Kia Motors America introduced the all-new 2010 Kia Forte (pronounced for-tay) compact sedan at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show. The 2010 Kia Forte will go on sale in North America in late spring or early summer of 2009.
At first glance, the new Forte appears to be a bit Civic-like, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. At least it's not Corolla-like. With its swept-back headlamps and a sleek--if not standardized--profile, Forte doesn't stray too far from the sporty econobox formula. We can just see the Forte SX, with its 17-inch alloy wheels and rear spoiler loitering on a late night in a parking lot next to the Honda Civic Si. Although, the Kia would probably be debadged.
The Forte's independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and torsion beam rear suspension with struts and coil springs are sport tuned, which means that it probably handles like a Corolla XRS. But with 173 horsepower from its 2.4-liter engine (at the SX trim level) the Forte has more power. Maybe future models of the Forte will benefit from some of that Kia-Lotus love we've been hearing so much about, but enough workbench racing.
The more plebian Forte LX and EX trim levels feature a more docile 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, producing 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque and featuring Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) and multi-port electronic fuel injection.
Two transmission options are offered for the 2010 Forte: a standard five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission (LX and EX models). The SX model features a standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional five-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic (whatever that means).
In the cabin, we have a nice list of standard features, including Sirius Satellite Radio capabilities with three months complimentary service, an auxiliary audio input jack and USB port for connecting MP3 players, and standard Bluetooth hands-free. No word yet on navigation options.
Interestingly, Kia is offering an optional Fuel Economy Package for LX and EX Fortes, which will include the five-speed automatic transmission, Motor Drive Power Steering, and low-rolling resistance tires with aero enhancements. Altogether these modifications are said to boost the fuel economy to 36 highway mpg.
Looking only at the photos and the numbers, my first impression of the Kia Forte is a good one. It's a handsome car that says all of the right things. If history is an indicator, it'll also probably be much cheaper than the competition from Honda, Toyota, and Mazda.
But there's more to a vehicle than just numbers and looks, so we'll delay judgment until we get a Forte (hopefully an SX) in the CNET garage.