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Compared: 2010 Kia Forte Vs. Honda Civic Vs. Ford Focus

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2010 Kia Forte

2010 Kia Forte

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Fuel-sipping sedans are in vogue--and no, we don't mean that glossy magazine with 73 pages of ads for every real article with real words.

Fashionable, sure. And when it comes to compact sedans with a light touch at the gas pumps, a few labels stand out above all the rest. The all-time champion of cheap? The Honda Civic, which has grown from the teensy CVCC-engined hatchback of the 1970s to the adult-sized four-door that dominates other compact sedans on the sales charts. With hybrid and natural-gas-powered versions and a coupe to boot, the Civic is an everyday performer that can even be optioned up to 197-hp Si status.

At the other end of the best-selling spectrum, there's the Ford Focus. Replacing the Escort in 2000, the Focus wowed critics at first, then stumbled as Ford turned its attention to luxury brands and big trucks. The Focus handled well and looked even better, but didn't get a serious rethink until 2008. That reskin of the doddering 8-year-old car turned the swoopy hatchback into a more dowdy sedan and coupe, but still, the Focus has been a solid seller--particularly with the cash-for-clunkers crowd.

Civic, Focus--what about the 2010 Kia Forte, then? It's brand-new, and until now, Kia hasn't exactly carved out a place for itself at the high-rollers table. That's all changed with the new compact four-door and its five-door cousin, the 2010 Kia Soul. With a deft new styling touch, rave-worthy interiors and reasonably inspired handling, the latest Kias are a clear shot at the bow of the likes of the Focus and Civic.

Sound like a Consumer Reports-inspired street fight to you? It sounds like a chance to compare cars to us.

By now you know rates vehicles for styling, performance, safety, comfort and utility, and features. From there, we arrive at an overall score, based on each vehicle's individual merits and on its competitiveness in its class of cars, vans, trucks or SUVs. We also let you compare cars of your choice, side by side, to see how they stack up in our editors' ratings.

We also do our own comparisons based on our experts' hands-on road tests. TCC's editors have driven each of these vehicles in various forms, in locations around the country, to be able to explain the ratings and to help you make your own decision.

Which of these three is best for you? To compare the trio, we've rated the relative vehicle lineups: each of these compact sedans comes with a manual or automatic transmission, offers sedan and coupe body styles, and has a green bent. The Civic comes in Hybrid and natural-gas versions, while both the Forte and Focus top 34 mpg in highway ratings. Ford's set to offer a new Focus with electric power, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a Kia Forte Hybrid in the near future, either.

Compact four-doors inspire diehard loyalty, but among these three contenders, one sedan tops's ratings charts, by a surprisingly slim margin. Of the best-selling compacts and the new arrival, which is the most highly rated by First, the basics:

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Comments (5)
  1. Honda and all other like Toyota are like dum i prefer ford, dodge and all american because they all are no.1 in comfortably and performance

  2. this comparison stinks. the article contain errors, make apple-to-pear comparisons and has a very scewed idea of what matters and what doesnt matter, at least when it comes to car safety.
    take stability control. invented some 15 years ago in germany, it is the most important safety feature since the invention of the safety belt. reducing single-vehicle fatalities with over 30% it saves more life than airbags. the 2010 forte has this feature as standard. at $13.6k, it is by far the cheapest car ever outfitted with this expensive and important feature.
    now as for the ford focus. its beyond me why an author would compare a '10 fore with an '09 focus when the '10 focus is already on the market. anyway the '09 had stability control as an option. the '10 has it as standard. so in an apple-to-apple comparison ford and kia are equals here, although kias vehicle is significantly cheaper.
    finally, regarding the civic, for which the author claims "Safety gear is almost comprehensive--stability control is an option on base models" given the importance of stability control its questionable how a car that doesnt have it as standard can be labeled as "almost comprehensive" but it gets worse. contrary to what is claimed in this comparison, the 2010 civics STILL DOESNT OFFER STABILITY CONTROL EVEN AS AN OPTION on any of the sub 20k trims. honda has to be just about the only manufacturer on the market still denying this critical safety feature, even to a customer willing to pay extra for it. it is beyond me how an otherwise progressive manufacturer like honda can be worst in class in this regard, obviously waiting for the 2013 federal law that requires it as standard.
    anyone who would not be willing to buy a new car without safety belts logically also ought to avoid the civic like the plague, and why not boycott honda all together for this cynisim of theirs.

  3. Statistically, Hondas (and Toyotas for that matter) have a much higher life expectancy than Fords, or Dodge for that matter, and I don't know much about german safety innovations, but I do know how to read a crash test report, for which the Honda Civic performs exceptionally. And it blows my mind that a Kia is even being compared to a Civic and a Focus when the Toyota Corolla is probably the biggest competitor to the Civic or the Focus. So I do, however, have to agree that apples are indeed being compared to pears (among other things).
    And no, there isn't anything fashionable about a Kia.

  4. Akshay must be from south.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with the comment on stability control. But more importantly is the 5 year comprehensive warranty.For a young person or couple buying their first new car, the extra two years are huge and worth enough points to leapfrog it above the Civic.
    And I don't buy that you had to compare the Corolla instead of the Forte. More of the people that read your reviews are looking for new info and not the same info that Corolla has generated for over a decade. Keep up the good work.

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