By on August 27, 2013

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On paper and in person, the 2014 Kia Forte looks like a Very Good Car™. Is it really, though? The outgoing Forte pulled the same trick, looking all the world like it was going to keep the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus up at night, an illusion that fell apart upon driving. Oh sure, the Forte has always been very good looking, and Kia is known for offering a lot more equipment for less money, but you can’t just strap styling and stuff to a base-model-1992 driving experience and call it a day. And that is why there’s a 2014 Kia Forte, with great new looks and a price-to-equipment ratio that would please even the crustiest quartermaster. Fine, newly-minted college graduates (at least those with jobs) and equally-new AARP card holders looking to downsize will still be thrilled, but what about the enthusiast?

The styling is, of course, the first thing you notice. The 2014 Forte has a roofline that swoops instead of sucks. It may be swimming in the “needs a car” end of the pool, but the Forte looks expensive. Of course it does, because Peter Schreyer is in charge; a man who spent years plying his trade for style-forward juggernaut Audi. Handsome form underscores everything about your first impressions of the Forte.

There’s still a few gimmicks – a string of LED running lamps in the headlight clusters look like someone glomming on to a trend, because that’s exactly why they’re there. There are, of course, benefits to LED lighting elements: they’re efficient, lightweight and long-lived, but really, they exist here because it’s the latest bit of bedazzling that the automotive industry is pushing.

During my week with the Forte, nobody stopped me to ask about it, but I always enjoyed walking up on it. It’s a great-looking car, especially in EX trim, like the one I had. Of course, the fancy wheels, fog lamps and big engine in the Forte EX will cost you. The 2014  Kia Forte LX starts at $15,900 with a 1.8 liter four cylinder and six-speed you-shift-it transmission. The six-speed automatic bumps the price to $17,400, and if you want more stuff in your LX, you’re looking at the LX (Popular) for $18,300, which also adds a bunch more exterior paint colors.

The EX means a 2.0 liter four cylinder that’s a solid middleweight performer, six-speed auto, and all kinds of other goodies like automatic headlights, adjustable steering assist that Kia calls FlexSteer, the maddening Active Eco system that you immedately make inactive, rear-view camera, and up-rated materials on the door panels, steering wheel and shift knob, the latter two being done in the skin of some cow that probably became a burger for the fast food joints that Forte drivers might manage.

The Forte left a very good impression in terms of interior materials and fit and finish. Kia is smart. They didn’t send me the LX with the less nicey-nice door panels and un-equipped option list. Instead, what I drove was a car that rung up $25K and was equipped like you’d expect a Lexus ES. No lie. This thing even had seats done in leather with memory and power adjustment and a ventilated driver’s seat. Again: ventilated driver’s seat in a Kia.

This is what Kia is good at. There’s climate control, HID headlamps, more LEDs for the taillamps, a power sunroof, voice-recognition navigation, pushbutton start, and auto-dimming mirrors all available optionally, and included on the test car by dint of it carrying the Premium and EX Technology Packages.

Kia got the memo loud and clear that people buying these smaller cars (that have really grown to be as big as midsize cars once were) don’t expect or desire to settle  for less. But so far, all that means is that your father the Actuary will find the Kia an eyebrow-raising candidate. It won’t mean bupkus to anyone with an inner ear accustomed to simultaneous elevation and directional changes at high rates of speed. That’s where the Kia Forte has fallen down in the past, with a brittle ride and numb feedback making for a sloppy, underachieving driving experience.

For 2014, it’s a lot better. That’s not to say it’s all fixed, the steering is still a little weird, even if you can switch the electric assist between “Electra 225″ and “busted hose.” The rear suspension is a torsion beam with coil springs, a setup that’s next on the list for the autowriter cool-kids to talk shit about, behind the Mustang’s “ox-cart live axle” ( I swear, if I read that one more time, I’m getting an ox, just so I can gore whatever twit with a keyboard taps it out). You know what, though? Struts ‘N A Beam was delightful enough on a Mk1 GTI, and it doesn’t get in the way here, either. The new Forte isn’t as good a handler as the Ford Focus, for instance, but it’s clear that Kia has been doing its ride and handling homework. The Forte played along just fine when asked to clip an apex or unkink a back road. The structure feels pretty solid, but still not as tight as some others, Focus example included.

Bumps are absorbed by the suspension, instead of your tailbone; evidence that someone at Kia has been hitting the books when it comes to balancing jounce and rebound stiffness. The 2.0 liter engine has a power level that was only possible with forced induction not too long ago. Now, thanks to direct injection, it’s possible to run the compression ratio up to 11.5:1, which yieds 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. It makes for an eager little mill, and the 2.0 is a noticeable upgrade over the still-respectable 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of the 1.8 liter engine (145 hp/130 lb-ft in SULEV configuration). Another annoying thing that’s plagued Kias in the past has been super-jumpy fly-by-wire throttles, like they were programmed to give a strong initial response to make the car feel extra-peppy. Now there’s finally some refinement and subtlety to the Forte’s response to the accelerator pedal.

Kia has growed the Forte all up for 2014. The interior is as nicely styled as the exterior, and in EX trim, the materials that surround you are nice enough to be considered among the top half of the class. The ergonomics are very good, better than the button-tastic Ford Focus, weird-ass Civic, or even the Chevrolet Cruze, which is better than the other two, but not as good as the Forte.

If your idea of a “good” car is value by the pound, you might not think there’s much to recommend at roughly $25,500 for the 2014 Kia Forte EX with all the packages. That would be wrong. It’s a fully-loaded box of new car smell at that price level. There’s a decent trunk, respectable fuel economy (32 mpg observed), build quality that (probably) won’t run out before the considerable warranty does, and a driving experience that’s good enough to have some of the perennial darlings looking over their shoulders, if not fretting just yet.

The Forte is a lot better than it was, to the point where it’s a legitimate player among its peers, rather than just an on-paper par-baked bargain.

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76 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Forte EX...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    Speaking of the Civic vs. the Forte. I was in a Civic rental the other day and it was simply a horrifically catastrophic abortion of a vehicle. The ride, power, NVH, interior materials were all absolutely terrible. I’ve haven’t been in such a terrible car since I was in a friends Chevy Cavalier.

    Comparing it to when I was car shoping 10 years ago – it’s amazing how much the market has evolved and how far the mightly have fallen.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Hold on, the 2003 Civic had ride, power, or NVH?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        In comparison to other cars at that price point on the market, yes.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Wow, hyperbole much?

          I test drove most of the class before buying a 2012 LX, the Civic has a cushy ride, trading in sharp wallow free handling at its expense. The interior is made with hard plastics, but they are assembled very well. Zero rattles, ergonomics in terms of controlling climate and radio are impeccable IMO. The car does suffer from an abnormally large amount of road noise within its class, I’ll give you that. The visibility is far and away best in class, roominess behind the wheel in terms of knee room is much better than the Focus, Cruze, or Corolla. Back seat legroom is much better than Focus or Cruze, less than Sentra. The seats are also, from what I have tried, not just most comfortable in class, but the best car seats I’ve sat in bar none, including 2004 Volvo S60 seats, my previous favorites. I knocked down 10 hour drives on a monthly basis to and from Indiana for 6 months, zero discomfort. Great thigh support, perfectly shaped lumbar support. I only stopped for gas and/or to use the bathroom every 4 hours. Don’t tell us it’s like a Cavalier, it’s not. Trust me, I test drove a Cobalt before getting the Civic and it wasn’t close. The Civic was a freaking spaceship by comparison in terms of NVH/comfort/build quality.

          Power wise, it’s a 1.8L I-4, that gets me 40mpg consistently in MIXED driving. That’s hand calculated and confirmed with the onboard meter, with a manual transmission. Less power than the 2.0 DI focus, but comparable to the Elantra, Corolla, Cruze, Sentra.

          • 0 avatar
            andyinatl

            You had me all the way until you said that Civic’s seats are better than Volvos, which is where your credibility took a hit :-)

            I do however agree that while most reviewers are favoring Focus/Cruze/etc in favor of new Civic, there’s two sides to story. Sure, maybe Civic’s styling is not as edgy as some other cars, and maybe the engine is not as powerful. However, taken as a whole package, the engineering that goes into Civic had benefit of many years of successful experience, and that’s where real life fuel economy, attention to details that matter, longevity and durability come in. For example, regular Civic’s 1.8 four banger gets better real life fuel economy than some new DI engines, with their tractor sound and overall coarseness. This is one of the reasons i would pick Civic (tried and true) over any of the new crop of vehicles (mostly gimmickery such as My Ford Touch, weird transmissions, etc).

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I know it sounds crazy, and I never thought it would be the case in a million years, my dad’s 2007 Fit’s seating position leaves me in pain after less than an hour on the highway. But for my particular body shape/size the 2012 Civic seats just click like no other. Compared to most compacts, they are rather wide, and have a long cushion, both good things for long drives.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “longevity and durability come in”

            I agree, but now it’s a reliable penalty box. It’s not class leading and reliable, it’s back of the pack and reliable. That’s a huge change form 10 or 15 years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “the Civic has a cushy ride”

            Are you on crack? The ride was horrific.

            The seats were also nothing special.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I assure you I’m not on any sort of drugs or medication.

            I’ve driven the car on many long road trips, and currently drive back and forth from Indy to Fort Wayne every weekend. The seats are in fact superior compared to anything else I’ve driven for long distances, but especially compared to other compacts. The seat is physically larger: the cushion is wider and longer, the seatback is good for people with broad shoulders. Additionally, the lumbar support is placed/shaped very well, atleast for my back. Combined with the low center console and unobtrusive dash, the Civic is great to sprawl out in on a long drive. Why not give me some specifics to counter any/all of this?

            The Civic LX with 15 inch steel wheels rides smoother over expansion joints and potholes than my gf’s 2012 Camry SE, her parent’s 2013 Rav4 Limited, and a number of other cars I have driven. It is especially smoother riding than past civics, but it also wallows noticeably more, bumps mid-onramp are particularly unsettling. Again, I’m sure there are plenty of cars with softer smoother rides, but I find the ride to be very satisfying indeed.

            I’m dying to know what kind of luxury vehicles you drive that make a Civic feel like such a terrible car!

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            I’ve driven the car on many long road trips, and currently drive back and forth from Indy to Fort Wayne every weekend.

            I travel for work so I’ve gotten a lot of seat time in everthing from a Fiat 500 to an Avalon, including Focuses and Cruzes and the Civic is just terrible.

            How long did you test drive the Focus and Cruze?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “I’m dying to know what kind of luxury vehicles you drive that make a Civic feel like such a terrible car!”

            On your way home swing by a Ford dealership and try a Focus.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Test drove a Cruze eco 6spd, it drove very “German” that is, solid and nice. However the interior felt very claustrophobic (high dash, small windows) and I have my doubts reliability wise about a small turbocharged engine hauling around a 3200lb car. Also, it was $19k new after discounts, or about $17 1 year old used (midsize territory price wise)

            Never so much as drove the focus after reading about powershift programming problems and now wheel bearing issues. Tight rear seat and that dash that sticks out eating up passenger room were non starters for me as well. I do hear they ride/handle very well. Once I saw 1 year old focuses going for $13k used, I decided that I did not want to buy a car with middling reliability that depreciated like a rock.

            Thus I settled on the Civic, which was noisier and overall doesn’t isolate the driver quite as well. However it has a typically-Honda airy cabin with oodles of space, gets me 40mpg, has a tried and true engine and transmission, and good resale value. I bought mine for $15k 1 year old used with 11k miles (no one else wanted a stick shift?), and used prices, even for these maligned 2012s, are holding right around that mark, a year later. I full expect to get $10k out of it even 5 years from now.

            i guess if you’re renting, then yes the Civic may not be as appealing. When you’re putting down your own money on something you plan to keep a long time, other variables start to take priority.

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            Man, you are not kidding about the seats in a Honda Fit.

            I had a 2nd generation one briefly (about 18 mos). The seats were terrible: the foam was too soft and thing to isolate from the seat frame. The frame created terrible pressure points, and sciatic nerve irritation, to the point that I dreaded driving it.

            I finally gave up on trying to improve it, and just dealt with the loss selling it. The car was terrific as far as storage and fuel economy went, but was dreadful to sit in for more than 45 minutes at a time. I occasionally drive Mom’s when I make trips back home, but fold up a fleece blanket to put on the seat to create at least some isolation.

            (She loves it… I guess it “Fits” a 5’4 frame better than a long-legged 6’1 frame.)

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            I’m just struck by the fact that the Civic 15 years ago was a the top in terms of NVH, interior quality, ride, etc. and was vastly more reliable than a Ford or GM compact.

            Now, it’s more reliable(but not vasty more reliable) and it’s now towards the bottom in terms of ride quality, power, etc. That’s a huge change in the competative landscape over the last decade and a half.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            The Cruze—which is my favorite car in the segment—actually doesn’t get such good fuel economy. The few we rented (2LT trims) were not appreciably better than a midsized sedan, especially if that midsized sedan is the 2013 Altima.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Wow I am late to the Civic bash-a-thon, sorry. @gtemnykh, I cannot completely agree with your glowing assessment of your 2012 Civic, but I mostly agree. We have a 2013 Civic LX and we also tested pretty much every car in even remotely the same class. The 2013 has some very real improvements over the 2012 but its essentially the same car. I think everyone just likes to hate on Honda these days, in reality the Civic is an excellent car and yes, at the LX price point anyway, the quality and driveability are as good or better than anything else we tested. Its comfortable, roomy, handles well, quiet, rides nice without wallowing, and it will outlast all its competitors. Where the competition shines is in the upper level trim models, they ARE very nice cars and the Civic just doesn’t offer up an EX trim level that competes, but I wanted a cheaper car and at that price point the Civic was excellent.

            What I want to know though is how do you get 40mpg in mixed driving??? We baby it, and I mean really baby it, keeping the economy gauge in the green all the time and still stay around 32-33mpg mixed mode. We do have an automatic but I think the auto is rated higher than the stick anyway. Whats the trick because if I could get 40mpg out of it then it would really be perfect.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          @mnm4ever

          Yes I was pretty surprised when I started getting such good mileage this summer, when I first got the car I really babied the gas pedal and used the ‘eco’ button. The key I found (unfortunately this requires the manual transmission) is to use a lot of throttle in as high a gear as possible (without lugging it too bad) to quickly get to cruising speeds. Using this short-shifting/lots of throttle technique is netting me this mileage. To be fair my commute is about 4 miles of steady state 45mph cruising, and then 3 miles at 35mph, with 3 traffic lights and 2 stop signs. On most tanks, there’s a trip to Fort Wayne (200 miles total), I drive at around 73-76 mph, with moderate use of the A/C. I think if I had an automatic that I’d be doing better on the highway, but the stick shift can’t be beat in city/suburban situations. I’m on my 5th 40mpg tank right now in a row. This nicely offsets my 4runner’s 20mpg :)

          I wouldn’t consider myself giving my Civic a ‘glowing’ assessment per say, just much better than the motoring press:

          pros: awesome mileage, great room, visibility (compared to modern contemporaries), seat comfort, rides smoother than civics of old
          cons: noisy, handles worse than civics of old

          I will add that my 2012 LX has some very blatant, borderline offensive cost cutting: only drivers door has a lock, unlined trunklid (optional), door pockets have cupholder cutouts but cupholders are an optional $30 each. No side moldings on doors to protect from dings (OEM accessory was $150 online, installed myself)

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      What tire pressures were you guys running?

  • avatar

    Hyundai/Kia’s cars definitely have more Seoul than Japan’s!

    Hyundai/Kia seems to be the only import that actually understands what the American market wants and gives it to us at a reasonable price. Also seems to understand the American luxury car market better than Ford/Lincoln…maybe even Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Considering the fact that both the Corolla and Civic out sell this, I would guess that it is them that actually understands what the American market wants.

      Whiny “enthusiasts” are a ginormous minority, and often completely delusional. Just look at Jalopnik and Autoblog.

  • avatar
    David Walton

    Excellent writing!

  • avatar
    afflo

    I hear the Koup is coming back as well!

    My first experience driving a Kia was a 2000-ish Sephia, driving it to the shop for a deployed friend’s wife. It was frightening.

    My second experience was a 2006 Sedona. It was so different, just night and day.

    My brother in law has a new Sorrento. I can’t believe that even the 2006 came from the same company.

    As a side note: Is the Kia oval based on the Ford oval? I’ve always wondered if they intentionally made their logo the same shape so that they could pop either/or on the Kia Pride/Ford Festiva.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “but what about the enthusiast?”

    Absolutely…’cause their scorn has just *killed* Camry & Corolla sales.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I really, really like the new Forte, but…

    Having recently car-shopped with my son, we found him a nice CPO 2011 Sonata GLS for under $16k @ 10k miles. It’s a lot more car than a $25k Forte.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      The dropoff in resale is still the Hyundai/Kia Achilles’ heel.

      And, it goes without saying that you can always get more car for the money if you go used, especially with a brand that tends to shed resale equity like Miley Cyrus sheds clothing and self-respect.

      (I keed about Miley – she’s just doing what any 20 year old would do who’s been under the thumb of her father and Disney for far too long. Everyone knows that girl who went nuts at college when she got away from her sheltered homelife.)

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      And ALOT less warranty.

      Seriously why do people continually say “Well I can get a CPO “X” car for just the same amount of money”?

      What the GLS Sonata Lacks is:

      Backup Camera
      UVO
      Heated front and rear seats

      And the list goes on.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Many a journalist has said (paraphrasing): “If Hyundai and Kia learn to tune suspensions, Japanese watch out!”

    It might finally be coming to pass.

  • avatar
    badhobz

    I’ve driven a few Hyundai’s and Kia’s before and although they were optioned out nicely, something just didnt feel right when you drive them. They seem to lack the engineering quality that other manufacturers are able to produce.

    I drove a hyundai elentra while my car was in the bodyshop and here are the list of complaints.

    - The steer feels very very artificial even compared to a corolla.
    - There was panel gaps that you could stick a finger in and it only had 10,000 km’s on it.
    - cheap plastics is one thing, but creaking, squeaking plastics is another.
    - engine sounded coarse and laboured under moderate acceleration and the transmission was a jerky bi polar mess.

    Other than that, the interior was nice, the seats were supportive and it was loaded with a bunch of techno gadgets. However the core driving experience was CRAP. Probably similar to this Kia

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      I’ve driven both. My driving impression of the Elantra is similar to what you described. The Forte EX…not at all. The electric power steering (at least in the firmest setting) had banished the artifical feel that makes me dislike driving most Hydai/Kia cars, and the slightly bigger 2.0 engine in the Forte makes a world of difference in everyday drivability. It’s not fast, bust doesn’t feel underpowered at all.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I was seriously skeptical of KIA and Hyundai in general.

      My friend swears by Hyundai….he had a Focus, 2 Sonatas, an Elantra, Grand Prix, and now back to a Hyundai…..and he swears on his life he’ll never go back to anything but a Hyundai.

      I’ve put almost 80K miles on my Forte, in 2 years. I’ve only replaced the brakes on the front along with rotors (and it didn’t need it), rears was a turn of the rotors and new pads. Which BTW the front brakes are larger than of the Focus 278.0 vs 300 mm on my Forte…the same size as the Mazda 3.

      Only warranty items have been an adjustment on the hatch, and the drivers mirror would whistle at 70+ MPH. Both items were fixed with zero hassle and at zero cost.

      The factory Goodyear tires (which were made in Japan BTW), were garbage. The replacement Cooper Zeon RS3A’s were garbage (The new OEM tire for the Focus), and I’m on a set of Hankook’s which have eliminated road noise by 80%. After 10K miles the road noise was unbearable on the Eagle LS2′s. The Coopers wouldn’t balance right, and sounded like the wheel bearings were shot after 10K miles.

      You want engineering “excellence”? Here’s an example:

      The door switch on new Fords is inside of the door latch. What happens when that switch goes bad? You’re tearing apart the doors to get to the latch assembly or you’re stuck with a door ajar or no dome lights when the door is open because it’s flipping expensive to replace. The KIA? It’s 30 seconds to replace inside of the door jamb with 1 screw.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “The 2014 Forte has a roofline that swoops instead of sucks.”

    How’s the rear-seat headroom? Judging by the roofline, it looks abysmal, just as it is in all too many sedans these days.

  • avatar
    dwford

    There are always comments about how a particular car is over priced or that cars in general are too expensive. Are they? Cars have grown dramatically in size over the last 15 years. Can we get an article comparing the price, dimensions, engine size, horsepower, equipment of the typical midsize sedan from 15 years ago vs the typical “compact” sedan of today?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      A typical compact nowadays is the size of a midsize from 12-15 years ago and is available with a lot more features (and more often than not, has higher grade plastics, etc.).

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        “A typical compact nowadays is the size of a midsize from 12-15 years ago and is available with a lot more features (and more often than not, has higher grade plastics, etc.).”

        Yeah, no.

        Chrysler’s pre-Daimler line-up out-sized nearly everything directly-comparable. Neon was larger than Accord and Contour– even Corsica. Stratus lacked the width, but certainly had more leg and head than my first-generation Taurus. There were 3 sizes of LH cars from which to choose, but we’ll go with the mass-market Intrepid, and best the Panther chassis or GM’s full-sizers.

        Its an older trend than 12-15 years, going back to the very early 1990s

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          1995 Accord: 184″ long, 70″ wide, 107″ wheelbase, 94+13 cubic feet (passenger+cargo)

          1995 (pre-Daimler generation) Neon: 171″ long, 68″ wide, 104″ wheelbase, 90+12 cubic feet.

          I’m assuming you mean the Civic?

          Even the 2nd generation, at 3″ longer with an extra 1″ of wheelbase was smaller than the 1995 Accord, and by that point the Accord was even larger.

          Anyway, the modern Civic is 177″ long, 70″ wide, 105″ wheelbase. It’s still a good bit smaller than the 94-97 Accord. Go back to 1989, and you’re pretty close though.

          The new Civic is much more efficient with the interior space, due to the extra height and ditching the all-around double-wishbone suspension. Comparing interior volume shows that the Civic has indeed caught up:

          1993 Accord: 93 + 14
          1994 Accord: 94 + 13
          2013 Civic: 95 + 12

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            I mean 1995 model to 1995 model. Neon is the same size as Accord, dwarfs Civic.

            Fun fact: neon weighs 500lbs less than Accord and it’s standard engine is as powerful while being 20% more fuel efficient.

            Hi, motherfucker :)

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            Again:

            1995 Accord: 184″ long, 70″ wide, 107″ wheelbase, 94+13 cubic feet (passenger+cargo)

            1995 Neon: 171″ long, 68″ wide, 104″ wheelbase, 90+12 cubic feet.

            Now, fuel economy:

            Accord Automatic: 22 mpg combined
            Neon Automatic: 26 mpg combined
            18% better.

            Accord Manual: 25 MPG combined
            Neon Manual: 28 mpg combined
            12% better.

            You’re simply off-base here.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            I’m not being obtuse, but– are you forgetting we live in a 3-dimensional world? Neon is taller than Accord. Footprint tells nothing about a car’s size. If it did– the 103″ wheelbase PT Cruiser would be smaller than a 104″ wheelbase first-generation neon — at 168.x inches in total length. Except, it isn’t– the PT Cruiser is 20 cubic feet larger, with 5″ more rear leg room than neon, and a whopping 9 inches more than the Accord you’re defending. A rear passenger’s knees do not touch front seatbacks in compact Chryslers engineered in-house. I do not know about the later Belvedere cars.

            Once more: Neon has 89.9 cubic feet of interior space. Accord has 90.1. Our resources(KBB.com in this case) are apparently making this more of an argument than it needs to be. I apologize if you feel that I’m arguing in anything but a friendly fashion. I’ve simply just been in Accords of this generation, and they feel pinched compared to a neon’s rear accommodations. Facts backed that up, and I decided to assert myself.

            I cite neon as larger based-upon rear seat room only. These two are actually dead-even in cubic feet. Which still makes my original premise true: Chrysler’s 1990s line-up were one size larger than most of their directly-competing rivals.

            What other resources are there for comparisons like this?

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            The real problem with your comparison is that the ’95 Neon is a loud, rough, cheap tin can of a car with a rubbermaid interior and the NVH standards of a tractor, and a ’95 Accord is still a pretty nice car even today. At launch the Neon was groundbreaking, but the extreme cost cutting caught up to them fast.

            I agree with your basic point though, yes the Neon had a large interior volume compared to other compacts, as did the other ChryCo lineup at the time. My ex-gf’s Neon felt wide and open and airy, and the Accord didn’t really grow up until the next generation. But the Neon was also the exception rather than the rule, not really an indication of the growth trend we have seen in the last decade. A 95 Civic was still correctly Civic sized, same with a Corolla and the Cavalier, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            I got the official EPA ratings – they are available at Fueleconomy.gov. I just checked out KBB, and they are more accurate (one more sigfig)

            1995 Accord Sedan LX: 94.7 cu.ft.
            1995 Accord Coupe LX: 90.1 cu.ft.

            1995 Neon 4D: 90.8 cu.ft.
            1995 Neon 2D: 89.9 cu.ft.

            First it was:
            “Neon was larger than Accord and Contour– even Corsica.”

            Then:
            “Neon is the same size as Accord, dwarfs Civic.”
            “89.9 cubic feet of interior space. Accord has 90.1.”

            So… it only works if you are comparing coupes.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            But we weren’t talking about NVH, interiors or noise levels. We were discussing space!

            I always compare coupes, on account that sedans suck :)

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      With few exceptions, I think that you’ll find that for a given nameplate that:

      -The new version will be larger and heavier than the older version, and will perform better in a crash
      -The new car will offer better performance and improved reliability
      -The price will be about the same, inflation adjusted.

      We’re paying the same prices, while getting more for our money. If Americans were content with stripped models of these cars, then the new base models would be cheaper than they used to be after being adjusted for inflation. But these days, just about everyone expects creature comforts, irrespective of their budgets.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    I just returned from a 1600 mile trip to the Smokie Mountains in a rented Kia minivan that I don’t think is even produced any longer. I was very displeased at the rental car company that after bidding, stuck me with this 2 year old, 30000 mile no longer produced vehicle to the tune of 500 bucks for one week. The van drove ok, but the V6 engine was extremely noisy and the interior was over run with cheap hard plastic. No wonder Kia got out of the minivan business.

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      This pretty much describes every Kia/Hyundai i’ve driven with more than 30K miles. They just don’t seem to age well.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @mars3941: Kia still sells the Sedona, and a new model is coming out soon.

      We like our 09 very much.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      So you’re basing this on an outdated model and one that wasn’t very good to begin with?

      One could have said the same thing about just about every Kia model prior to the current generation; I guess Kia should have gotten out of the auto business altogether.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right. Hyundai and Kia have finally exited the “reliable, but undesirable” stage (in which the Sedona can be categorized) and are now producing competitive, compelling products. There are still some teething issues, but as a whole, these cars have shirked their dubious reputation for being second or third-rate.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Last year I had back to back rentals of the last generation Forte and last gen Sentra and was pleasantly surprised just how much better Forte was. With the latest improvements it looks as if they could be just one good suspension engineer away from greatness.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Any guesses just how much a gussied up $25k Forte will be worth in 5 years? Hint: about $500 more than a barebones LX model, which I’d guess will be around $9k. Options never add much value to a car when it comes to trading in, this is true for luxury cars as well as down market. By spending $7k on fancy options (which may or may not even work later in the car’s life), the buyer has pretty much accepted that those are $7k he will never see so much as a fraction of again.

    The rational consumer would buy the $22k Accord or $20k camry, and they do, in droves.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Any guesses just how much a gussied up $25k Forte will be worth in 5 years? Hint: about $500 more than a barebones LX model”

      That’s true of most trim packages though, there used to be about a grand between a loaded model and a stripper one on the block. Not sure about today.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        I would agree that loaded models tend to suffer depreciation the most but gtemnykh makes a good point about Kia resale values. If you want a loaded compact then the more established brands will probably offer better resale values.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I also also agree with that point.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Otoh, one will save $$ up front with the usual Kia discounts (tho, that is diminishing as well); but then again, one can buy the outgoing Corolla for even greater discounts.

          And actually the reverse is true; more and more buyers today want amenities like keyless entry/ignition.

          Maybe a top trim will lose more of its value (aside from desirable models like the SX trim of the Optima), but usually a well-equipped mid-trim model will do the best when it comes to resale.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Kia got the memo loud and clear that people buying these smaller cars (that have really grown to be as big as midsize cars once were) don’t expect or desire to settle for less.”

    Props to Hyundai/KIA for recognizing this, Detroit until recently never quite grasped this concept. I do have to disagree with the point on midsizers, they may have gotten to the size of the 90s Japanese midsize offerings (i.e. 97 Accord sedan vs this or a 2013 Civic) but Forte is still a relatively small car.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “Forte is still a relatively small car.”

      Yes. That fact combined with the mandate for crushed-roof styling given us by our crawly, pan-sexual overlords makes them utterly non-compelling as a step-up from the Rio5 we now have.

      Pity, as I’m completely sold on Kia reliability and the Forte would, with space and visibility for occupants, be the ideal size for my wife’s campus commute.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        What would Mediocre Man drive?

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Why, a Camry of course. I’m just making a list of cars for my wife who loves our ’08 Kia.

          But MM may have to ditch his Averagehero threads come Friday when I test drive the Impala. Nothing mediocre about its looks.

          And I’m so easy on my rides that I’m willing to trust GM’s now competitive reliability with cars. Never had the least complaint about my pickups.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Struts and torsion beam are good enough for Kia, Toyota, Chevy, VW…

  • avatar
    hbarnwheeler

    Unfortunately, the Forte fails the IIHS Small Overlap Test miserably.

  • avatar
    darex

    You speak as though there have been many generations of the Forte in the past, while in reality, there’s only been the one, with this being the second.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    “Another annoying thing that’s plagued Kias in the past has been super-jumpy fly-by-wire throttles, ”
    No kidding. My daughter’s old Rio seems reasonably peppy, until you floor it and realize the motor’s been pretty much running at WOT all the time. It’s more of a switch than a throttle

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I actually don’t like a lot of new compact cars (Elantra, Focus, Civic) because all of the swoops and creases make them look juvenile, but the new Forte accomplishes the “sleek” school of design with some real class, and it would definitely be a contender if I were shopping in this class. Job well done, Kia!

  • avatar

    “capsule review” my foot, this how how I want ALL reviews to read. Witty, slightly crude, covers the important details, entertaining, some history and some facts, it’s great!

    The throttle mapping of older Kia/Hyundai’s has always annoyed me, 25% of throttle input seems to give you 75% of throttle body opening. Silly. Other things they’ve improved that used to be really terrible: that absurdly stiff for no reason suspension (especially the last Forte SX, which rode like crap but still wasn’t well damped) and their TERRIBLE shift linkages.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      One of the things that sold me on my Veloster when it came out was that Hyundai (/Kia) finally had made a very good manual transmission, after that rubbery, vague garbage they had made from 1997 through 2010.

      This bodes well for the upcoming Forte 5 SX (201 HP 1.6 GDI-Turbo) that I am considering, which will offer a manual transmission in the fully-loaded trim level.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Agreed. The Veloster was the first HyunKia that didn’t give me that weird “crapbox” feeling that Korean cars just seem to exude. Having ridden and driven many when looking for a new small hatchback, minivan, or CUV each time found disappointment in the poor feel of the cars. The one thing that always brought me back in to look at the HyunKias was the wonderful ability to buy most of their inventory with all the geegaws AND a manual tranny. Until the six speed in the Veloster, I was convinced that the ’93 Ford Festiva/Kia Pride’s tall broomstick in a bucket of dry spaghetti was the epitomy of Korean stick-shifting.


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