SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you’re Kia, you’re undoubtedly proud of the continued momentum you’ve shown over the past few years that was built on much-improved vehicles with great designs.
The Optima midsize sedan has been a huge hit, the Rio subcompact has been well-received since its makeover and the redesigned Sportage has had success in the small crossover category.
But the Forte small sedan was, shall we say, lagging a bit.
Kia is addressing that now by introducing an all-new version of the Forte.
At a media event launching the car in Scottsdale, a Kia official oddly blamed the first-generation Forte’s struggles on the cash-for-clunkers program that the federal government implemented right after the car’s birth.
Well, sure, you could probably could find some link there, just like a golfer could attribute the hitch in his swing to the sagging socks he’s wearing.
But anyhow, suffice it to say that the Forte, which replaced the Spectra, hasn’t made a big impact in its first three or so years.
This new version has the chance to change that.
Built on the platform of sister Korean brand Hyundai’s Elantra, and designed by Kia’s all-star designer Peter Schreyer, the new Forte is much more in line with the products we’ve been recently seeing from the brand.
Forte now looks a lot more like the wildly successful Optima, which continues to turn heads and ring up big sales.
However, Schreyer and his crew were able to keep the Forte pretty much the same size as the previous version, an important feat in this category because if you go too big, you pummel fuel economy.
New Forte is just 1.2 inches longer than old, while new is an inch shorter in height and 0.2 inches wider.
Interior space feels really good, even for bigger drivers and passengers up front (taller and bigger folks probably shouldn’t spend too much time in the back seat, though).
Trunk space is also generous at nearly 15 cubic feet.
Kia offers the Forte at the base LX trim with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower and 131 pounds-feet of torque. It comes with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Step up to the EX model and you get a 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder that makes 173 ponies and 154 pounds-feet.
Kia provided journalists in attendance at the Arizona event with EX models, which certainly don’t overwhelm you with power, but do feel quite up to the task of everyday driving demands. It will be interesting to see whether the same will be said of the LX.
Fuel economy numbers are not yet available, which will be another thing worth watching out for.
The new Forte also has a pretty quiet engine, noticeably improved over the old model.
Overall, driving dynamics are pleasant for this model, as you won’t encounter a particularly harsh ride, even if you won’t feel like you’re in a sport sedan.
Most buyers in this segment, though, are not seeking sports car performance, just a good-looking, reliable vehicle that sips gas.
To that end, they’ll find it in the new 2014 Forte.
2014 Kia Forte
Available in showrooms in mid-March
No official pricing yet, but said by Kia to start at under $16,000
Two trim levels and engine choices