2014 Kia Forte First Drive Review
When a car is introduced, it typically means we can expect to see a few key changes made down the road. Automakers call it a refresh, and it might take a few years for one to occur. When it does happen, the exterior will most likely receive a nip and tuck, and the interior may be spruced up with new trim material. Perhaps an additional engine option is introduced, and there may be a new wheel design thrown in as well. Kia has taken the idea of a refresh a step further, however, because the 2014 Kia Forte stretches the concept of a refresh by receiving a complete redesign after just three and a half years of existence.
It’s no surprise that Kia is a design-focused automaker. The man now in charge of its North American operations is designer Peter Schreyer, whom Automobile recently named its 2012 man of the year. Kia went further than simply improving the design of the Forte though, as the goals for this latest iteration of the compact sedan include adding class-above conveniences and features, and to improve driving dynamics and passenger comfort.
2014 Kia Forte: She's a looker, alright...
Before delving into the dynamic details, it is worth taking a moment to discuss the styling achievements taking place on the outside of the 2014 Forte. The old car wasn’t bad looking, but the new Forte happens to be a stunner, especially in this segment. The car is now far less blocky and clearly not trying to be cute. Instead, it’s a good-looking machine with an aggressively taut face. The headlamps reach back into the bodywork while the signature Kia grille stands upright, almost defiantly, at the front. Out back, the tail lamps add to the no-longer blockish appearance while helping clean up the lines that began out front. Overall, the entire exterior look works to give the car a more premium feel. That’s something that buyers will appreciate, and onlookers will wonder what just zipped past them.
“Maybe it was a Buick Verano… but it seemed to have a bit more style.”
A good exterior is nothing without a quality interior though, and Kia paid plenty of time making sure the cabin is ready to impress. The entire center console has been redesigned, and an eight-inch touchscreen now sits at the top. Here is where users can take advantage of the UVO features, such as integration with their smartphone to access Pandora, or the brand-new UVO eServices system that is essentially OnStar on steroids. Kia also redesigned the gauge cluster, which now utilizes TFT screens, and the result is once again providing a feeling of class-above amenity. TFT screens are making their way down market, but still feel like the realm of vehicles offered by the likes of Jaguar and Land Rover. The crisp displays provide a plethora of information that is available and accessible with a few quick button presses.
All of the amenities and features (which are numerous, and include Navigation and heated and ventilated front seats), would be nothing if the car wasn’t comfortable to drive. Typically, a Kia seat is a fairly boring place to spend time, and your legs will go numb far sooner than they would in another vehicle. This has been addressed, and the front thrones now offer great support while the seat bottoms seem designed not by a park bench aficionado but rather someone who actually enjoys driving cars.
2014 Kia Forte: Style sure, but substance too?
Speaking of driving, it’s here where Kia has taken great efforts to improve upon the outgoing Forte. A brand-new chassis underpins the 2014 Forte, and it has allowed engineers to improve the suspension geometry. This upgrade, along with larger front suspension bushings, leads to a clear improvement in ride quality and comfort. Additionally, this new chassis benefits from an increase in the amount of high-strength steel used, which means greater rigidity and improved strength and safety.
The engineers also had their hands busy with making sure that the steering feel is up to snuff. As automakers move to electronic power steering systems, vehicle efficiency improves but it’s typically at the sake of handling feel. The cars become a bit numb while fuel economy climbs a few ticks. To counter this, Kia has employed its Flex Steer system, which allows drivers to switch between Normal, Comfort, and Sport driving modes with a press of a steering wheel-mounted button. Comfort decreases the effort required to turn the wheel, while Sport increases needed effort and makes the steering feel heavier. As interesting as the system sounds, we found that keeping the car in Sport left us the most pleased. Comfort is far too light, and Normal got boring after keeping the Forte in Sport for a while.
2014 Kia Forte: Forward motivation
It’s not all about trick electronic steering setups though, because a car is nothing without an engine. Kia offers up a choice between two units for the 2014 Forte. On the LX trim, you’ll find a 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit that’s good for 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic, but you can also opt for a six-speed manual gearbox if you prefer handling the task of shifting on your own. Step up to the EX trim and you’ll find a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which produces 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque and is equipped with direct injection to boot. The 2.0-liter is only available with the six-speed automatic transmission. With either engine, you can expect strong in-class fuel economy figures, but we prefer the peppiness of the 2.0-liter. In fact, we’re holding out hope for a turbocharged version of that aforementioned mill with the option of a manual gearbox or a paddle-shiftable auto unit.
2014 Kia Forte: Time to pay up (but not very much)
So what will it cost to get you into a new Forte? Not much, it seems. Kia hasn’t officially announced pricing on the 2014 Forte, but expect the base LX version to start around $16,000. Step up to the more powerful and well-equipped EX, and you’ll need to spend at least $18,000. We’re sure you can push that number into the low $20,000 range if you tick off all the boxes, but if you do you’ll be getting one fine-looking machine with class-above features in the cabin.
Kia had a hit on its hands when it came to market with the redesigned Optima. Now, the automaker could be poised to make a run on a new segment of car buyer with the 2014 Forte. This compact sedan is a stylish stunner that we’d be happy to put in our own garage.
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