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Kia's all-new small sedan offers plenty of practicality, a low price, and a new start for the company, the brand of which has suffered from negative public perception.
Although it shows some unique lines in its styling, the Forte blends in with other economy cars on the road, not making nearly as much of a statement as the Kia Soul.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine uses variable-valve timing to push its fuel economy up to 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. We found adequate power from a stop, but the engine loses steam at higher speeds.
The Forte accommodates five passengers, the wide C pillars allowing for a high roof over the rear seat.
The front-wheel-drive Forte uses a pretty common suspension arrangement for a modern economy car. The ride quality is typical for a car in this class.
The cabin benefits the most from the fact that the Forte is a completely new car. Instead of being tied to a past model, Kia manages nice styling.
At the SX trim level, a multifunction steering wheel comes standard, with buttons for the audio system and phone.
This five-speed automatic is available with the Forte, along with a five-speed manual. The automatic has a manual mode, mostly good for controlling speed on a descent.
The car includes a full trip computer, displayed on the speedometer. A green Eco light turns on over the fuel gauge when the car thinks you are driving economically.
iPod integration also comes standard in the Forte SX, and offers the capability to browse music by album, artist, genre, and even composer from the car's stereo controls.
Full ID3 information is shown for iPod and MP3 CD tracks.
The Bluetooth phone system is a real highlight in this car, letting you voice dial by name.