Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L I4
Power:
173 HP / 154 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,736 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
14.9 CU-FT
MPG:
TBA
Kia Tries Yet Again To Prove That Compact Sedans Are Its Forte



For those keeping track, the introduction of the 2014 Kia Forte sedan marks the second time in five years that Kia has completely redesigned its compact sedan offering. Put another way, car shoppers have now had three entirely different options in this category from Kia – the unloved Spectra along with two generations of the Forte – in the same period of time that Toyota has been building the current Corolla.

If nothing else, it's clear that Kia is committed to making as big of a dent in the compact class as possible. That said, none of Kia's entries have come close to challenging the dominance of the aforementioned Corolla, Honda Civic or Volkswagen Jetta, domestic offerings like the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze, or even the Hyundai Elantra, its slightly older and more subdued Korean sibling, in the race for market share.

We spent a day driving the new 2014 Forte Sedan through the wide open spaces separating the copper mines of central Arizona to find out if Kia's latest offering has what it takes to play in the compact car Big Leagues.
2014 Kia Forte side view2014 Kia Forte front view2014 Kia Forte rear view

If there's one thing Kia has gotten right over the last few years, it's styling. While the brand was once known primarily for its low-cost approach to the automotive market in America, we now think of it of as something of a leader in shapely sheetmetal, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Peter Schreyer, the automaker's head of design. Each of Kia's products – from the little Rio up to the Optima midsize sedan – has gotten progressively more attractive with each new generation, and that's most certainly true of the Forte.

Kia is something of a leader in shapely sheetmetal now.

While the 2010 Kia Forte was crisply styled (and somewhat reminiscent of the Honda Civic, we might add), it wasn't what we'd call trendy. All that changes for 2014. Kia's marketing team uses terms like "cab-forward," "coupe-like" and "European-inspired" when describing the latest Forte, and they have a point. Viewed in profile, the Forte's rakish A pillar and rapidly receding roofline conspire to create a visual illusion that's both sporty and on trend.

The front of the 2014 Forte is dominated by Kia's signature pinched grille in chrome and its twin swept-back headlamp clusters, which feature optional LED light strips for the first time. Out back, each of the taillamps in top-grade EX models house 81 individual LED units. The Forte's bodysides are deeply contoured with hockey-stick-shaped sculpting... some may alternatively see a certain well-known swoosh in its flanks. Altogether, each of the Forte's styling decisions mesh well and lend the compact sedan a refined and upscale look.

2014 Kia Forte grille2014 Kia Forte headlight2014 Kia Forte wheel2014 Kia Forte taillight

Its smorgasbord of safety features are all standard.

Inside the cabin, Kia has upgraded just about every surface and texture you can put your hands on. There's optional leather with a heated and ventilated driver seat, and front and rear passengers are treated to optional heated seating surfaces, a nice touch in this price class. The overall in-cabin design is a bit bulbous from behind the steering wheel, but we appreciate the detail Kia has put into the 2014 Forte's interior design, all the way from the soft-touch steering wheel's comfortable stitching to the ripple effect echoing across the passenger side of the dash and door panels. Love it or hate it, at least it's unique, and we can all be thankful that the Forte is devoid of more me-too silver-painted plastic trim.

As we've come to expect from Kia, the Forte is loaded up with standard equipment that includes an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio system with USB and auxiliary input jacks and Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power windows and door locks and a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes. Its smorgasbord of safety features – including six airbags, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, stability and traction control, hill-start assist, brake assist, tire-pressure monitoring, and LATCH child safety seat tethers – are all standard.

2014 Kia Forte interior2014 Kia Forte dash controls2014 Kia Forte shifter2014 Kia Forte USB connection

The most notable new-for-2014 technology is UVO with eServices.

Of course, there's plenty of optional equipment as well, including navigation, a rear backup camera and a 4.2-inch LCD Supervision display cluster, but the most notable new-for-2014 technology is UVO with eServices. Using your own smartphone's data services, this latest UVO system, which, like Ford Sync, is powered by Microsoft, allows the user to use either an app (iPhone is supported at launch and Android is right behind, with other mobile OS platforms to follow), a tablet or computer on the web or the in-car unit itself for a multitude of operations. Some of the features include Google Maps, 911 Auto Connect, interactive roadside assistance, parental controls, an interactive help application, Pandora and Twitter. Using the smartphone or tablet apps, drivers can send information to their UVO system, including navigation directions. UVO will also monitor the car's health and send customized service notifications to the owner. As more features are added, UVO will even automatically update itself.

In case you're wondering, previous versions of Kia's UVO technology will not work with eServices. On the positive side, Kia is providing all of this technology at zero cost for 10 years or 100,000 miles, and the service is transferable if the car is sold. It's not yet clear what the automaker will do after the admittedly generous initial free period expires.

2014 Kia Forte instrument panel

Underneath its stylish duds, the latest Forte rides on a new platform that is longer, lower and wider than before. The additional two inches added to the new car's wheelbase (compared to the last-gen Forte), oddly enough, don't actually equal more interior room. According to the automaker, the new Forte is within a few tenths of an inch of the last model when comparing front and rear headroom, legroom, shoulder room and total interior capacity (now 96.2 cubic feet, down from 96.8). The good news, on the other hand, is that curb weight has been kept in check – the 2014 model's 2,736-pound base weight is just a few pounds greater than the 2013 – and trunk capacity is up .2 cubic feet to 14.9. It's worth noting that the competing Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are both in a dead-heat with the Kia in interior measurements, meaning the Forte's slight reduction in size isn't really all that noticeable.

We didn't notice any real issue with the throttle mapping, which is a welcome improvement.

Basic suspension setup carries over from the last Forte. MacPherson struts up front combine with a torsion beam and coil springs in the rear. It's nothing revolutionary, but it works well in this application and we found the ride and handling compromise to be very well engineered. Small bumps go mostly unfelt, while larger thuds move through the cabin without any undue strain or unsightly shivers. Unless the asphalt below is particularly rough, we also found the Forte to be pretty quiet, though perhaps short of the Lexus-quiet Chevy Cruze. Roadholding proved better than we expected, likely due in part to the upsized 17-inch wheels wearing optional 215/45R17 tires. LX models, which we weren't able to sample, ride on small 15-inch steel wheels with 16-inch alloys optional; standard fitment on the EX includes 16-inch wheels.

Similarly, braking performance was good, with a pedal that's firm and easy to modulate. We didn't notice any real issue with the throttle mapping, either, which is a welcome improvement over the last Forte's rubberband-like gas pedal.

2014 Kia Forte engine

The EX nets a 2.0-liter engine with direct injection, offering up a stout 173 hp and 154 lb-ft.

Kia has switched from a hydraulic power steering setup in the last-gen Forte to a new electronic system for 2014. As is usually the case, the motor-driven rack is generally numb and lacking in feel, but Kia has at least seen fit to offer an optional Flex Steer package that allows the driver to switch between Comfort, Normal and Sport steering modes. As you might expect, we preferred Sport and found Normal acceptable, but Comfort is useless and devoid of any redeeming value, assuming you have two fully functional hands with which to drive.

Power comes from one of two new four-cylinder engines. Base LX models get a 1.8-liter unit with multi-port fuel injection good for 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque – the same figures, not coincidentally, as the Hyundai Elantra's 1.8-liter mill. That's also the same displacement as the only engines offered by the Civic and Corolla, and the Korean is the most powerful of that bunch. Stepping up to the EX nets the buyer a 2.0-liter engine with direct injection, offering up a stout 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. The Elantra is not available with anything but the standard 1.8 engine. We were only granted access to the EX and its 2.0-liter mill, and we found it pleasantly adequate in operation. You won't be setting any acceleration records, but the Forte is plenty spunky in EX trim and never struggled for power while driving, even occupied by two adult men with the air conditioning running while driving up a 10-percent grade.

2014 Kia Forte rear 3/4 view

Part of the drivetrain's competence comes from the six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is available with the smaller 1.8-liter engine in LX guise, but we can't comment on its operation). That's not something you can say for the Corolla, which is saddled with an ancient four-speed auto, or the Civic and its five-speed gearbox. We'd need more seat time before we can report accurate fuel economy figures, but the 2014 Forte's digital readout claimed we managed nearly 32 miles per gallon over the course of our drive, which, if true, is mighty impressive – we weren't driving with economy in mind, and we had the car pointed up several of the steepest grades near Superior, Arizona.

The Forte's digital readout claimed we managed nearly 32 mpg.

Kia tells us that the 2014 Forte will start under $16,000. A "well-equipped" LX model will run in the $18,500 range, and we'd imagine a top-level EX loaded with all the desirables will command a price in the low $20s, but we'll have to wait until the car's on-sale date in March to find out more. We'll also need to wait on official EPA fuel mileage figures, but we expect those will be a bit higher than the current Forte's 26 city and 36 highway numbers.

So is the latest Forte a credible alternative to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the two models that Kia says are the machines against which it is most often cross shopped? The answer is an unequivocal yes, assuming pricing and mileage numbers are in line with expectations. We look forward to spending more time behind the Forte's wheel to find out just how much we like it, but our initial impressions are quite favorable.

Finally, it seems that compact sedans may indeed be – you knew this was coming, right? – Kia's forte after all.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 164 Comments
      Mazdaspeed6
      • 1 Year Ago
      Looks good + lots of features. The problem with Kia/Hyundai is that they usually don't deliver in the fuel economy department or reliability, despite their long warranties. Nice car though for an entry level compact.
      Alex Ellsworth
      • 1 Year Ago
      I thought this car was really good looking... until I saw the new Ceed. I think that\'s probably the sharpest model in Kia\'s whole lineup, both inside and out. Too bad it\'s not available in either the US or Korean markets.
      Teleny411
      • 1 Year Ago
      Love the exterior: hate the interior.
        Greg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Teleny411
        Interesting... I hate the exterior, and I hate the interior.
        Monkaroo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Teleny411
        Notice those WAVES above the the passenger side glove box...who thought that was a good idea? I can now begin to notice the differences between Hyundai and Kia. Although based on the same platform as the Elantra, it looks and feels cheaper except for the upgraded engine choice.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        They haven't been a bottom feeder in quality and durability for quite some time. Let me know how Toyota is doing being at the #1 spot in recalls.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
          mikeybyte1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          It's an interesting trend lately. Toyota seems to be doing massive recalls on older vehicles. So initial quality might be high, but that does not guarantee long term reliability. Toyota used to be bullet proof in that area. Their vehicles were known for going hundreds of thousands of miles trouble free. But last year they had more recalls than the next 3 makes combined. They have acknowledged they have slipped up and need to make quality a top priority again.
          jonnybimmer
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          "let me know when Kia isn't a bottom-feeder in quality and durability ratings." "It's still a kid learning how to pee straight....." http://autos.jdpower.com/ratings/awards/kia.htm "Hate all you want, but the truth spits on your hating head......"
          Kahz
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          Haters gonna hate. Corolla, boring as hell yes, but still most reliable in people's minds, and others don't matter.
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        The current Corolla is a dinosaur, and you know it.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        OK, letting you know now. Actually, a few years after as they haven't been bottom feeders in a long time.
        mikeybyte1
        • 1 Year Ago
        Wow, you speak for The People? Seems like there are plenty of People not buying Corollas. Ford, Chevy, and others have plenty of conquest sales of People leaving Corolla for their products. I am sure the next gen Corolla will be more competitive, but the current one is an old tech dog. With 750,000 of them just recalled for bad airbags, no less. Speak for yourself from now on and The People can make their own decisions.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mikeybyte1
          >owners recommend it Because they've never heard of comparison shopping.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mikeybyte1
          [blocked]
      Jeff Juarez
      • 1 Year Ago
      Would someone PLEASE call out Kia for once about strait ripping off BMW's design language? It is blatantly apparent.
      suthrn2nr
      • 1 Year Ago
      LOL, Autoblog please dont rely on Hyunday/Kia's digital readout of MPG. They are known for their digital gaiuge severly overstating actual mileage. Just look at owners at Fuelly.com, their gauges will always read higher than their true long-term Miles/Gallons calculation.
        suthrn2nr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @suthrn2nr
        http://www.fuelly.com/car/hyundai/elantra The current "40MPG" elantra cant even average above 30MPG in real world numbers. This is not even close to their Combined rating. I used to really like Hyundai until they turned into GM and just built cars to get pretty marketing numbers rather than real world numbers.
          mbukukanyau
          • 1 Year Ago
          @suthrn2nr
          Very nice website. Thank you
          rem
          • 1 Year Ago
          @suthrn2nr
          The entertaining part is doing a comparison (gas engine only for purposes of comparison): http://www.fuelly.com/car/chevrolet/cruze/gas%20l4 Almost 10% better - not your old GM anymore.
      Ryth
      • 1 Year Ago
      Like it but I want the Pro Cee'd over here ASAP.
      Mason
      • 1 Year Ago
      Dart + Focus = Forte
        Bill
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mason
        I can understand the Focus rear angle, but I'm not getting all the Dart comparisons.
      le9193
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am getting really tired of how alike Hyundai is making their cars modeled after the success of one or the other brands success, meaning Hyundai, or Kia. This look like the Elantra, the front, the side panes, the fog lights. Come on, and then there's the Rear of the Azera and Optima that are identical. It's a shame they get away with this and it's no problem. Make this an American company, hell even Honda and they'd be attacked for it. Instead Hyundai is praised.
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        @le9193
        ZOMG, somebody copied somebody else in an industry where copying is rampant!
          le9193
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          My point was badge engineering, not copying. Lack of knowledge.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          I see nothing of the Elantra in this design, possibly save the roof. This isn't badge engineering. Its platform sharing. There IS a difference.
        Fishhawk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @le9193
        The taillights are a dead ringer for the Focus sedan. The new Sentra also looks like the Focus.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Fishhawk
          Which is a pretty interesting coincidence.
        Kahz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @le9193
        It's probably to do with that car brand 'identity' thing... If you look closely, most cars of the same brand look similar, like a 'family'. But the Azera and Optima rear are not identical, not even close.
      drewbiewhan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Seriously? No comment about how the rear end looks like it was lifted straight off a Focus sedan?
        Kahz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @drewbiewhan
        There will be haters, but it looks similar to their older Forte tail lights: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/hatchbacks/1105_2011_kia_forte_sx_five_door_test/photo_10.html
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        @drewbiewhan
        I'm pretty sure that the styling for this was frozen before the 2012 Focus even debuted.
        KaiserWilhelm
        • 1 Year Ago
        @drewbiewhan
        Ford gon sue somebody!
          Kahz
          • 1 Year Ago
          @KaiserWilhelm
          They will keep quiet while Aston Martin's around!
      FIDTRO
      • 1 Year Ago
      As usual with Hyundai/Kia, you get a pretty looking car but an overall poor quality vehicle. I recently was given a ride by my friend in his 2011 Sonata, 17,000 miles on the odometer, and every little bump on the road turned that car into a rattle queen. It felt so plasticy and poorly put together. You get what you pay for people.
        High
        • 1 Year Ago
        @FIDTRO
        Disagree. I have a 2011 limited with 47,000 miles and outside of maybe slightly more road noise and some peeling of the clear plastic coating around the volume knob, which I see on newer models has changed, I haven't had a single issue with mine including squeaks or rattles. My old '06 2.5 Jetta on the other hand, which a family member now owns, has a driver door that squeaks very loud at the hinges when opening or closing, quite a bid of peeling of that soft touch material on the window and radio controls, the material on the steering wheel wore through pretty good at 11-1, there's more road noise than the Sonata and there's this annoying squeak on small bumps that I've spend numerous times trying to find. I guess you don't always get what you pay for.
        Camaroman101
        • 1 Year Ago
        @FIDTRO
        i'd have to agree hyundai/kia quality isnt up there with the rest of the pack. a motortrend long term test car with 30k miles had the material covering the steering wheel coming apart. wasnt covered by waranty because it was considered wear and tear. maybe by the next generation of products they will get better.
      SooooRight
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ugh...... Korean cars are just he worst of everything asian rolled into one car.
    • Load More Comments