By KBB.com Editors
The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are the co-captains of the compact sedan segment. Refined over several decades and many generations, they've been the two best-selling cars in the category for what seems like forever. But today there are more viable alternatives than ever, and one of the very latest is the 2010 Kia Forte. More than a replacement for the Kia Spectra, the stylish and solid Forte represents a giant leap for Kia as an automaker. The lineup started with a sedan, continued with a coupe and should eventually grow to include a wagon.You'll Like This Car If...
If stylish, tech-savvy and affordable are among your key compact car wants, give the 2010 Kia Forte a spot on your short list.You May Not Like This Car If...
Although it has sporty style and class-leading horsepower, the 2010 Kia Forte isn't as engaging as category performance standouts like the MAZDA3 or Mitsubishi Lancer.What's Significant About This Car?
With the introduction of the 2010 Forte, Kia has moved another chess piece across the threshold of style and perceived quality that typically separates a category's successful veterans from its revolving name-changers.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2010 Kia Forte is most impressive on the highway, least impressive when pushed hard and pretty darn good at all points in between. Out on the open road, we've found it to be one of the category's quieter and more comfortable cruisers. On tighter, twistier asphalt, the Forte is quick when pushed and corners confidently, but isn't as fun to drive as competitors like the MAZDA3 or VW Jetta. Even in the more powerful, sport-tuned SX version, the Forte's steering, pedal and shifter feel don't really promote or reward enthusiastic driving. We'd also give up some of the SX's class-leading horsepower for a little more low-end torque and off-the-line response. Around town, the Forte simply drives like the solid little compact sedan it is, with our biggest complaint being a larger-than-average blind spot that can make backing out of parking spaces a bit dicey.Favorite Features
Comprehensive Audio System
Every 2010 Kia Forte boasts a flexible AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat/Aux/USB audio system. When matched with the upgraded speakers, it's among the best sound systems in the segment.
The 2010 Kia Forte features the same great iPod connection point we first loved on the Kia Soul: An open bin, in plain view and within easy reach, with readily accessible power and connection ports.
Stylish sheetmetal isn't enough: To compete with the best compact sedans today you also must have an interior with contemporary style and an absence of overtly cheap materials. The Forte's impressive passenger compartment goes even further than that, adding the roomiest interior in its class (more room than a Nissan Maxima, in fact) and a bigger trunk than the BMW 7 Series. Seat comfort is improving across the Kia line but continues to be a weak point for some folks of various sizes, so you might want to pay attention there.
If you want to play with the big boys, you've got to look the part. Fortunately for Kia, the 2010 Kia Forte is among the most attractive cars in its class. The signature design element is a unique character line that drops down from the side mirror and extends all the way to the rear. We like the Forte's wide, low-profile stance, which adds to the sporty character and helps it stand out in a crowd of ever-taller compact cars. The Forte EX and SX trims sport side mirrors with integrated turn signals - a nice touch - and even the base LX has body-color side mirrors and door handles instead of the black plastic features you'll find on some base-level compact sedans.Notable Standard Equipment
Kia is quick to point out that even the cheapest 2010 Kia Forte includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod integration and an impressive suite of safety equipment including six airbags, electronic stability control and a sophisticated brake system. Don't expect to pay base price, though, if you want power windows, remote keyless entry or air conditioning.Notable Optional Equipment
The 2010 Kia Forte is among the growing number of compact sedans that offers leather seating. Unlike many of its competitors, however, the Forte does not offer a navigation system. Other amenities available for a price include a sunroof, heated seats, cruise control, steering-wheel audio and cruise buttons, upgraded speaker system and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
The front-wheel-drive Forte offers a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can be matched with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The top-line, sport-tuned SX trim features a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four matched with a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic with manual control. The mid-trim EX is also offered with a Fuel Economy Package that includes the five-speed automatic plus Motor Drive Power Steering, a load-managing "smart" alternator, high-silica low-rolling-resistance tires and unique aero enhancements to boost its EPA numbers to 27/36 mpg and deliver class-leading city/highway combined fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon.
2.0-liter in-line 4
156 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
154 horsepower @ 6200 rpm (SULEV)
144 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
138 lb.-ft.of torque @ 4600 rpm (SULEV)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 (5-speed manual, 4-speed auto), 27/36 (5-speed auto)
2.4-liter in-line 4 (Forte SX)
173 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
165 horsepower @ 6000 rpm (SULEV)
168 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
161 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm (SULEV)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (6-speed manual), 23/31 (five-speed auto)
The 2010 Kia Forte Sedan starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of just under $14,500 and tops out around $21,000. We expect our Fair Purchase Prices to reflect real-world selling prices in line with those sticker prices. In a feature-based comparison, the 2010 Kia Forte offers more for the money than many cars in the segment, including the Honda Civic and MAZDA3. Sub-standard resale values have traditionally erased Kia's up-front price advantages, but the Forte's resale outlook is significantly better than that of the Kia Spectra it replaces, making Kia's newest compact sedan its most compelling ever.