Kia's new economy car proves to be practical and a decent driver. Although navigation isn't available, it has some surprisingly good cabin tech, such as a Bluetooth system with dial-by-name voice recognition.
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.
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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.
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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.
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The Forte accommodates five passengers, the wide C pillars allowing for a high roof over the rear seat.
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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.
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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.
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At the SX trim level, a multifunction steering wheel comes standard, with buttons for the audio system and phone.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Full ID3 information is shown for iPod and MP3 CD tracks.
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The Bluetooth phone system is a real highlight in this car, letting you voice dial by name.