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

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

The 2014 Kia Forte is the first in a series of new launches that Kia will be making in the coming year, and arguably the most important in this market. While the Cadenza sedan will arrive as a new full-size flagship, the Rondo crossover microvan is being relaunched after a hiatus, and the Sorento SUV and Soul whatchamacallit are redesigned for 2014, the Forte will likely be Kia’s bestselling model in Canada and second or third in the States (behind the midsize Optima sedan and Sorento SUV, both of which have leaped into the 100K+ sales in the US since being reprised under Peter Schreyer’s design influence).

Within the compact car segment, the Forte is currently an afterthought, selling 13,000–14,000 units in Canada for the past few years when the leaders are pushing 40K–50K and 64K for the indomitable Civic. This will quite likely change over the next couple years once the full Forte lineup is in play. The Forte 5-Door will follow the sedan this fall with a hot-hatch powertrain in its back pocket, and the slinky Koup to follow shortly thereafter.

Even this sedan is a sight to behold. In a class of increasingly sophisticated designs (Focus, Cruze, Elantra, Lancer), the Forte still arrests the eye with silky lines, taut proportions and the sloping rear window and stubby decklid matching the sleekness of many coupes. The design has softened from the previous generation, the details more liquid than geometric, but it is a long, low shape that hints at athleticism and speed. The lighting, especially, is a class above, with LED accents on the headlights and glowing rings around the taillamps giving the Forte a distinctive look at night.

However, the performance of a simple compact car can’t hope to match such powerful looks, even if its 173 horsepower in top trim is more than enough for this segment. Granted, compact cars are growing in weight and size at an unprecedented pace, matching mid-size cars from 25 years ago in length and wheelbase and easily exceeding their weight, so this excess power starts to feel necessary. The Forte sedan measures 4,560 mm long with a 2,700 mm wheelbase, width of 1,780 mm and a curb weight of no less than 1,241 kg, and up to my tester’s weight of 1,342 kg.

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

The base engine is a 1.8L four-cylinder, its 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque class-competitive and entirely sufficient if my recent experiences with this same powertrain in the Elantra GT are anything to go by. The 1.8 is the default engine in the $15,995 LX trim, as is a six-speed manual transmission. Upgrading to the six-speed automatic requires moving up to the LX AT trim and bucking up an extra $2,700 ($18,695); that’s pretty steep as the only two features added on top of the slushbox are keyless entry and air conditioning. However, for the full list of features and trims, see Kia.ca.

The powertrain of the Forte EX and SX trims is the direct-injection 2.0L four-cylinder that makes 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque, only the most rudimentary $20,695 EX MT using the manual transmission. On the EX trim, getting into the six-speed automatic with manual mode and ‘Active Eco’ mode requires only an extra $1,200. The automatic is standard in SX trim.




About Jonathan Yarkony

Jonathan Yarkony is the Senior Editor for Autos.ca, a Brampton-based automotive writer with eight years of experience evaluating cars and an AJAC member.