Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte SX sedan car test drives kia
2014 Kia Forte. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

It’s an open secret that American and Japanese automakers are in a mild panic about increasing competition from the South Koreans, Hyundai and Kia (both are owned by the same parent company, share the same technologies, but duel with each other in a friendly rivalry).  The Hyundai Elantra, in particular, has been challenging the reigning Civic for top sales spot in Canadian passenger car sales, and putting pressure on established automakers like Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, VW, Ford, and GM to up their game, or in the case of Suzuki (among other reasons), to get out of the game altogether in North America.

Now comes the redesigned 2014 Kia Forte sedan to tighten the screws a little further. The new Forte sedan shares the Elantra’s platform, wheelbase and many mechanical components, but has unique exterior styling, interior design, suspension tuning, and an optional 173-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine in the higher trim levels.  The two cars are built in different plants on different continents: the Forte in Hwasang, South Korea and the Elantra in Montgomery, Alabama.

Compared to the outgoing 2013 Forte sedan, the new model is 30 mm longer with a wheelbase stretched by 50 mm – the latter improves the Forte’s ride and provides more legroom for rear passengers.  The new Forte is also 25 mm lower in height and 5 mm wider, which contributes to its sleeker profile and lower, wider stance – unsurprisingly it bears a strong family resemblance to the larger Kia Optima and Cadenza sedans.

Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte SX sedan car test drives kia
2014 Kia Forte. Click image to enlarge

The 2014 Forte’s standard engine is now a 148-hp 1.8L four-cylinder engine (LX) that replaces the 2013 Forte’s 156-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine.  Curiously, this appears to be a bit of a downgrade: as well as being less powerful, the new 1.8L engine is slightly less economical: with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, the 1.8L engine offers 9.4 city/6.5 hwy (25/36 mpg US) compared to the previous 2.0L engine’s 9.0 city/6.5 hwy (26/36 mpg US).  As well, many of its main competitors offer better fuel economy, such as the 2013 Mazda3 2.0 SkyActiv sedan (8.4 city/5.9 hwy; 28/40 mpg US), Honda Civic sedan (8.4 city/6.0 hwy; 28/39 mpg US), and even its own Korean compatriot the Elantra sedan (8.4 city/6.2 hwy; 28/38 mpg US)(all fuel consumption figures US EPA).  One possible reason is the 2014 Forte’s weight gain: its new base curb weight of 1,318 kg is 24 kg heavier than the 2013 sedan.

But there have been some improvements with the optional 2.0L engine (EX, SX): though smaller than its 2.4L predecessor, the new direct injection 173-hp 2.0L engine has the same horsepower and better fuel economy, though maximum torque drops by 14 lb-ft.  Equipped with the standard six-speed automatic transmission, the new engine offers an average fuel economy improvement of about seven percent: 9.8 city/6.5 hwy (24/36 mpg US) compared to 10.2 city/7.4 hwy (23/32 mpg US) and is more fuel efficient than some, but not all of its competitor’s optional engines.

Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte SX sedan car test drives kia Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte SX sedan car test drives kia Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte SX sedan car test drives kia
2014 Kia Forte. Click image to enlarge

We tested the top-of-the-line SX sedan with the 2.0L engine and standard six-speed automatic transmission equipped with manual shifting mode and paddle shifters.  For its MSRP of $26,195, the well-equipped SX comes equipped with standard features like leather seats, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic transmission, navigation system with touchscreen, rear-view camera, Sirius satellite radio, push-button start, 17-inch alloys and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights. It also comes with some standard features you won’t see in other cars: heated and cooled driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, heated rear and front passenger seats, and “Flex-steer” driver selectable steering effort settings.  With a Freight charge of $1,485, colour charge of $150 and A/C tax of $100, our SX tester came to $27,930.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).