miles Bumper to Bumper
10 years/100,000 mile Powertrain