By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Not long ago the most compact cars looked like ?cheap little cars.? That?s changed dramatically the last few years and in the process, many of the compacts have received sophisticated design treatments, refined comfort and an extensive outfitting of latest technologies. A good example of this upscale compact revolution is the 2017 Kia Forte.
Kia?s second smallest sedan, the Forte, gets a significant refreshing for 2017 which included design tweaks, a new engine plus enriched technologies.
Building from the European sport sedan styling cues of the latest generation, the 2017 Forte gets a new front bumper and the Kia family ?tiger nose? grille with a new headlight design and with available Xenon HID headlights. In the rear, it gets new taillights and optional LED taillights adding to the sportier look.
The Forte has almost become a brand itself, now offered in three different model variations: Forte sedan, Forte 5 (five-door hatchback) and Forte Koup.
The new Forte sedan is available in three trim levels, LX, S and EX. The 2017 LX and S models have richer cloth seating and the black seats in the S model have a sporty contrasting stitching. Our EX trim test car had standard leather seating with much appreciated heated seats in the front.
With 14.9 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk the Forte ranks as having one of the best capacities in the category. The rear seat back is split 60/40 and folds to extend the cargo space for longer cargo and for more space.
Some available features on the S and EX models include ventilated front seats and bending lights that shine the direction vehicle is steering. Available safety and driving aids include Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Front Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist. The only other features we could ask for would be an active cruise control system and AWD, but those are rare on compact sedans.
New to the Forte this year, a 164-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder direct injection engine is standard in the EX version, while the LX and S get a 147-hp 2.0-liter Atkinson four-cylinder with multi-point injection. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with the LX with a six-speed automatic as an option. The automatic is standard on both the S and EX models.
The Atkinson designed engine has an EPA rating of 29 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. The 164-hp version we drove rated 25/33/28 mpg. We averaged 27.8 mpg during our week of testing. The acceleration is nothing to write home about; zero to 60 mph runs take 8.7 seconds according to buff magazine testing. Someone interested in better Forte performance would be much happier with either the Forte Koup SX or Forte5 SX which both have a spunky 201-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder option available.
riving on the winding mountain roads near our home in Southern Washington state the Forte had a light touch on the steering wheel that gave it an agile but light feeling. The driver can change vehicle dynamics little by selecting a Normal, Eco and Sport setting on the console. The Forte Sedan handles nicely in day-to-day situations, but does have a bit of body lean when pushed, however, it does have a tight 34.8-foot curb-to-curb turning radius which adds to its agility. Automatic transmission models have an active Eco System which adjusts the engine mapping to adapt shift points, torque and idle RPM to maximize fuel economy.
Pricing starts at $17,495, including the destination charge, for the LX. The S moves the base price up to $20,195, and the EX to is $22,195. Fully loaded the EX tops out at $26,980 for a very, very well equipped compact sedan.
When you talk about value, it?s hard to top the Kia?s outstanding 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and roadside assist plan. This plan has been offered on all new Kia vehicles since 2008, and we think this illustrates the company?s commitment to producing a high-quality product.