The Kia Forte is a new entry into the compact car field with contenders like Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Cobalt. By comparison, including exterior, interior, performance, and price, the Forte looks awfully good.
The Forte boasts class-leading interior space, and, in our opinion, class-leading looks. The interior is classy and intelligently designed, which is to say everything is there where you need it. The seats are comfortable and supportive.
The Forte uses modern four-cylinder engines, notably a 2.4-liter in the upscale SX, which also has an available five-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic manual shifting.
Least expensive is the Forte EX, which comes with a 2.0-liter engine that gets an EPA-estimated 25/34 mpg City/Highway with either the manual transmission or four-speed automatic. Most fuel-efficient, however, is the EX with the Fuel Economy Package, which yields an EPA-estimated 27/36 mpg.
Most fun to drive is the Forte SX equipped with a larger 2.4-liter engine and five-speed automatic. We found the handling in the SX with its sport-tuned suspension taut. The ride is firm but never harsh. It gets 23/31 mpg.
A five-door hatchback version is going on sale for the 2011 model year.