2011 Kia Forte5-Door
2011 Kia Forte5-Door . Click image to enlarge
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Review and Photos by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery:
2011 Kia Forte5-Door

Ann Arbor, Michigan – Having introduced its Forte sedan and two-door Koup as 2010 models, Kia now adds another model, and increased practicality, with the introduction of the 2011 Forte5-Door, its name for the hatchback version (herein referred to as the Forte5). And while the Forte is only a year old, the Forte5’s introduction brings some improvements to all models, including six-speed manual and automatic transmissions in everything.

The Forte5 shares its basic architecture with the Hyundai Elantra Touring, but naturally the sheet metal is unique to Kia. It’s penned by European designer Peter Schreyer, previously of Audi and Volkswagen, which could be why many of my colleagues claimed to see shades of the A3 in the Forte5’s butt end. Unlike the Elantra Touring, which comes only with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, the Forte5 uses a new, more powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in its LX and EX trim lines, and a 2.4-litre four-cylinder in the top-line SX. Both engines come with a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, but on my drive, all the cars I tested were automatics: Kia says that the stick shift will be available a little later in the year. When mated to the 2.4-litre, the automatic transmission includes paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.

2011 Kia Forte5-Door
2011 Kia Forte5-Door. Click image to enlarge

Pricing starts at $16,695 for the 2.0-litre LX with manual transmission, and tops out at $26,195 for the 2.4-litre SX Luxury with automatic and – something you don’t expect in this segment – a voice-activated navigation system. In contrast, the Elantra Touring runs between $14,999 and $23,249, but you don’t get as many features, and the six-speed has yet to migrate to this kissing cousin. That said, few people will probably wind up in the base Forte5, since it doesn’t include air conditioning – and if you want refrigeration at this level, it gets complicated. It can’t be added at all to the base LX with stick shift. You can order an LX with an automatic for $17,895, and then, you can order an LX with automatic and air for $19,295, which also throws in keyless entry. If you want a stick shift and air, you have to buy the EX at $19,195, which adds a/c and a whack of other items. Kia says not many people want a base model, so keeping a/c out of the equation “reduces complexity.” I might be inclined to say it reduces the number of people who buy a base model, as opposed to moving up into a more expensive trim, but of course that’s purely idle speculation on my part.

2011 Kia Forte5-Door
2011 Kia Forte5-Door. Click image to enlarge

That said, the EX does offer quite a number of features, as I discovered on my first leg of a day’s driving. Six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and active front head restraints are common to all Forte models. The EX includes 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary input, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, heated seats, keyless entry, wiper de-icer, telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, and the aforementioned air conditioning. Kia expects this mid-range model to be the volume seller, and I think the company is correct on that. If you’re willing to add another $900, you can also get a power sunroof.

Overall, Kia anticipates almost equal demand for the three models, forecasting 30 per cent hatchback sales, and 35 per cent each for the sedan and Koup. That’s for Canada, where we don’t have the traditional U.S. distaste for hatchbacks. The Forte5 will also be available south of the border, but launched later than up here.

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