By on August 4, 2009

First impressions last. Except when they don’t. A few years back, I didn’t think the new-generation Accord was all that special. The enlarged Honda mid-sizer did the monkey-making thing; ascending the sales charts to become America’s top-selling mid-size family sedan. My first impression of Kia’s all-new Forte: it’s a hit. The Kia Forte’s a cheap (as in inexpensive), safe, somewhat stylish, fuel-efficient sedan that transports up to four adults in perfect comfort, without driving like a penalty box. In fact, this car is good enough that it could be a turnaround product for Kia, which has struggled to establish its place on the American automotive scene. But will it? What am I, psychic?

Design may not be the Forte’s forte, but it’s got the whole non-objectionability thing nailed nailed. Kia’s California design studio crafted a car where cleanliness cozies-up to divinity. The Forte’s tall greenhouse provides plenty of glass; a welcome change from the current trend for rising beltlines (and plunging sight lines). The Forte’s front fenders have flair, albeit with a clear Mazda influence. But the Kia’s overall shape could have been penned by a European Ford stylist; it reminds me strongly of the Ford Mondeo and VW Jetta.

The Forte’s cabin is as simple and inviting as the Fairmont hotel’s restrooms. My tester came in a mix of grey hues. As is the way of such things, none of the materials or shapes looked cheap or flimsy, although the price point demands the former and time will tell on the latter. Still, someone’s sweated the details. The Forte’s steering wheel offers an attractive symmetry, the right grippable thickness, and a soft, leather-like polymer covering that’s easy on the  palms. There’s ample leg room for all four passengers, and a large trunk.

The Forte tries to be the Hannah Montana of ergonomics; combining knobs and buttons to get the best of both worlds. In this it succeeds, in both the good (popular) and bad (as satisfying as bubble gum) sense. The learning curve is as steep as a bunny slope; major gauges are large and easy to read at both day and night. Taste-wise, well, an airplane model plastic silver bezel surrounds the center stack of the instrument panel. Make of that what you will.

On the road, the Kia Forte moves with more enthusiasm than you’d expect from a 156-horse, 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine. While the Forte’s target market probably doesn’t even own a stopwatch, I estimate the quad cog autobox-equipped sedan’s zero to sixty mph times live somewhere in the mid-eight second range. (A five-speed manual is available. The SX has an optional five-speed automatic). Bottom line: the Forte EX’s powertrain is more than sufficiently spirited for suburban driving and quite capable of drama-free passing maneuvers on two-lane highways.

Thanks to a well-sorted suspension and modestly aggressive 16-inch rubber, the Kia’s handling is poised and . . . poised. More importantly, the four-wheel disc brakes come complete with electronic brake-force distribution. Nanny rides shotgun. Alas, you can’t switch of the electronic stability control system in the Forte EX. Did I say alas? [A lass joke deleted.] Yes, I did. When flung through a series of very tight esses (flung I tell you!), my test Forte remained flat and composed. That said, even before turning a wheel, Jack Baruth would tell you that front-wheel-drive understeer is the name of this game.

Unfortunately, the Forte EX’s engine goes all Suicidal Tendency (i.e., thrashy) at anything above 4000 rpm. It’s not enough to be irritating, unless you’re irritated by such things. As Kia Forte buyers are more likely to dine on budae jjigae as push the four banger to its upper reaches of its rev range, it’s no biggie. Still, it’s too bad that Kia doesn’t fit the five-speed automatic on the EX; it would make a huge difference in the NVH department.

The Forte’s suspension tuning needs some, perhaps any, refinement. On frost heaves and worn concrete pavement joints, the Forte feels loose, hard riding and crashy, even at moderate speeds. Again, it’s not quite enough to enervate budget shoppers, but urban drivers might be happier in something, anything, a little more plush riding.

Value, though. Value. The Forte features a lengthy list of standard equipment, including Bluetooth, the aforementioned electronic stability and brake-force distribution, anti-lock brakes and a tire monitoring system. With a $19,000-and-change bottom line on my Forte EX, the Monroney could be the best looking thing about the whole car.

The Forte is a three-base hit for Kia. With more powertrain and suspension tuning refinement, the Forte could go yard against some of the toughest rivals in the automotive league. Provided my imprimatur is not the kiss of death, the Forte will go a long way to bolstering the budge brand.

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96 Comments on “Review: 2010 Kia Forte EX...”

  • avatar

    I’m waiting for the SX with the six speed review.

  • avatar

    Kia Designer #1: “We need to make this eye-catching..”

    Kia Designer #2: “Meh. I’m tired. By the way, an old college buddy of mine just bought a new civic. Pretty nice looking car. Nicer looking than anything we make anyway..”

    Kia Designer #1: “Thats it! We’ll buy civics and put our Kia badges on ’em! BRILLIANT!”

    • 0 avatar

      The reason why Forte looks similar to Civic is that
      the designer of the both cars is same person.
      Please do some research before you post such comments.

  • avatar

    That’s not a bad looking interior. If this thing holds up as reliable, what differentiates the Corolla from this?

  • avatar

    It’s actually supposed to look like the Optima/Magentis, in which it succeeds. Both are pretty good-looking cars, in a previous-gen Acura TL kind of way. Kia’s two models away (Rio, Amanti) from a wholly competitive lineup.

    I haven’t driven the Forte, but it looks like a nice enough car. Actually, what it sounds like a new Mazda Protege: good ergonomics, comfortable seating, reasonably fun to drive even in base trim, crunchy suspension versus the Civic and Corolla. Considering that the Spectra even looked like the old Mazda, it’s not entirely surprising.

    Kia has a real chance, provided Hyundai can figure out how who it wants itself and Kia to be. Right now, they can’t seem to figure out who is going to be the budget, Europretender, sporty or pseudolux marque. They need to sort this out soon because Hyundai and Kia are fast becoming their own best competitors.

  • avatar

    “…what differentiates the Corolla from this?”

    A Civic is infinitely more attractive than a Corolla, and this looks like a civic (at least from the front-ish). That’s what differentiates this from a Corolla.

  • avatar

    The badge, it’ll take a bit for people to get over the whole Kia thing.

  • avatar

    If this thing holds up as reliable, what differentiates the Corolla from this?

    Price, fuel economy and suspension tuning.

    The Corolla isn’t really a bad car, just not a great one. The automotive equivalent of bran flakes, as it were. With the 1.8L it’s cheap to run and fast enough for normal duty. I know two midwives who own them, and if I were in that job, I’d own one, too.

    The problem is that, despite the groupthink about Toyota’s supposed endemic quality problems, most reasonable objective measures still rate their product far above average, and the Corolla as nigh-on impeccable. Kia and Hyundai will need to wait and work and sweat the details to reach that level of trust. To their credit, they’re most of the way there.

  • avatar

    $19,000 for this POS? I’ll take a used BMW 3-series over a new Kia any day. Considering depreciation, insurance and registration the total per-mile cost of driving a used BMW vs. a new Kia over 3 – 5 years would be about the same. The driving experience, however, would not.


  • avatar

    Truth be known, I am a mazda guy.

    So, if the Forte is around 14,500.
    The mazda3 at 15,700 and with a free loving /reving 2.0 and much more standard and top rated.
    Why buy this?

  • avatar

    twotone and paulie have good points. $19,000 for this Kia is outrageous.

    People in these comments love to blast Ford for apparently over pricing the Taurus but somehow Hyundai/Kia gets away with the exact same thing.

  • avatar

    That interior looks very very very grey.

  • avatar

    19000 msrp?


    so, how does this compare to:
    base jetta,
    civic ex,
    mazda 3, etc…

    if these are leaving the dealers lots for 19k, there’s something wrong…

  • avatar

    This is the kind of car that should make Detroit and Japan worry. As I have often said, TTACers live in a bubble so to speak. For the vast majority of people out there, this combination of okay looking and performing, decent features, low price KILLS. As the author states, most of it’s faults would go unnoticed by almost anyone but ‘us’.

  • avatar

    twotone and paulie have good points. $19,000 for this Kia is outrageous.

    You get a lot of car for the money. Have a look at the options list of the EX trim, then compare a similarly-optioned Corolla, Civic or 3. It’s actually competitive, for the class.

    Any loaded compact is a dubious value, but that doesn’t stop ethusiasts from supposedly wanting a nicely-trimmed compact car (eg, “Why can’t we get the Euro Focus/Civic/Polo/etc with it’s nicer interior!”. Except that when they’re actually offered, suddenly the refrain is “Why should I buy this when I can get a Camry/Fusion/Impala/Ten-year old 5-Series for just a little more”.

    So what is it? Do we want nice compact cars or don’t we? I know I do: I bought a Fit Sport and loaded it (couldn’t get leather because of the seat gymnastics) despite the fact that I could have afforded an Accord or TSX. I would have bought a Mini Clubman, were it available, or a Mercedes B200 were the dealers not such pricks.

  • avatar

    “You get a lot of car for the money. Have a look at the options list of the EX trim, then compare a similarly-optioned Corolla, Civic or 3. It’s actually competitive, for the class.”

    Competitive, yes, but worth the ‘risk’?

    I for one would test out the forte (if I were in the market), but I would have a very hard time spending 19k on one over a 19k civic or a 19k jetta, or a 19k mazda 3.
    (not to mention a 19k sonota)…

    Also, 19k is actually still a lot of money.

  • avatar

    The EX gets the 5 speed auto if you get the fuel economy package. Also, went on a test drive of the 6-speed manual SX and it was great. Nice car. Then again, I have the Soul and I really like that car over the Subarus and Hondas I’ve owned, so no anti-Kia bias here.

  • avatar

    The Soul will be the car to establish Kia’s place. But the Forte won’t hurt. I especially like the styling, which looks like a Mazdafied Civic to my eyes.

    Too bad the suspension tuning isn’t quite there–a common issue with Korean cars. Ditto the manual shift feel, if other reviews are accurate.

    TrueDelta will have an initial reliability stat for the Soul this month. We’d like to have one as quickly for the Forte–all depends on how soon enough owners sign up.

    Owners of any car can sign up here:

  • avatar

    Competitive, yes, but worth the ‘risk’?

    I for one would test out the forte (if I were in the market), but I would have a very hard time spending 19k on one over a 19k civic or a 19k jetta, or a 19k mazda 3.

    Why? Hyundai/Kia offers good warranty performance and reasonable reliability, all from a company that seems on decent financial footing.

    Other than the Civic, there’s nothing on that list that’s especially reliable next to the Spectra/Elantra/Forte, and you’d be taking far more of a risk on the Jetta.

    (not to mention a 19k sonota)…

    Yes, but that’s a stripped Sonata. The Forte actually comes with much more stuff. I don’t see the point of buying a bigger car on principle** when I can get a smaller one that’s ostensibly nicer.

    ** I can see buying a bigger car if you need it, but there’s not much gain in useful space between a Forte and an Optima or Sonata. You want more space? Buy a Rondo.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven one Kia in my life, a Sportage. It was one of the worst driving vehicles I’ve ever experienced. The first thing I ask when I hear about a Kia is, how was the smell? In the Sportage I had to leave the window wide open in a snowstorm due to the headache inducing fumes coming off the plastics.

  • avatar

    Is $19k US, Canadian, Aussie, or Liberian?

    I’m not dissing the car, it sounds pretty decent, just that the pricing is in very competitive territory.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian, the warranty is not that much better (in Canada) than Ford, GM, or Toyota.

    Here in the Canadian mid-west 2002+ Hyundai models have still shown problems that more established players simply don’t have at 100K and less.

    If you are planning to keep a car for longer than 5 years and plan on doing work on it yourself I see Hyundai/Kia as a risk.

  • avatar

    The name of the band is “Suicidal Tendencies” – plural.

    Nice review!

  • avatar


    the 19k sonata (including rebates) is actually equipped fairly nice (for a regular, run of the mill car). no, it won’t have a sun roof, 17 inch alloys or bluetooth, but it has all the safety equipment the forte has and arguably a stronger chassis…

    As for the Kia forte vs. others of the same size and price:
    it all comes down to perception, which may or may not be rooted in reality.
    For example:
    The Kia has ABS and stability control. Do you have any reason to believe that they’d work better or worse than those in the 3 or the jetta/rabbit?
    I don’t know. But my perception tells me that I’ll trust the systems from the [more] established companies to perform when I need them to. (please keep the electrical jokes for VW aside)…
    Thus – as a consumer, the kia forte needs a bigger carrot (ie – smaller price) to lure the consumer away from the established companies.

    The 19k Forte doesn’t do it for me (even with all the fancy extras…)

  • avatar

    Nice car, koreans are in the right path, but a Corolla is a Corolla, and has a much better resale value, granted with quality and reliability.

  • avatar

    if you were looking at a loaded Mazda3 with all the options would be priced near enough to 24k – for my money and I’m sorry to repeat myself is the 2.4 SX with the stick judging from Kia’s website.

  • avatar

    A Civic/Corolla clone at a what will be a lower price after the crazy incentives Hyundai runs. Kia really knows what they’re doing. You gotta hand it to them, they’ve done what GM was trying to do for years and couldn’t–build a car pretty much as good as the Japanese but beat them on price and value.

  • avatar

    1. This STINKS of CIVIC. Only this.. MIGHT actually have a better interior. Doesnt have the hatch to compete against VW and Mazda 3 hatch.

    2. Jehovah Johnson, I dont think Accord has been the sales leader for the midsized class.. in AT LEAST a dozen years and the 7th gen Accord is the last good looking sedan theyve built with the Accord badge. Too bad, the current one is such a fat ass.

    3. Jehovah Johnson, I’m just poed that ya had to pick up a primer coat / silver Forte. Me.. I think the interior has a lot of possibilities. Then again, I think most of the interior was picked up from the Grand Am (God-Am)

    4. Civic loses in the fact that they blew their collective load on the info in front of the driver’s eyes. The rest of the interior.. is just a loss, that and they dont have a hatch.

    5. elloh7: You pegged it solid. Civic in every way.. but the rear.

    6. psarhjinian: I completely understand how to compare european designed cars and them coming into the U.S. I also wouldnt look at the next step up as the price difference in size. But how you go from, “Camry/Fusion/Impala/Ten-year old 5-Series for just a little more” is beyond me. Camry and Accord are large cars now, staring at 300 / 500 / Taurus, not Fusion. Impala is a direct competitor to its stable mate the Malibu.. and yet you think a 10yr old 5 series from is competitive!?!

    How do ya go from 22g for a loaded Jetta and comparable euroFocus.. to “that same money” into a Camry / Fusion… and into a 5 series. The two are two totally different lineages.

  • avatar

    How do ya go from 22g for a loaded Jetta and comparable euroFocus.. to “that same money” into a Camry / Fusion… and into a 5 series. The two are two totally different lineages.

    That was my point. Whenever we review a small car, the complaints go one of two ways:
    1. People lament the lack of niceties in basic North American small cars, pining for higher-trim models.
    2. If we do review a high-trim small car, people complain about how it’s not worth the money next to a larger car of the same MSRP.

    That’s what I have trouble with: it’s a hypocritical statement. Supposedly we want small car with lots of amenities, but when we actually get such a car, we whine incessantly about how it’s more expensive than either the next car larger, or a used luxury car. Read a review of the Honda Fit Sport and listen to the people whinging about how it costs more than a base Civic.

    It’s like people who say they want small, light cars like we used to get. When we review small, light cars that we can buy today, they’re panned as being cheap, cramped, tinny and feature-sparse. Again, what we say we want and what we actually buy are two different things.

    So which is it? Do we want nice small cars or not? Because it sounds like we’re a culture of “Buy by the Pound”, I’m thinking that we truly don’t.

  • avatar

    if you were looking at a loaded Mazda3 with all the options would be priced near enough to 24k – for my money and I’m sorry to repeat myself is the 2.4 SX with the stick judging from Kia’s website.

    You are pricing a grand touring model 5 door which has the bigger motor.. They didn’t price the top of the line Kia at $18,000. My sister just bought two mazda 3s They both were the touring model with the smaller (but still peppy) 2.0. The last one didn’t have the moon roof but had everything else pretty much and stickered at 19,200. 200 was for the special white paint so any other color it would have been just 19,000 She paid 17,200 for it or 17,000 could have bought it without the white paint. No way i could buy a Kia when i can get a mazda 3 at that price.

  • avatar

    17,200 for “special” white paint… on a 4dr Mazda 3, and you’d rather put THAT money into a cheaper Forte?! I guess its all what you want and how you drive. The regular sedans look boring and cheap.

    I believe the Forte goes against a Civic and Corolla as a standard 4dr economical car… with no real power. (Even Si lacks here (not sporty / powerful ENOUGH), and XRS is pointless and under/over-rated.)

    The Mazda 3 can be had with a turbo and 5 doors (SPEED3) for a bit over 25g. It in fact goes against STI, GTI and EVO. So the bones are there as a sportier car with plenty of CHHHHutspa. It also has a 2.5 for the upper models… and a sportier design.

    I just cant see spendng ANY significant money at Kia / Hyun reguardless of how cheap or expensive / free gas or blanket warranty they give out..

  • avatar

    The last one didn’t have the moon roof but had everything else pretty much and stickered at 19,200

    To be fair about it, a Mazda 3 Touring that stickers at $19,200 is missing ~$2000 worth of options that come with a Forte EX at the same sticker price: leather (which isn’t available at all on the 3 Touring), moonroof, and Sirius radio.

  • avatar

    Priced out on CarsDirect, a Kia Optima (with the currently attached rebate) is only $210 more than the Forte in exactly the same trim level with the same equipment. I didn’t even add the moonroof.

    Hmm. Tough sell.

  • avatar

    Forte will have a large rebate later in the year. It gets better mileage than the Kia Spectre it replaces. Forte is excellent value for the money. Kia will crank up the rebates until it sells. As low cost producer, they can do this. If it sells at a higher price, they will leave the price higher. They will lower the price as necessary to meet their production goals, and still make a profit.
    Kia Soul is another winner. I would select the Soul with the smaller engine, base vehicle with stick, air and stability control is around 14K. Then they will add a few thousand in rebates later this year. No one else can match this deal. Korean cars are now world champs in value. Sorry Toyonda, your days in the sun are past.

  • avatar

    Forte has a torsion beam rear suspension.

    Civic has a multilink rear suspension.

    Which is better?

  • avatar

    Kia is supose to start building cars in North America next year. So when they do then Ill look at them but I will not send my hard earned money oversees. No wonder we are in a depression everyone buying offshore they sould be ashamed, One guy said one cay when ford or gm start selling for cheaper he will start buying well he is unemployed today cause the car plant that was just down the road from his store he served booze at closed down and with no GM guys coming in well you get the picture.

  • avatar

    I hate to break it to ya..

    But American cars are the cheapest POS on the road.

    The Koreans only bait ya with a shitty warranty and copies of the Accord and Civic.

  • avatar

    torsion beam usually gives you more trunk space
    A manual transmission is available in all trim levels of the Forte
    Accords- you missed something in Matt51s post, Kia is a low cost producer, meaning when they give you discounts and rebates, they still make money.

  • avatar

    Since Canadians don’t get same ten year warranty as our neighbors to the South, I’ll say what the phone makers name says – NOKIA !

    • 0 avatar

      well.. even Kia’s home country people in South Korea don’t get the same warrant as U.S does. I think it’s because Hyundai/Kia think that the U.S market is most crucial.

  • avatar

    Just one question:

    “Thanks to a well-sorted suspension …”

    “The Forte’s suspension tuning needs some, perhaps any, refinement.

    Which is it? Is the suspension well-sorted or in need of refinement?

  • avatar

    @ pariah — What it sounds like is that the suspension’s relatively sporty handling has come at the expense of the ability to deal adroitly with bumps in the road. Which has been a frequent problem with both Korean and American cars, especially small ones…you get either cloud-mobile or constant jitters and jiggles.

    In absolute terms, that tends to be the problem with MacPherson strut/torsion beam layouts. You can make them handle well, but at the expense of making them awfully stiff. Realistically, it comes down to how well the springs and particularly the damping are tuned, and how well matched they are each other and to the tires. For example, adding stiffer, stickier tires or stiffer springs to a car with relatively soft suspension will often lead to irritatingly jiggly ride quality — you get shorter, higher-frequency wheel movements, which the soggy shocks are ill-equipped to damp effectively.

    Kia has never been particularly good at suspension tuning; the last Spectra was an abomination, and the ‘sport suspension’ made it worse. They need to hire Lotus to re-tune the suspension. Proton and Isuzu both found that Lotus could do wonders with unpromising components through proper selection of shocks, springs, and bushing stiffness.

  • avatar

    Oh come on Matt all cars on the road today are poo. It really goes by what colour and smell you prefer. I just like to open my front door take a big wiff and smell North American crap. From what I see on the side of the 401 (Highway of Heros)here in Ontario they all break down. And you must admit the offshore cars cost a bit more to repair or if they get into a small crash they are writeoffs.

  • avatar


    Excellent response. The Forte base MSRP is $13695, so the value comparisons should start from there. $19k is pretty-well loaded up with bloat.

    I’ve only sat in the Forte; I’d really like to drive one. At this point I’d strongly consider getting one someday.

  • avatar

    So this car is almost as much as a new Optima, rides far worse, is smaller, has a less sophisticated interior, and is bland in about four languages?

    I don’t get Kia’s strategy here. My intuition tells me this will be no killer app against the Civics, Mazda3s, VW Golfs/Jettas or even Corollas (or even Elantras/Spectras?) of this world.

    Oh wait, the Forte has that cool commercial with the rock band playing and that talks about the music “technology” this car oozes.

    Okay, okay. It should be a smashing success among the brainless 16 to 19 year old demographic.

    Depreciation on this car is going to be a mofo.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    An impressive review that gave me a good idea of how it feels to drive the car.

    “But the Kia’s overall shape could have been penned by a European Ford stylist; it reminds me strongly of the Ford Mondeo and VW Jetta.”

    You’re pretty close. Peter Schreyer, a German who designed various Audis, styled the Forte. Bauhaus is his shtick.

  • avatar

    s.cummings –

    I have no problem with people who want to buy North American. Just looks like the Koreans are going to being kicking some North American and Japanese ass.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @puppyknuckles :
    The name of the band is “Suicidal Tendencies” – plural.

    …and the name of their 1988 album pretty much sums up the condition of a large portion of the car industry.

    Very good album, BTW.

  • avatar

    Mondeo.. has those georgous swept back headlights, dual chrome grill and awesome maw. Its also a good size larger C/ D v B/C. The Mondeo is also available in (I believe) the sedan, a hatch and or a wagon. It also could be in competition against in-house competition Taurus / Fusion.

    Jetta at least has some nicely styled lines… and a decent, more finished interior. Plus it comes in about 2 variations (sedan / wagon) with its frame being the whore that it is.. underpinning a huge variation of vehicles.

    But this..
    From the 3/4 view.. it screams G6. The front pass window as it dips into the side mirror.. is SCREAMING G6. Not to mention the cheap shit plastic caps on the tires, that matches the black frame and molding of the doors..

    And the front.. is screaming CIVIC.

    I’m sure Peter Schreyer had intentions of styling it fantastically.. but I dont see it.

    Take the stylist who did the 500 from VW.. with the Passat, that I can see.


  • avatar

    “Kia Soul is another winner. I would select the Soul with the smaller engine, base vehicle with stick, air and stability control is around 14K. Then they will add a few thousand in rebates later this year. No one else can match this deal. Korean cars are now world champs in value. Sorry Toyonda, your days in the sun are past.”

    Yea, but what about the several hundred dollars it cost to replace the timing belt at 60,000 miles?
    The Soul doesn’t have the world engine that has a timing chain, and Kia says the belt must be replaced at 60,000 and it isn’t covered under warranty. Gosh ,that kind of takes away some of the bargain it seems to me. I’m sure if Ford had that on their engine that wouldn’t have slipped by you Matt.

  • avatar


    I change my own belts. Not only that, timing chains should be changed occasionally too. No, it did not slip by me. I would by a Soul or a Forte over any Honda or Toyota – better value for my money. I am not going to buy a Focus. I did buy a Mustang.

  • avatar


    Your “best value for the money” is domestic. Ya CANT BUY a car cheaper than that..

    And the H and T would have some residual value in 2yrs, 5yrs, 10yrs.. and some reputation after 15yrs.

    And need I remind you..
    That while every Accord Ive ever had has had to have a belt job at 100k… its always been about 4-500. But then again.. whats why people dump the cars.. cause “its not worth putting in 4-500 for a belt job” thats why some people buy the cars at that point.. that price shouldn’t be a obstacle for getting a solid car.

    There is a huge difference (in my opinion) against the Mazda 3 and the Forte. Mazda is sportier.. and with a hatch. Forte.. is just a cheap 4dr.

    And just for kicks..
    What grade pleather are ya getting in the Mazda v the Kia?

  • avatar

    This car DOES have a substantial price advantage against similarly equpiied competitors.

    A comparably equipped Mazda 3, for example, comes in at over $21,000 without the leather seats featured on the Kia. Horsepower and other features are very similar.

    This sounds like a decent little car for the bucks, as long as Kia’s reliability is there…any word on that, Mr. Karesh?

  • avatar

    t might sound dumb downed, but one of the things I like about the Kia’s is their option trim / level simplicity.

    Unlike other makes or models, simply buying an EX gives you literally everything / option you’d want, unless pink leather with a non-tinted sunroof is on your dream list. They are just easy to buy, stock and resell that way. No pouring over a sales order form and the myriad of option codes.

  • avatar

    The Mazda 3 with touring and high quality 6cd player and sunroof comes in at about $20,500. It doesn’t have leather which i dont care for anyway and it doesn’t have heated outside mirrors… although they are power not heated. That isn’t the hatch because the hatch is only available with the bigger motor. Best i can tell the forte comes in at $19,000 and my sis got 2,000 off their mazda…so to make my point ,if mazda is discounting and kia isn’t then u could end up around the same price out the door, or maybe even the mazda a little cheaper. And no way in hell is the kia half the car the mazda is. Unless the kia was at least 2,500 cheaper on actual buying price would i consider it. Never said i wouldn’t own a kia…just said not for the same price as a much superior car like the mazda 3. I am looking forward to seeing the 2 door forte Koup as i think they are sharp.

  • avatar

    Accords :
    August 5th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Your “best value for the money” is domestic. Ya CANT BUY a car cheaper than that..

    Keep in mind that depends on HOW you’re buying the car. If you’re doing a regular finance deal, or paying cash, then, yes, domestics will have better pricing.

    But if you’re leasing, any of the Japanese brands will be a far better buy.

  • avatar


    “Budae jjigae” – mmmm….

  • avatar

    What’s better than a Kia Forte or a used 3-series? The 2003 Jetta GLI VR6/6-spd manual I just picked up for $9500 with 61,000 on the clock. The car is mint and I love it!!!

  • avatar

    With Honda and Toyota fast becoming the new Ford and GM respectively, this car is the new Corolla/Civic. Korea is the new Japanese.

  • avatar

    What’s better than a Kia Forte or a used 3-series? The 2003 Jetta GLI VR6/6-spd manual I just picked up for $9500 with 61,000 on the clock. The car is mint and I love it!!!

    My 3-series had a $750 break job and three window regulators replaced at $250 a pop during last tweleve months. At least on a BMW you don’;t have to replace the same parts again unlike VW. Wait till VW hits dealership for service for anything from MAF, coils,electricals etc. Your mechanic will love your mint!!!

  • avatar

    Whoa, a 7 year-old VW for $10k?! That might be a bit much even if I did want a project car (and electrical problem brain teaser) to fix every weekend. I thought the only reason to get any VW was a diesel hatch that runs on WVO…

    Something nice about the Forte is that it has four wheel disc brakes. And I think it’s well overdue that the Asians asked for a European stylist! These guys are definitely headed in the right direction…

  • avatar

    KBB value is about $10,500. If you haven’t driven a Mark IV VW with the 24v VR6 I can understand the confusion. Most people write it off as just another Jetta which makes it the perfect sleeper car for me.

  • avatar

    wow, not even worthy of stars…was I the
    only one who noted the omission?

  • avatar

    I like the looks. I’ll have to drive one someday.

    I had to listen to How Will I Laugh Tomorrow after reading this review. It’s been awhile!

  • avatar

    the fact that the EX model was reviewed is skewing the Forte’s price advantage over Mazda 3, Corolla and Civic, it’s about $2k less at MSRP for comparable trim/equip and is just being introduced as a 2010 model meaning the substantial rebates haven’t started yet

    I’ll definitely test drive one as after extensive online research it’s price competitive by virtue of the lower MSRP and more fully featured. The 10yr/100k powertrain warranty and 5/60 bumper to bumper are also distinct advantages.

    My take may be the difference between someone who is an actual potential buyer vs. commenting on the subject.

    $19k is the most you could spend on a Forte at MSRP, in a few months $15-16k should buy the midline model fully equipped.

    As much as I like the Mazda 3 I can’t stand the cartoon car grill on the new one. I think the Forte is a stylish economy car and KIA will do well with it.

  • avatar

    Wow. Some people get really worked up over compact cars.

    I’m looking for a compact car to get rid of my 10-year old Chevy Blazer. To be honest, I don’t want a compact car, but I need something cheap, reliable, inexpensive, and has some decent features. So far I’m looking at the Civic EX, Corolla LE, and the Forte SX. I was looking at the Jettas and Mazada3s, but they get low scores on reliability and don’t resale that great. Plus, my family has bought VWs, and well, I’m not that impressed. I don’t have much experience with Mazdas, but from what I’ve heard/read the Mazda3 is the only worth a damn. Still, they seemed cheap(er) to me.

    Having been to about 20 dealerships in the past few days; researching like crazy for a compact car; and being an analyst, I’ve come to a few conclusions: 1) Corollas are really boring, 2) Civics are mostly boring, and 3) the Forte is pretty boring.

    After dealer incentives and the CARS program, the Corolla will be the cheapest though. Kia doesn’t have any cash incentives that I know of for the Forte, but it has similar/lower prices than both before incentives. The Honda guy said he’d knock a grand off the 20K-plus price of the Civic EX. Basically, the Civic is going for 19K+-.

    I don’t care for these compact cars, but so far, I’ve enjoyed the Forte the most. It actually made me think “this isn’t so bad”. Granted I was right next to an Acura dealership, so it was all in perspective.

    The Forte was priced better than I think its receiving credit for. Not only that, it had lots of great features. I live in Central Texas which is hilly, so I need a car with more “pep”. Having driven an ’08 Civic extensively in the area, it’s very disappointing going up a hill. I suppose the Corolla would be on par. The Forte bests both with 20-50HP more. Not only that, it was roomier inside. Also, the MPG was competitive for a stronger car.

    My family told me to check into Kia because “they are cheap”, but I was surprised with what I have found in person and via my research. When my sister suggested Kia, I was like, “Why would I waste my money on that piece of crap company?” Now I might say, “I might waste my money on that car”.

    I know the Forte won’t hold it’s resale like a Honda or a Toyota, but I saw a projection stating the Forte will lack the Civic by 11% and the Corolla only by 3% in 3 or 5 years – can’t remember. I know that’s not great, but it’s not bad. My perception of Kia before this adventure was pretty negative to say the least. Now I’m thinking they’re pretty good for the price.

    Bottom line, the Forte is getting GREAT reviews. I’ve read ad naseum on these compacts. The Forte is looking more and more like a winner. I think people are apprehensive because of the Kia tag – and rightfully so – but in this compact newbies experience, it looks OK.

  • avatar

    You are no doubt pricing 09 Civics and Corollas which depending on your intended length of ownership may or may not have an effect on the resale value vs. the Forte being a 2010 model.

    If you intend to keep the vehicle for around a 10 year timeframe like your current one I would think you’d want to factor in the cost of Honda and Toyota extended service plans which would match the Forte’s standard warranty for an accurate comparison.

    You, like me have actually priced these vehicles and compared their features/options/warranties and know firsthand the differences.

    In my opinion the Forte is a fully competitive product on all fronts and bests the others in terms of warranty and horsepower. The standard Bluetooth is unavailable on the Civic or Corolla and while some may dismiss that feature it’s useful to me and an example of how class competitive the Forte really is.

    Like I said earlier, I think KIA will do very well with the Forte.

  • avatar

    Kia does offer a five-speed automatic in the Kia Forte EX. It’s part of the $600 Fuel Economy Package, which increase fuel economy to an EPA rating of 27/36 mpg.

    The fuel economy package looks like it comes with a bunch of goodies, which should improve the handling, fuel economy, and feel of the car. According to Kia, the fuel economy package comes with “Fuel Economy Package
    Includes 5-speed automatic transmission, Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS), smart alternator, low-rolling-resistance silica tires and aerodynamic enhancements.” Not bad for a $600 package.

    I hope TTAC does a review on the EX with the Fuel Economy package to compare how it is to the four-speed auto version in terms of smoothness, acceleration, fuel economy, and handling.

  • avatar

    As a side note..

    Type in on your browser.. and you can clearly see that the Honda Civic for 2010 now has Bluetooth as standard equipment. They are quite up-to-date in technology. Check out that black box thats been shoved into the dash…

    My problem with the Civic… is the options and features that a Mazda 3 hatch has, complete with the integration of the Nav unit.. just easily trumps.

    Not to mention..
    Mazda also has the same features on the sedan..

    The motor on the Civic is (as I believe) only a 2ltr, while the Mazda has either a 2.0 or a 2.5.

    I personally think the Mazda has more features, plus should be MUCH more FUN to drive. Variation in vehicle design (hatch / sedan for Mazda v sedan or coupe), along with a standard 2ltr motor or a 2.5, ntm a sportier look puts the Mazda out in front.

    On the whole..
    The Corolla has been the same design for wayy too long. Its actually makes me sick because of how boring and lame it is. I’m also po’ed that they spent so much time working the body out, to release the car late.. yet it looks like shit (almost a total copy of the last gen).

    The Civic at least has a current body, different from the last. Both cars are equally safe and the manual in the Civic TIES (34hwy / 27 city) the Forte for fuel economy.

    If I actually bought the Mazda 3 hatch my fuel might actually go down a step.. because of its design. However.. its very possible to wring every ounce of fuel out of the car. Ive gotten 500mi on a single tank of gas.. so being stingy is also possible.

    And If I didn’t have the Mazda 3 hatch as a choice for a compact (knowing that the midsize cars.. ARENT MIDSIZED). I would really be COMPLETELY LIMITED. — Probably just buy the Civic.. even though its not what I want at all.

    To look at this segment of vehicle B / C segment.. and we really dont have much to choose from. Everything is on the market isnt awe inspiring and most buy this class for price alone.

  • avatar

    Check out the mazda sedan and i think u will be pleasantly surprised at its power. The person who thought the mazda looked cheap better take a closer look .The biggest praise from the editors of car magazines is that the interior is high quality and looks like a more expensive car then it is. That cartoonish front end has really grown on me and now i think the older models have a boring front end on them. As i have mentioned before my sister has bought two 2010 mazda 4 doors and i am really impressed by them. I looked at the forte when it came out on the lot and i think the mazda beats it hands down. More expensive yes…but sometimes u get what u pay for. Drive the mazda 3 before u make ur decision is all i am saying. Make sure u price the mazda3 4 door itouring model.

  • avatar

    I like the Mazda 3 touring sedan but just can’t get used to the new front end. I think it’s a great choice in this segment.

    Comparing the Mazda hatchback with the larger engine to me isn’t a valid comparison as neither the price or the mpg is even close to the 5spd auto fuel saver Forte. You’re talking about mid teens vs. low 20’s and at least 8mpg lower.

    And yes, people do buy cars in this segment because of price. If price wasn’t the main consideration the segment wouldn’t exist.

  • avatar


    I hate to break it to ya… but the US market for many vehicles, compacts, mid-sizers (large fat asses), d/e class and or wagons.. (forget the obese and pointless SUV/CUV market) generally suck.

    Its limited in dozens of ways. The most competitive sedans, wagons, hatches, superminis and ground pounders arent here. Ya got crap like the Camry, that only sells in that design in Canada and the U.S. Whereas other markets get more variation and a sportier tuned chassis, (because they want more competitive cars).

    Even its arch nemesis the Accord, is larger in the U.S, Australia and Canada, and is featured with a smaller design (TSX), a hatch / wagon and or a diesel in other markets. Heck, it even COMPETES with the BMW 3 series, as a company car.

    Even the COROLLA that is sold all over the world, with about a DOZEN factories pumping out the little bastard, had multiple designs just based on its frame, with a slew of motors 1.4L, 1.5L I4, 1.6L I4, 1.8L I4, 1.8L I4, 2.0L I4, 2.4L I4, 1.4L I4 diesel. Yes, the lowly Corolla only shows THAT pathetic face and the Vibe / Matrix hatch for the U.S.

    If ya really want to get VERY price conscience. We haven’t even touched on the Scion tC, Xb and or xD. All with interesting 5dr designs, with similar 1.8 / 2ltr motors, all also fully customizable. (Like the xD that gets comparable mileage out of a 1.8ltr.) The company Scion (a youth marketed brand of Toyota). Its unique in the way you can add stuff onto the vehicle.There is also the Golf or Rabbit from VW. There is also the SX4 as a hatch or a sedan with a base price of 13g.

    The Mini Cooper (albiet a bit pricey for what ya get) is a shining example of a compact that could DEFINITELY be fun to drive.

    The market alone wasn’t “created” based on price. Turns out its possible to enjoy driving a car that’s under 3000lbs.

    There are dozens of other cars to look at in Europe of this size and power for this class that are more fun to drive with decent if not better fuel economy than even the smallest and runts of the U.S marketed litter.

    To reiterate..
    Every segment superminis a/b, compacts b/c, mid-sizers c/d, luxo cars d/e have people and cars in every class designed for their sole purpose, price.

    DO NOT LIMIT yourself based on price ALONE.

    There are plenty albeit limited choices of vehicles to drive in the b/c segment.

    Ya also seem to forget, that Hyundai / Kia have spent a coupla hundred billion telling the world that ya paying too much for a Honda / Toyota. And that there are other choices to make. Not to mention their whole angle is price, and price and their blanket warranty alone, trying to undercut everyone on price alone.

    I’m sorry but buying on price.. doesn’t get ya a whole lot. Ya have a better chance of driving a good car if price isn’t a main consideration.

    Point is..
    If the best cars in the market aren’t sold here..

    Then don’t settle for vehicles that are only sold on price. A warranty doesn’t sell a car, not a good car anyway. And ya don’t BUY a warranty. Ya buy a solid car.

    And just like hundreds of thousands of millions of domestic auto buyers in the U.S.. the DEAL is what makes it, not the car. And for them the car has no merit, just its price. And for them the U.S market is the only market they know. Cheap, gutless and not world class.

    However, there are better vehicles to check out.. than a Forte.

  • avatar

    My point was that a superior car like the mazda3 can be bought about the same price as the forte. If they are selling the forte at sticker and u get a dealer to discount the mazda3 like my sister did, then u have a superior car for the same money. I would at least price out and drive a mazda before i went blindly into the forte dealership thinking i was getting the best deal going.

  • avatar

    LOL, if price wasn’t the main consideration I’d be picking up my new Bentley Continental tomorrow.

    What I’m saying is the entire segment exists for price reasons. I don’t agree that all segments exist for price reasons, expensive cars exist for status, luxury and/or performance, not price.

    I’ve not yet driven a Forte but will. I have driven the Mazda 3 and think it is actually the best choice but I don’t like the restyling.

    What I said previously was that comparably equipped the Forte is less than the Mazda 3 and has a much better warranty and with the fuel saver package considerably better mpg. I am using MSRP as a reference point, not saying that is the sales price.

    My overriding point is the Forte’s price is skewed because the most expensive model was tested.

    The fact that the best cars in this segment are unavailable here doesn’t make much difference, if you can’t buy it it’s not a consideration.

  • avatar


    I completely disagree with you. The compact b/c segment wasn’t “created” based on price. It was created to buy a smaller car with many of the same features of the large vehicles. It was true in the 70s and early 80s in the U.S, that a small car b/c segment was only purchased cause its cheap.

    But in this day and age, you could technically compare cars all over the globe, especially Europe and find that its possible to get the same features in a smaller car, with better fuel economy with little price difference.

    BMW and MB don’t have the stuckup attitude in Germany that they do in the U.S. They are treated like Chevy is in the U.S. Its possible to have a A or B class vehicle (starting in the 14,000lbs price range). Its also possible to have a 1 series or 3 series vehicle, in hatch / conv or sedan start in the high 20s for the 1, and the low 30s for the 3, and reach into the 50s and higher, for various options. Those same options found in larger cars.


    “”The fact that the best cars in this segment are unavailable here doesn’t make much difference, if you can’t buy it it’s not a consideration.””

    Actually its quite the opposite. That concept.. is known simply as SUPPLY and DEMAND.

    If ya looking at the Kia Forte SOLELY based on price then the good stuff will never GET here. Buyers of the FORTE will buy it because of the price, will have no clue on how much better their car could be, BECAUSE PRICE.. is the only decider.

    As I’ve said before..
    Ya don’t BUY a warranty or fuel-saver package. Ya buy a solid car.. with a good reputation, from a stable company, with good resale, reliable AND NOT A FIRST YR CAR!

    There are hundreds of thousands of millions of domestic car buyers.. who would only look at GM/ Ford/ Fiatsler if they offered a good deal. So basically, the car has NO MERIT, but price alone, which is ONE HUGE reason why they are in the trouble they are in, because.. they cant sell a car.. BASED ON ITS MERIT. As LUTZ often says.. ITS THE PRODUCT STUPID.

    Ive heard from hundreds of people that they wont even buy (Toyota / Honda / Nissan) because they don’t offer enough discounts. Hate to tell ya.. but buying a car solely / majorly based on price, and on how much of a discount ya can get no matter the class.. is a really POOR way of buying a vehicle. I’d get insulted if a car I was buying had high rebates (over $700). (Rebates from 700-6000g) tells ya the car cant move on its own, isn’t valuable to the market, to its company, to the dealership, isn’t respected as a whole or a half decent competitor in the U.S market.. and that cash on the hood has to help it.

    Remember the ads that Chrysler was doing to double the price of the C.A.R.S rebates? Remember the ads Chrysler was doing to give away gas cards for a year.. if ya buy Durangos / Aspens and Commanders, etc etc etc.

    Pretty damn shitty way to buy a (one of the largest purchases a person can make, besides a house) car. But ya buy what ya want.. plenty of shit out in the ocean. Pretty bad to ignore any merit of the car and go for the price alone or as a major player.

    And as I’ve said before..
    There are plenty of other choices on the market than a Forte. And if this is the most expensive, I hate to find out what the cheapest is like.

    But I’m sure you’d want a DEAL on the Bentley, along with free maintenance (tires, oil, belts and such, detailing) for a coupla years. And when someone asks how much ya paid.. all you’d probably say is how much of a deal ya got. Then again, ya wouldnt even remember.. WHICH Bentley ya actually bought.

  • avatar

    I drive about 3k miles per year and that’s not a typo, 3,000/yr. I have a budget which dictates how much I can spend on a vehicle which is why I’m interested in the vehicles I am. I do buy a vehicle based on price (so long as I like the car) as do most car buyers with the exception of luxury/expensive car buyers. I spent 30 years selling over 7,000 cars to individual buyers and know for a fact the monthly payment is the primary consideration for all but upper line car buyers and I sold all price categories except ultra expensive.

    Your take is both cerebral and unrepresentative of about 99.99% of the buyers of cars in this segment.

    Were I able to purchase a more expensive vehicle I probably would. In the meantime back in my real world the mpg and warranty do make a difference to me. I may not purchase a Forte as I may not like it after driving it but at this point it is high on my list because it has received very good reviews and I have read many. Its’ warranty and price make it even more attractive. In the real world of car buying those are the reasons people buy cars, especially in this segment.

  • avatar

    Pretty damn shitty way to buy a (one of the largest purchases a person can make, besides a house) car. But ya buy what ya want.. plenty of shit out in the ocean. Pretty bad to ignore any merit of the car and go for the price alone or as a major player.

    I completely agree. This weekend, I became a convert…

    I drive nearly 40,000 miles a year. This weekend, I bought my first new car in nearly a decade, a Honda Fit Sport AT. Traditionally, I’ve stuck to 1 or 2 year old domestics (because they are dirt cheap), racked up 80000 miles, and then moved on. I never held on to one longer because I became bored with the car, or because I just wasn’t “in love” enough to want to hold on to it forever.

    This car purchase was made for pleasure, and to get way more for a tired Grand Caravan than we ever normally would (i.e. C4C).

    I should also note it’s the first Honda I’ve ever bought. In the past, I came close. I nearly bought a 96 Civic but purchased a Sunfire GT instead, due to it’s cooler look (I was in my 20’s and not very bright) and more comfortable seats. I lived to regret that decision. The Sunfire looked cool, the Twin Cam engine(ie Quad 4 with balance shafts)was ok, but the rest of it was cheap. The steering and overall handling was awful. Was it worth the money? No.

    5 years later I tried to buy another Civic, this time a 4-door, but was persuaded by my (now) ex-wife to roll with a new Hyundai Elantra GT. She like the pseudo SAAB look, with the VW purple lights, and the leather, and moonroof, and the warranty and on and on. She put over 120k on that car and still owns it. The Elantra never let her down, but it is beginning to rust like crazy. Was it worth the money? I’d say “yes.” But there was never a “fall in love” moment with the car. It was a bag full of “stuff,” but none of that “stuff” was knock you over good.

    This time around, because I was buying new and didn’t want a big depreciation hit, I pretty much ignored the domestics. I did look at the Kia’s and the Hyundais. They were less money with a better warranty. But the overall feel of the cars and the product offerings in and of themselves (i.e. what I really wanted, an efficient, fun, reliable, useful hatchback/wagon), just didn’t compare.

    My point is this: I finally bought my Honda.

    And I’m smitten.

    Granted, this FIT is a pleasure car for me. But every time I get behind the wheel, I realize why I should have bought those other Hondas. The engineering, the attention to details, the performance is out of this world. On Sunday, I drove the car over 840 miles and averaged 45.7 mpg. It now has over 1100 miles on it, and still has an average of 44.4 mpg. The telepathic, right now steering makes me smile from ear to ear (I also have a Miata and an 88 Fiero, so I’m no stranger to responsive handling) as does the do-anything utility.

    IMHO no other car comes close (for my needs).

    For the sake of our economy, I hope some domestic small car offering does trump the offerings from Toyota, Honda, et al. I hope our domestic makers sweat the details and scrape together the resources (tax dollars?) to offer a truly competitive small car. But I look at the Caliber, and the Cobalt, and the current Focus, and I shake my head. At best, there is no sweating of details, no passion, at worst, they are complete shit boxes.

    The Koreans are close. Very close. When they can make a car that instills passion, draws it out and makes it stay over the long haul (they will), watch out. Everyone.

  • avatar

    Congrats on the Fit, good choice, but why AT and not MT?

  • avatar


    I am so very happy ya got a good car.
    I also drive 35+k a yr. I put 35k on a 100k Accord in 3yrs. 138mi a day.. ave spd 75mph.

    The Koreans.. still push the value.

    As Ive said for the longest time.. and believe COMPLETELY, ya don’t buy a car because of the REBATES or WARRANTY.

    This is why GM is in the shit they are, cause their customers buy whatever they have to offer, and as CHEAP as they can sell it.

    Everyone has a budget and last I checked.. there are some 350mil / billion people in the U.S and I am sure some under 20% portion would buy a car based on price, IN ANY SEGMENT.

    Don’t want an Accord.. buy a Malibu for 5g off.
    Don’t want a Malibu.. but the Impala for 7g off.
    Don’t want either.. buy a Chrysler Aspen / Durango with no resale with free gas.

    Ya want a minivan..
    Dont buy a T/C, buy the VW version for 5g off, cause its a cheap gutless POS that VW made a BAD bet on!

    Want an SUV..
    GM has MILLION of Tahoes and Suburbans all over the U.S, waiting to be sold.. with plenty of cash on the hood.

    If ya smart..
    Used cars are and can be a good deal. If ya get the right car, of the right year.

    I can sell ya my ’92 Accord with 231k, all it needs is a new rear main seal. Id rather drive that than the domestic shit and the Korean mess.

  • avatar

    @Roadscholar – Chicago traffic….

  • avatar

    Nice looking car – the 2 door ‘Koup’ (as they’re calling it) doesn’t look too bad either.
    I’m thinking that all Kia needs to do now to establish themselves as a ‘serious’ car maker in the eyes of petrolheads is hand over a ‘Koup’ to a tuning house who will give it a bit more oomph and maybe some sportier handling.
    A low priced hot-hatch that looks that good? I’d buy one.

  • avatar

    Why do American designers now do their best work for foreign carmakers.

  • avatar

    I can answer that extremely easily.

    They know what NOT to do.

    Oh yeah..
    I tested a Mazda 3 5dr at a local shop.. which also sold Kias, (right next door..).

    (And besides the fact that the Mazda looks like hot shit on the road.. and the primer coat Forte has / had as much visual appeal as month old tuna..)

    Im definitely buying the Mazda.. 5dr hatch, 2.5ltr motor, tan interior, with either the red or light blue color

  • avatar

    I’m sad to see that even Kia is going with the plain boring Toyota Corolla look with it’s compact sedan. Even a Jetta has this same bottom wrung look and it is getting increasingly difficult telling these cars apart, especially from the side. Honda at least was able to make the Civic look semi interesting and the Focus stands apart too.

  • avatar

    Having tested basically every car in its class I bought this one, and not just because of price:

    – It has plenty of room for rear-facing infant seats in the back (a big consideration for young families and where several compacts fell short)
    – There’s plenty of headroom in the front (I’m not excessively tall, but my head was scrunched against the roof in the Mazda 3 and even the Corolla felt a bit claustrophobic)
    – Stability control is standard on the EX model; most other compacts (including the Civic) you have to upgrade to the high-end model.
    – Driving and handling were very similar to the Civic and Corolla.
    – Kia’s reliability ratings are decent (ranked 4th in the data I saw, behind Honda, Toyota and Mazda)
    – Fuel economy is among the best in the class.
    – The total cost was about $4000 less than I would’ve ended up paying for a Civic or Corolla (the Mazda wasn’t an option due to the low head clearance).

    Overall I think it’s a good small car for families, and I’m happy with mine so far.

  • avatar

    $19,000 for a new Hyundai Sonata? Is that Canadian, Australian or New Zealand dollars?

    In May, my wife and I paid $14,700 US for a brand new Sonata GLS 4 cylinder automatic with the power seat/upgraded interior option, with Bluetooth and XM radio.

    This was over 30% off MSRP. It was about 35% less than the Camry or Accord, and is at least 95% of those cars in every way – plus it has a longer warrantee (and more importantly, a decent local dealer who’ll back up the warrantee).

  • avatar

    Forte EX vs. Mazda3i ; Civic LX , Corrolla LE
    2.0 I4………… 2.0…………1.8…………..1.8
    156 hp………..148 hp……140 hp……..132 hp
    144 torque….135……….128………….128
    26/34 mpg…..25/33……25/36……….26/34
    Design: Uhm…. ?
    Resale: ?……….ok…………great………..very good

    What’s your choice?

  • avatar

    I test drove the Forte EX several days ago and am going to buy one. Quite simply the car is completely competitive with any vehicle in this class and costs less with a better warranty. The only clear cut advantage Honda and Toyota still have is resale value which is not relevant if you plan to keep the vehicle over 5 years.

    KIA has an absolute winner in this vehicle IMO and I’m voting with my wallet.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many flamers on this thread have ACTUALLY DRIVEN a new Kia model, or ACTUALLY LOOKED AT the MSRP on a given trim model between the Kia Forte and the Mazda3. I have driven both and am here to tell you that post-renaissance Kia automobiles are very nearly, if not as, well built and finished as most of their japanese and american competitors.

    A base Mazda3 will run you $16,045. A base Kia Forte will cost you only $13,695. If you do the math that is about a $2,300 difference (and I know some people cling to the absurd pseudo-logic that good warranties mean NOTHING in the car-buying process, but the when both cars break down after 5 years and 50,000 miles, only ONE of them will be covered at the dealer, and it isn’t the Mazda3). At those base trims a Kia Forte puts out MORE horsepower and produces MORE torque (156/148 and 144/138 respectively). The Kia Forte will get more MPG (25/34 compared to 25/33). Neither car offers A/C standard at the base model, but the Forte at least offers it as an option. The Kia Forte offers BlueTooth connectivity and a fuel economy computer standard, whereas the Mazda3 doesn’t even offer BlueTooth as an option on its SV trim. But for all the Mazda fan-boys, the three DOES offer power windows on its base trim whereas the Forte does not. For all its other shortcomings though, thats an awful trade-off, if you ask me.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want the beefier engines (2.4L for the Forte, 2.5L for the Mazda3), Mazda’s offering will cost you $19,970, while Kia’s Forte (which AGAIN outdoes the Mazda in power comparisons) will run about $17,495 (that’s about $2,500 difference, by the way). The Kia also outdoes the Mazda in the fuel economy category with the bigger engines. For your money, both give you a 6-speaker audio system with mp3 capabilities, power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, BlueTooth capabilities, telescoping steering wheels, advanced gauges with trip computers, leather wrapped steering wheels, sport seats, fancy side mirrors (although the Forte’s are heated), and 17 inch alloy wheels. While the features included at these upper trim levels might make the upper trim levels a bit more competitive, when you consider the options that you can have installed on your Forte with the 2500 bucks you saved over the Mazda, the end result isn’t really even a fair fight.

    The Kia is a better value, hands-down. And while some readers may prefer to buy their theoretical cars in a fantasy world where they have all the money they want to purchase new cars or maintain used ones, the rest of us looking for a well-equipped reliable car for under 20k will be giving definite consideration to the work being done in South Korea.

  • avatar

    Bought the Kia Forte EX three weeks ago. Selected it after eliminating Sentra, Civic, Corolla, Focus and others as boring. Tested Jetta and Mazda3, which both had good features and value. But, the fuel economy package on the Forte EX delivers 36 highway and that puts it in a league by itself under 18,000. The 2.9 percent financing was a bonus too. My wife found that she could adjust the seating to her comfort (5 feet tall) and at 6 feet tall, I can also find comfort. Not possible with some of the others. Five years of coverage in warranty seals the deal. The Kia cars have arrived. (Daughter test drove the Rondo today.)

  • avatar


    Hate to bust ya bubble…

    But if ya buy a car because of the value ya get / rebate on the hood / warranty they give ya..

    Then ya buying a car for the totally wrong reasons.

    Hate to tell ya..
    But ya can buy an extended warranty from any stealership, for almost the same charges that Kia / Hyun charge ya. Also I hate to tell ya, but the warranty that they give ya.. there is a price to that too.

    Ive heard about they tell you when things should be changed.. even tho they could go MUCH longer.

    But then again.. ya dont buy a Hyun / Kia to think for yaself or to actually know whats going on under the hood.

    As for as the Civic v Corolla.. Civic is the better looking car (my preference) although the Corolla is offered in the hatch (Vibe / Matrix) where as Civic is offered in Coupe and sedan models.. all with a sport package to enjoy the driving experience.

    As for the base price of either cars tested.. and going for the cheapest… well that’s your preference.

    Im not going to get into a massive US trade discussion and how much it costs to make a car… in any of the millions of parts of the world..

    But cheapest.. ISNT BEST.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    I saw a Kia Forte at a gas station and thought for several seconds I was looking at a Honda Civic. I had hoped that Hyundai/Kia were over their need to copy the styles of better cars, but apparently, they aren’t.

  • avatar

    I own the Forte Koup.  Test drove the Civicand the  Mazda 3. The Kia has more standard features, a better warranty and was more fun to drive. The Corolla is so boring … the mazda could win ugly car of the year. A friend of mine just bought a Forte sedan for less than 12K (w/ bluetooth, stability contol,abs, etc..).  The value cant be beat.

  • avatar

    I test drove a Forte yesterday. It was sunny, but it wasn’t too hot. It rained 3 hours before. When the salesman pulled out the car from the lot, he had to turn the AC all the way up because it was pretty hot inside. I sat in, it was still hot. I put my hands over the vent but it didn’t feel cold. After the test drive, it wasn’t hot anymore, but I didn’t feel cold either. It is only May, I wonder what it will be like in August. Is the AC just really weak? How about heat?

  • avatar
    Forte SX Owner

    I bought my Forte SX almost a year ago and still love it. Someone on this forum mentioned that they would prefer a used BMW 3-series. That’s comparing apples to oranges. Let’s stick with just apples…
    the Forte SX (manual 6-speed) is fun, peppy, sporty and has A TON of features. I love to drive and have thoroughly enjoyed this car. If you choose manual, the clutch IS difficult. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad, but after almost a year, I still stall it occasionally. A minor inconvenience for everything else I get with the car. Also, suspension is a bit rough – you definitely feel the bumps in the road – but, I’m a roller coaster kind of person, so actually kind of like that :)
    Fuel economy is good, handling is good, features are great and price tag is perfect.
    I am a car lover – but also a realist. Would I love a 3-series? Yup. But, let’s talk about what I can afford…
    And to compare apples to apples, this car has more than any others in the same price range, so why not?

  • avatar

    What you guys are largely overlooking is Kia’s SUPERIOR warranty.  Let’s see… I can have a PAID FOR Kia with 5/60 bumper-bumper warranty and 10/100 powertrain warranty OR that used BMW (insert number here)-series with no warranty.

    Don’t even get me started on Ford, GM, Toyota, and Honda warranties that are SUBSTANDARD.  3/36?  Give me a break.  Payments last five years.  Basic warranty should last at least that long.

    I’ve test drive the Forte EX and SX, and will probably end up with an EX in my garage tomorrow night.  Going to a Sonata or Optima isn’t even an option, as they do not offer the bang for the buck.  The Sonata came close… but this year’s new redesign is more expensive that I recall last year’s models cost.  Not worried about depreciation… I keep cars 9 years.

    As far as domestics go…  My 2001 Impala needed a very expensive ($1200) intake manifold replacement at 100,000 miles.  First transmission replaced at 37,000 miles.  Catalytic converter, left/front hub, and tie rod ends at 41,000 miles.  3 intermediate steering shafts.  Transmission problems again at 105,000 miles that went away after a few days.  Coolant issues and coolant sensor issues beginning at 45,000 miles.  Left/front hub assembly going bad again at 112,500 miles.  The best day of my life when she hit 113,500 miles and I sold her.  Won’t buy another GM, ever, and won’t consider Ford until they man up and provide better warranty coverage from the factory.

    Good on Hyundai and Kia.  I’m looking forward to that new dark cherry Forte EX, with leather and some other options, being in my garage tomorrow night.  About $16,500 including current incentives.  As much luxury as the $25,000 Impala the car replaces, although it will take some time to learn to live without that 3.8L Buick V-6.

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