Compact four-door sedans represent a growing portion of the overall car market in the U.S., and Kia is determined to stay competitive.
So just five years after the last generation, today it took the wraps off an all-new 2014 Kia Forte sedan--which will go on sale by March of next year.
The new Forte compact is longer, lower, and wider, with fully 2 inches more in the wheelbase, expanding interior room.
It also offers two engines--one for fuel efficiency, one for more power--and a host of new standard and optional features.
The new shape of the Forte, created by Kia's design studio in Southern California, appears more similar to the Hyundai Elantra whose platform it shares than was the previous generation.
Both the windshield and the rear window are steeply raked, and strongly sculpted accent lines on the body sides stress the horizontal aspects of the shape.
The new 2014 Kia Forte comes in two basic trim levels: the base LX and the high-end EX, each with its own engine.
Both models now use electric power steering, for better efficiency as compared to the current model's hydraulic power steering system.
Kia offers an unusual steering option that may reflect the Forte's aspirations to European sport sedan performance: a Flex Steer feature varies the steering effort required by letting the driver choose from Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes using a button right on the steering wheel.
The Forte LX is fitted with a 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speed automatic transmission optional. It has 15-inch wheels as standard, and offers 16-inch alloy wheels as an option.
All Fortes, including the LX, have air-conditioning, satellite radio (with three months' free trial service), heated outside mirrors, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel as standard.
An Eco Package to improve fuel efficiency for urban drivers adds Kia's ISG (Idle Stop & Go) start-stop system, which turns off the engine as the Forte comes to a stop, restarting it as the driver's foot lifts off the brake. That package also wraps in dual-zone automatic temperature control that's otherwise an option on the higher-level EX.
Then there's the aptly-named Popular Package, which adds to the LX keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels, a sliding front armrest, and cruise control.
The Forte EX upgrades to a 173-hp, 2.0-liter four that is paired with the six-speed automatic only. Its standard wheels are 16-inch alloys, and differently styled 17-inch alloys are optional.
Standard equipment on the EX includes remote keyless entry, a cooled glovebox, a rear-view backup camera, and Kia's UVO connectivity and infotainment system.
An optional Premium Package adds leather trim on the seats, the larger 17-inch alloy wheels, pushbutton start, a power sunroof, and heated seats--both front and rear--that includea 10-way power adjustable driver's seat.
Finally, a Technology package for the EX adds high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, LED tail lights, dual-zone automatic temperature control with ventilated rear seats, and a 4.2-inch color screen between the instruments.
The new 2014 Kia Forte will compete against several of the most long-established compact sedans--Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta--plus newcomers that include the Chevy Cruze, the Dodge Dart, and last year's revamped Subaru Impreza.
Kia hasn't released either pricing or fuel-economy ratings, but since the 2014 Forte will go on sale early next year, both should be released within several weeks.