2010 Kia ForteEnlarge Photo
The basics: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 156 hp; 173-hp, 2.4-liter four in the sportier SX
Price: $13,695 and up
Fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual and automatic) to 22/32 mpg (SX manual) to 23/31 mpg (SX automatic)
Rating: 8.4 out of 10
The ghost of Kia's past has been neatly exorcised with the 2010 Forte, a pleasant sedan with clean lines, a very high-quality interior, and a huge trunk--plus good road manners and fuel economy.
TheCarConnection.com's editors like the new Kia Forte's simple, elegant exterior shape (the Koup version actually loses points for less tidy proportions, and for spelling), but it's truly impressive inside. Like the 2010 Kia Soul that shares its platform, the new Forte has an amazingly detailed cabin that looks suitable for a $20,000 base price. The Forte actually starts almost $1,800 less than its competitors and offers up much more usable space, particularly in the back seat. Then there's safety gear--anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and six airbags are standard on every Forte, not just the plusher versions. Throw in a massive, wide-mouthed trunk and the Forte is what the tech world would call a "disruptive" entry in the class. The audio system has iPod controls and Bluetooth is standard.
The Forte has a few downsides, less serious than those in the Focus. The manual gearbox has awkward clutch-shifter coordination points, and feels clunky. The steering feel should be great, since it's hydraulic--the kind we're all used to--but it's not as sharp or responsive as it could be, though some upscale tires might help its demeanor. Lastly, the steering column on LX and EX models doesn't telescope. That's pretty nitpicky, even by modern standards. In all, the 2010 Kia Forte scores an 8.4 out of 10 from TheCarConnection.com, with high scores in styling, safety and features.
Our Bottom Line? The 2010 Kia Forte is a strong contender in every way—a surprisingly good-looking, enjoyable-to-drive car that will hold the budget down.