The Forte four-door sedan supplants its Spectra model and does so in fine fashion. New for 2010, Kias compact entry offers plenty of content. All models, from the base to the sportier SX, arrive on dealer lots with all-wheel ABS-equipped disc brakes, stability control, Bluetooth hands-free phone (on the steering wheel), satellite radio and CD-equipped audio with auxiliary, iPod and USB jacks.
The SX model, reviewed here in Corsa blue, is the sportiest of the Forte lineup and has the largest engine in the model range, an all-aluminum 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder mill with 173 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 168 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. Kia offers either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission on the SX; our Forte featured the former, which has direct and short throws, grand gearing and good clutch uptake.
Sporting and firm suspension on the Forte SX is by MacPherson struts with coil springs and a stabilizer bar up front and by torsion beams with coil springs and gas-filled shocks at the rear. Steering is rack & pinion with hydraulic power assist, resulting in a luscious turning circle of 35.4 feet and 2.77 turns lock-to-lock, very quick and precise indeed. The up-market Forte SX model sports Goodyear P215/45R tires mounted on elegant 17-inch twinned five-spoke alloy rims.
Kia pays great attention to safety with its small, four-door sedan as it includes the ABS discs with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. Electronic stability and traction controls are standard, as are front, side and full-length head curtain airbags. Active front headrests and tire pressure monitoring system help continue a listing of passive safety items.
With its taut bodylines, the 2010 Kia Forte SX stands 178.3 inches long, 69.9 inches wide, and 57.5 inches tall on a 104.3-inch wheelbase. It weighs a delectable 2853 pounds and feels lithe and agile at every turn. While there is some body roll to this sedan, its not obtrusive at all.
There is more brightwork at the front of the Forte than the rear, with a chrome-look surround to the black mesh air intake on a posted hood that leads to a strong shoulder line carrying to the rear and accenting the beltline. Turn signals are integrated into the mirrors. Front fog lamps below the set-in headlights create an integrated appearance. The upswept and tall rear trunklid leads to splayed tail lamps and a single, large exhaust with a nice throaty sound. The lines are crisp and detailed; seams are straight and well spaced throughout.
The SX model Kia Forte has black gauges with white letters and red numbers. The 140-mph speedometer is bathed in a red glow day and night and there is no temperature gauge. That information is available through the trip computer, accessed through the trip button on the dash below the gauge cluster. Rubber-tipped aluminum pedals aid foot adhesion and windows are one-touch, albeit in down position only.
Sport seats have very good lateral and lumbar support and are height adjustable through manual levers. The leather-covered and tactile steering wheel tilts and telescopes; the shift knob also has leather covering. Steering wheel controls include those for audio on the left; cruise (a very good system) on the right and phone controls below.