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First Look: 2010 Kia Forte

Bringing a new look, a new name, new powertrain choices and a new level of comfort and safety features, the 2010 Kia Forte sedan will go on sale this summer as a replacement for the Spectra. Like its predecessor, the front-drive Forte is available in LX, EX and SX trims. The LX and EX are fitted with a 156-horsepower/2.0-liter four that can be matched with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission while the 173-horse/2.4 liter in the sportier SX offers a choice of a six-speed manual or a five-speed autoshifter with Sportmatic mode. In addition to their impressive output, the Forte’s engines make impressive mileage. The 2.0 returns 25/34 mpg city/highway numbers while the 2.4 nets 22/32 mpg with the manual and 23/31 mpg with the automatic. Kia also is offering the EX 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 a class-leading 30-mpg combined.

Beyond roomy cabins and a spacious 14.7 cu ft trunk, each member of the Forte family boasts a bounty of standard features. Even the $14,390 LX comes with AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with three months of SIRIUS Satellite Radio, USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth, six-way driver's seat and a tilt steering column in addition to a comprehensive array of safety items headed by Electronic Stability and Traction Controls, anti-lock disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, whiplash-arresting active front headrests, and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags. The $16,490 EX adds items like air conditioning, power windows/locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, steering-wheel audio/cruise buttons, an upgraded speaker system and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Moving up to the $17,890 SX expands the menu, adding unique interior fabrics, leather/metal-finish trim accents, a trick Supervision instrument cluster, telescoping steering column and swapping 195/65 tires on 15-inch steel wheels for 215/45 shoes on 17-inch alloys. While the prime LX upgrade is a Convenience Package that includes both air conditioning and the 60/40 rear seat, EX and SX buyers can select option packages that bring leather upholstery/heated seats and sunroofs. The sedan will be joined by a two-door Kia Forte Koup later this summer, and probably a Forte5 Sportwagon sometime after that.

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