The Kia Forte takes its bows for 2017 exhibiting some heavy compact-sedan street cred and an increasingly better-looking profile that more and more resembles its older sibling, Optima.
And that’s a good thing.
Another good thing is the general state of compact cars competing in today’s U.S. market. They don’t make compact cars like they used to. What was once simply no-frills transportation has raised the bar and now features impressive exterior designs and loads of high-end technology. Few compacts can deliver the equipment levels the way Kia does — and the Forte is the poster child for value.
The new Forte sedan will be the first new model produced at Kia’s plant in Monterey, Mexico. The new Forte showcases some exterior changes, including a new front bumper design and what Kia calls a “tiger-nose” grille, which blends into the new headlights (much like the new Optima). New taillight treatments upgrade the overall rear and create a more contemporary feel.
The Forte has a definite compact profile and looks modern and slippery. This is not a compact that sacrifices style to offer fuel economy but rather takes what is possible and stretches the exterior style to the limits. Add on the optional 17-inch alloy wheels, and you have a sharp-dressed sedan.
This new Kia Forte will be offered in three trim levels: base LX model, sporty S model and premium EX model. The LX and S trim levels will have upgraded cloth seats, and an exclusive black cloth with white stitching will be available for the S model. To further the sporty feel of the S model, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, new sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, rear spoiler and chrome exhaust tips have been added.
I recently tested the EX trim level. The real impressive aspects of the new Forte are within the quiet spaces of its cabin. The new Forte offers a revised interior centered around a 7-inch touchscreen display that will offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The interior doesn’t look much different this year, retaining the logical controls and comfort plus the whimsy of the passenger-side dash ripples. The soft-touch dash is exemplary of the overall quality of materials inside. The premium EX model features leather seats throughout, heated front seats, dual-zone temperature control, push-button start, Kia’s Smart Key system, LED taillights and front door pocket lighting.
Front seating is accommodating, firm and nicely bolstered. Head and leg room is ample. There is room for three adults in back, although it’s tight. Even the rear seat offers optional heaters. The trunk has 15 cubic feet of storage. The Forte5 is the hatchback version, and it offers an excellent 23 cubic feet of cargo space.
Under the hood, Kia has replaced the 1.8-liter four with a new 2.0-liter mated to either a six-speed manual or a new six-speed automatic transmission. There are new driver assistance systems as well. I found my tester to be reasonably responsive, capable of getting into highway merges with little trepidation and easily maneuvered about town.
Prices for the 2017 Kia Forte lineup start at $17,300 for the low-end Forte sedan LX model with a manual transmission; an automatic transmission adds about $1,000 to the price. The new Forte sedan S model starts at about $20,000, while the top-end EX sedan starts at $22,000.