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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
“Plenty of power for around-town and highway driving”
“Competent powertrain in virtually any day-to-day driving situation”
“Numb steering required too much correction”
Car and Driver
The surprisingly capable 2010 Kia Forte accelerates well, especially when you consider that it's powered by economical four-cylinder engines, but its handling doesn’t lend itself to spirited driving.
Kia will offer two engine choices for the 2010 Kia Forte, which Car and Driver lists as a “156-hp 2.0-liter” for the LX and EX, while the “top-spec SX uses a 2.4-liter that makes 173 hp.” Both engines prove to be quite capable, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com don’t hesitate to recommend either mill. Cars.com reports that the 2.0-liter has “plenty of power for around-town and highway driving—even with four adults onboard,” while Motor Trend finds that the 2.4-liter has enough oomph for “virtually any day-to-day driving situation.” The spirited Kia Forte SX, with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, boasts a 0-to-60 mph time that Motor Trend lists in “the mid 7-second range,” which is very competitive for this class.
Reviewers may love both of the Kia 2010 Forte’s engines, but it’s an entirely different story with the transmissions. Car and Driver states that “four transmissions are on offer, depending on trim and option package,” including standard “five- (LX and EX) or six-speed manuals (SX),” as well as optional four- or five-speed automatics. Edmunds reviewers list the “four-speed automatic’s overly wide gear spacing” as one of the Kia Forte’s three biggest drawbacks, while Cars.com simply says that the “optional four-speed automatic…is a downer.” Although the Kia Forte SX is the most powerful trim level available, the model suffers from a six-speed manual that Car and Driver warns is not “particularly fun…with a vague clutch and notchy shifter.” Edmunds agrees, lamenting the “vague and rubbery” six-speed that results in “an unpleasant driving experience.” Fortunately, the pair of five-speed options (manual and automatic) fare much better with reviewers, while the five-speed automatic is the most widely complimented in the Kia Forte.
Economy cars should offer good fuel economy, and the Kia Forte doesn’t disappoint. Edmunds says “for most [Kia] Forte trim levels, fuel economy is above average for the small car segment.” According to the official EPA estimates, the Kia 2010 Forte should return 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with the 2.0-liter engine and either the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The 2.0-liter can also pair up with an available five-speed automatic that bumps fuel economy up to 27 mpg city and 36 mpg on the highway. For the higher-output 2.4-liter engine, the EPA estimates that the manual will return 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, while the auto gets 23/31.
Kia’s all-new compact sedan is competitive in just about every regard, but some elements of its driving character are decidedly subpar. Beginning with the positive, Motor Trend comments that the Kia Forte’s “suspension feel” is excellent and “strikes a nice balance between comfort and sport feel.” Car and Driver reviewers also notice that “The ride was relatively supple” during their tests, and Edmunds calls it “comfortable enough.” On the downside, Car and Driver says the 2010 Kia Forte is not “something we’d really call sporty,” as “the tires and suspension seemed to give up by midcorner” during their test drives. Edmunds adds that the Kia 2010 Forte’s “handling is uninspiring, even in sport-tuned SX form.” One of the most common complaint generators is the power steering, which Cars.com notes “doesn’t offer adequate feedback.” TheCarConnection.com’s editors also notice that the weighting seems uneven and unnatural, with a stiffer calibration during low-speed parking while a too-light feel at moderate and highway speeds.
The Forte doesn't handle with the verve of some other cars in its class, but it keeps up with the pack in every other way.