Forte shoppers have a choice of two different engines: a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder in LX and EX models or a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four in the sportier SX. The Forte Koup is only offered in EX or SX trims. LX and EX models have a standard six-speed manual, while SX models get a six-speed manual; newly offered (and not yet experienced by The Car Connection editors at the time of publication is a six-speed automatic transmission, replacing last year's four- and five-speed automatics). With either of the engines, the 2011 Kia Forte delivers a lot more driving satisfaction (and sophistication) than most value-minded buyers will expect. Both engines deliver more than adequate acceleration, and they function just fine with the automatics as they both are flexible yet happiest in the mid-rev ranges. We actually recommend the automatic with the Forte, as it works well with the engine, and clutch-throttle coordination on manual cars was frustrating.
The standard hydraulic power steering in the Forte responds well, and the ride is firm but absorbent—a nice compromise for daily driving. While the setup will be confidence-inspiring for most commuters, it's not at all a sport sedan; the suspension shows an underlying softness when pushed hard, and the standard hydraulic steering in the 2011 Kia Forte is oddly stiff at lower speeds but lighter at higher speeds.