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Class of $20K: 2014 Kia Forte and 2014 Mazda3

Stellar designs from Kia and Mazda offer surprising value, lots of style!
Traveling In My World by Michael Andre Adams

2014 Kia Forte, 2014 Mazda3

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Model year 2014 is delivering up huge consumer advantages by way of style and performance in virtually every category of cars. Take for example, the all new Mazda3 and Kia's Forte--two mid-size class cars you've gotta see and drive to believe!

Kia Forte EX

Start with a $19,400 base at the EX trim level ($15,900 for the base model) then add a set of 17-inch rims at $300, the Premium Package at $2,600 and the EX Technology Package (think bi-xenon headlights, dual zone climate, navigation, HD radio and more) at $2,300 and you'll end up being blown away by the things this car does at $25K out the door. And that's in addition to an average fuel economy rating of 28 miles per gallon combined (24 city/36 highway)!

Aside from its sporty new look that includes a new set of LED's to accent the headlights and a dazzling set of sporty rims similar to it's more upscale siblings, Forte handles well beyond the average car in its class. It's 2.0 liter engine boasts 173 horses under the hood, harnessed my a smooth shifting six speed tranny and several steering modes--including sport for a they type of fun and agility you'd expect from a more pricier whip. Speaking of steering, the steering wheel is heated!

But like the big boys, Forte EX prepares the way for you to enter upon approaching by lowering the mirrors and illuminating the door handles to make the chrome button an easy target to push to unlock and relock all doors--when the key fab is in close proximity. From that point, get in, hit the start button and let the good times roll!

Forte's interior is simply marvelous in terms of the layout. It's all there in the center stack, and at a glance. Or, just stay focused and use the steering wheel controls. Either way, you'll be fine. And would you ever imagine a five passenger car at this price-point to have heated seats for all four passengers? Kia implemented a solution to the center console challenge,which prior to now had always been the uncovered space for connections to USB ports and power charger. That are now includes a sliding cover to conceal devices when you're not in the car, versus the inconvenience of having to disconnect and stow in the glove box of beneath the arm rest. Then there's UVO-Kia's Microsoft powered system for driver enhancement. While some features require enrollment, UVO provides helpful diagnostics, navigation features, helps you locate your car and more between the car and a mobile phone app.

From beginning to end including land departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, parking assistance to detect obstructions, numerous airbags, a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, Kia's new Forte is definitely giving the others in its class (especially Civic, Corolla and Sentra) a run for the money!

2014 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring
Available as a four door sedan, a five door that resembles a smaller and similarly sleek version of Infiniti's EX35, and the more racy, powerful 263 horsepower, turbo charged Mazda3 Speed with 280 lb-ft of torque, Mazda recreated the Mazda3 to fill a range of voids. And with a base of $23,245, the Mazda3 5-Door at Grand Touring level is both sassy and sweet!

The all new interior design is chock full of cool and comfortable features including the Commander control dial to help maneuver through functions such as audio, navigation, answering text messages and emails from your smartphone and more--when opting out of the voice command function.

Mazda's SKYACTIV engine technology yields a combined fuel economy of 33 miles per gallon (29 city / 40 highway) from a 2.0 liter, 155 horsepower engine with 150 lb-ft of torque. And while that may not sound like much, behind the wheel, especially in the six speed manual transmission, it's a blast to drive and looks better than ever in the process.

Speaking of driving, radar based cruise control senses traffic and brakes accordingly, which Mazda touts as a class exclusive. Other features worth boasting in this category could include forward collision to recognize obstructions, Smart City Braking so that anything you might possibly miss is caught through radar detection and the car stopped, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, automatic high beams through High Beam Control and adaptive front lighting.

Mazda3 is a lot of a little car!