One of our favorite recreations is go exploring in areas where we?ve never been before. After living in the Portland/Vancouver metro area for the last seven years, we?ve pretty much exhausted all the virgin areas nearby. That means we have to take longer drives to get to unexplored territories.
Identifying an area west of Olympia, Wash., as uncharted by our eyes, we decided a little road trip was in order. We usually reserve posh or unique vehicles for such expeditions or more often as an excuse for such junkets, however, we felt the wanderlust.
One of our test cars for the week, and our choice for the one-day road trip, was the Kia Forte EX. Most people wouldn?t think of the Forte as being posh or unique, but it fits that description much better than you might imagine.
The 2014 Kia Forte is new, starting from the chassis up, with more room, performance and way more features.
The Forte drops into the extensive Kia lineup (now 14 models deep) in the middle of the sedan section between the sub-compact Rio and the mid-size Optima. A product of Kia?s American Design Center in Irvine, Calif., the styling is distinctive moving well away from the cookie-cutter look many compacts have fallen into. The resulting design also achieves an excellent 0.27 coefficient of drag helping make it more quiet and efficient.
Probably the most noteworthy feature of the new Kia Forte, though, is the equipment level, which is seldom found on a car at this price point. For example, available HID headlights, sunroof, leather trim, ventilated driver?s seat, power folding outside mirrors and heated front and rear seats. These are in addition to technologies like the UVO?in-vehicle infotainment system with eServices, XM? radio, Bluetooth?, Smart Key, cooled glovebox, navigation and a multitude of other premium level equipment.
The driver benefits from the abundant technology, too, with Kia?s new Idle Stop & Go system, rear back-up camera and the optional Flex Steer system that allows the driver to choose between three distinct steering profiles: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
?The all-new Forte significantly raises the bar, offering upscale amenities and eye-catching appeal,? sums up Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing,?KMA. ?When you combine exclusive available features like a ventilated driver?s seat and?UVO?eServices in a car with such an attractive design, it?s very clear the all-new Forte sets a new standard for the compact segment.?
The 2014 Kia Forte is available in two trim levels, the less-expensive LX and the EX. Each model has its own engine with a 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder powering the LX and the EX getting a 173-hp, 2.0-liter Direct injection four-cylinder. The LX has a standard six-speed manual transmission with an optional six-speed automatic. The EX is only available with the six-speed automatic. The transmission is also gated allowing the driver to manually shift.
The 2.0-liter engine in our test car had and EPA fuel economy rating of 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We actually averaged 33.3 mpg on our little trip, which included about 20 percent in town and neighborhood driving. The Forte was great to drive; it was agile, comfortable and spunky. One buff magazine lists the 2.0-liter engine 0 to 60 mph time at 7.8 seconds.
The Kia Forte was a very satisfying ride, too. Barbara enjoyed the heated passenger seat and Bill got good use out of the ventilated driver seat. The cockpit is well organized with multiple drink holders, in-door storage space, a usable armrest and a steering wheel loaded with easy to operate controls for the audio, cruise, phone and trip computer. Kia is one of the most accommodating car companies for portable electronics, too. Every Kia model has a convenient panel of outlets for USB and auxiliary device hookups along with a couple of 12-volt outlets for charging.
We especially appreciated the large navigation touch screen which provided help for finding our way around. The system mounted higher on the center stack, of course even higher up would be better so the driver doesn?t have to look down to see the screen. The navigation shares a control panel with the audio system and communications system.
For someone stepping down in size from a larger sedan or moving up from a compact or over from a competitor, the Kia Forte is a nice no-compromise alternative. Nothing has more upscale features, especially at this price. Kia Forte LX pricing starts at $16,700, including the destination charge, and the better equipped and more powerful EX is $20,300. Our test car had both major option packages (Premium and Technology) and a couple of other accessories for a total price of $25,515.
The 2014 Kia Forte EX is impressive. It was comfortable and quiet on our trip, and roomy enough to take passengers, had we wanted to, and up to 14 cubic feet of cargo. We also liked the tight 34.8-foot turning radius that made it easy to turn around quickly when we missed a turn or saw an interesting street we wanted to go back to.
Kia has done a great job on the Forte. It?s a ?must drive? for any compact/midsize shopper.