The compact Kia Forte four-door sedan and coupe (known as the “Koup” in Kia-talk) replaced the previous Spectra model line for 2010. Crisply styled and fitted with far more standard equipment, the name change serves to underscore the new and competitive nature of the car. It has to compete with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda Mazda3, among others, in a tough market segment shopped by price-sensitive buyers. With prices starting at an aggressive $13,695, the Kia Forte has received rave reviews and seems likely to achieve it goal of putting Kia on level playing ground with the big boys of the compact-car world.
The Forte four-door sedan and Forte Koup two-door coupe, like the similar Civic models, share little sheet metal. Both are neatly and handsomely styled, elevating Kia from the bland-box lines it so often offered. The standard engine is a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four, used in the base LX and mid-range EX models, whereas the sportier top-line SX model gets a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four. The first two models come standard with a five-speed manual gearbox; a four-speed automatic, now slightly behind the times, is optional. The SX with the bigger engine has a six-speed manual standard, and its optional automatic adds an extra gear, giving it five speeds. All models get Bluetooth pairing, Sirius Satellite Radio, and steering wheel controls with voice activation. The mid-range EX model adds air conditioning and various power accessories; the SX model gets a sportier suspension and flashy alloy 17-inch wheels. The few options include a power sunroof, leather seats, and a Convenience Package that bundles several upgrades into the base LX.
There’s also an uber-efficiency option for the EX trim level: the Fuel Economy Package pairs the better five-speed automatic to the 2.0-liter engine, adding electric power steering, a smart alternator system, tires with low rolling resistance, and some aerodynamic tweaks as well. It pays off in fuel economy of 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, the highest of any Forte model.
The Forte Koup shares the same set of powertrain options as the sedan, but it foregoes the base LX trim level. Comparing the EX models of Koup and sedan, buyers will pay a price premium of roughly $800 for the two-door coupe’s sportier lines, with its base price starting at $16,595. As a result, the coupe offers more standard equipment, including air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a six-speaker USB/aux-in AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite audio system.