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Car Tech Video: 2014 Kia Forte

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Car Tech Video: 2014 Kia Forte

7:35 /

Just because the 2014 Kia Forte looks and sounds small doesn't mean this vehicle can't compete with the likes of the Honda Civic or the Nissan Sentra.

-Now, the last time I fell myself behind the wheels of a Kia Forte, I might have said something along the lines of "this car is better than the Honda Civic." Blasphemy, I know, but it had to be a fluke, right? Well, then I got behind the wheel of this new model, and I gotta say those same feelings are starting to resurface. Is this madness? No. It's the 2014 Kia Forte EX, and we're gonna take a ride in it. Now, we're actually gonna start in the cabin here because this is one of the places that the Kia Forte makes a really good first impression. Nothing in here looks cheap. Everything just kind of has a nice fit and finish to it. One of the things I really wanna point out is this sort of fake carbon-fiber texture here on the dashboard, which is the first time I've ever seen fake carbon fiber that doesn't look chancy. Now, in the center of the dashboard, we've got the touch screen for the UVO infotainment system. You're gonna get that regardless of any options that you choose. That's gonna get you the full array pretty much of audio sources including Bluetooth for your hands-free calling and audio streaming. You're gonna get your USB ports and auxiliary port. You're gonna find those jacks down here in the center. You're also gonna see a big logo for UVO eServices. That's gonna actually be their telematics system. So it's gonna connect this car to the Internet, and you're gonna actually sync it up with an account online, and that will allow you to do things like view Vehicle Diagnostics and manage your points of interests for the navigation system from the comfortable laptop and then beam that information back and forth to the car. Now, one of the other interesting things about the Forte, the 2014 model, is that for the first time, you don't have to choose between UVO and navigation. In previous models, it was a one or another sort of deal. This time, you can actually spec an EX technology package that's gonna add navigation to that touch screen interface with traffic data. The graphics are pretty crisp. I do like the way this map looks. You only get 2D maps. You don't get 3D maps, and you do get sort of rudimentary building data, but it's not anything like you would see in an Audi, but this is a $25,000 Kia, so I don't really expect that. Now, the navigation system is based on an SD card, the slots underneath this little door here. So that flash memory means that the maps get loaded really quickly, and the best thing about this interface is that it's very snappy. As you pop between the screens, there's almost no hesitation. The other great thing about having UVO and navigation at the same time is that you get that great voice command that UVO, which stands for Your Voice, is actually known for. So I can actually input an address in one go. 235 2nd Street San Francisco, Line 1. -Line 1. -Start guidance. -Start guidance. -The thing that I really like about this system is that I don't have to individually wait for prompts for the street name and then the street number and then the city and then maybe the state. I can just kind of spit the address out and count on the system to do it for me. Our vehicle is actually also equipped with a premium package that's gonna add a lot of nice touches and amenities to this cabin; things like heated seats all around, cold seat services for the driver seat, power adjustment for this seat with memory, and you get the power sunroof, the heated steering wheel, a lot of small touches. Other things like the push-button start and puddle lights on the outside. Even these leather seating surfaces, these are really small touches that make this inexpensive $25,000 car feel a lot more upscale than it actually is. Now, this is the bigger of the two engines that you can get underneath the hood of the Forte, and it's also the most powerful, rated at a 174 horsepower. Torque is 153 pound-feet, but as I'll tell you in a second, it doesn't really feel like that. It feels like it's actually less. It's an okay engine, but it's not a fun engine. It does kind of spew coarse fuel economy here. The EPA gives this engine 24 miles per gallon in the city, 36 on the highway. That works out to about 28 combined, and you'll actually get pretty close to that number if you use the Active Eco feature. That's a fuel-saving measure that actually uses a bit of computer trickery to sort of lighten your lead foot by remapping the throttle curve. This 2014 Forte actually has a pretty cool trick. On the steering wheel, there's a button that has a steering wheel on it, and it actually lets you switch between 3 different steering programs that adjust the feel of the electronic power steering system. You've got Sport, you've got Normal, and you've got Comfort. From where I'm sitting it feels like numb, number, and numbest. I don't actually get a lot of a road feel in any of those modes. What the system actually does is change up the amount of assist that you get so that you have to use less effort. When you're in the Comfort mode, the wheel is actually a lot lighter, and when you're in Sport mode, it weights up. Sort of like a simulated road feel, but it's not really anything like the real thing. Now, earlier I said that it's got 150 somewhat pound-feet of torque, 170 somewhat horsepower, but it didn't feel like it, and here is why. The Forte is actually equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and that kind of takes a lot of the fun out of that amount of power that's advertised on the page. Now, it's not just the flow shifts; I kind of expect that from a slushbox in this sort of class. The problem is that the gearing is actually absurdly tall and the-- you know, it seemed to get better fuel economy of this. The gears are just really tall, and all of the power is at the top of this engine's power bin, so you don't really get that sort of meaty mid-range at around 45 miles per hour, at about the middle of the torque curve, that actually makes a lot of small cars feel fast and zippy around town. As a result, if you actually want to take advantage of the power that's advertised, you've got to rev the hell out of the engine, and this really just kind of makes you feel like you're working really hard for it. It's not really that small car effortless fun. But generally speaking, it doesn't feel bad. It's comfortable. You get a lot of road noise coming up, especially coming over a really cracked up roads, but it rides smooth enough. It's easy enough to kind of predict where the car is gonna go and what it's gonna do. It's safe. I think that's kind of what people of this class are looking for, but I can't help but think that I just want a little bit more zip, a little bit more, you know, nimbleness to the steering. Can't help but think that I'm probably just gonna end up holding my breath for an SX version with a turbocharged engine. This EX model starts at 19,400 bucks, but that's before we add $2600 for the premium package, which is gonna add a lot of those small amenities that are gonna make this feel like a more upscale compact car. We've also got 2300 bucks for our technology package that's gonna add navigation and all the gizmos that we like to play with. We've got 300 bucks for bigger wheels that are gonna give it a sportier look and 115 bucks for floor mats. I am not sure why we're still paying for floor mats in 2013, but it's just the way it is. Add in your destination fees and whatnot and that brings you to our as-tested price of $25,515. I would not change a thing at that price. It's actually a bit of a steal.

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