Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 Kia Forte SX Hatchback: A Sporty, Fun-To-Drive Compact

Highlights: Kia is the sister brand to Hyundai. These days Kia is pitching itself as a performance-oriented brand, going after the Dodge division., while at the same time filling in for the now defunct Pontiac division.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $23,640 (Base price of starts at $16,895 for EX Trim)

Seating Capacity: 5 occupants

Standard Safety Features: Traction Control, Dual Front Airbags; Front-Seat Mounted Airbags; Side Mounted Airbags; Tire Pressure Monitoring System; and ABS

Standard Equipment: 17-inch wheels; air condition; power windows; power door locks; remote keyless entry; automatic on/off headlights; leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; cloth manually adjustable seats; manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; outside exterior temperature display; front fog lights; and rear-seat center armrest

Standard Audio: 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3; Sirius satellite radio with a 3-month subscription

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Trim Levels:

EX and SX

Bluetooth Compatibility: Yes.

MP3 Capability: Yes.

iPod and USB adaptor: Optional

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder/173-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular Unleaded

Standard Fuel Mileage: 23-city/32-hwy

What’s New: The Forte line up expands this model-year from just offering a sedan and a coupe (Koup) to now adding on a hatchback. With the new addition, Kia's hatchback offers the versatility and room compact buyers are seeking, but in an extremely sporty package, especially when one opts for cool looking SX trim.

Pros: Kia has come a long way over the past few years. Our top-end Kia Forte SX hatchback was equipped with such optional features as (heated front) leather seats, an automatic dimming mirror, a power sunroof, a rear view camera, a navigation system and a push-button starter with a smart key, which allowed us to lock and unlock the exterior doors without the use of a key. A few years ago this would have been unheard for a Kia.

The sporty hatchback we reviewed was not only roomy, but it also handled extremely well since it was outfitted with a specially tuned, Kia-developed suspension adjusted perfectly for responsive handling. The handling was complimented by Kia’s signature red gauges. Furthermore, the black leather seats in our Kia were outlined by red stitching.
Also with the addition of the hatchback to the Forte line, buyers can not only expect additional cargo room when the rear seat is folded down, but an attachable security cargo cover when the rear seats are occupied too.

Cons: Overall, we were really impressed with this high-end, compact hatchback. However, the engine seemed to be a little noisy and the gas mileage was less than desirable, when compared with most of today’s compacts that are achieving upwards of 40-mpg on the highway.

Furthermore, we were surprised that the $23,000 vehicle also lacked a power’s driver seat. Moreover, in bright sunlight, the optional navigation/audio screen fades away, making it extremely difficult to view.
Lastly, a minor gripe of ours is that we didn’t have an opportunity to be seated in a Kia Forte hatchback, with the brand’s new six-speed manual transmission.

The Verdict: It’s rare that a hatchback can be both sporty and fun-to-drive. Kia has managed to accomplish both with the all-new Forte SX hatchback. Not only was it loaded with a number of high-end options, but the vehicle has a warranty that rivals many of the premium priced luxury vehicles. If you haven’t considered a Kia before, this is one worth placing on the shopping list. It’s a good value for the dollar …. even if you opt to drop the high-end options that were on our sports tuned hatchback. The vehicle will be priced right at $20,000.

Competition: Mazda3 hatchback, Toyota Matrix and VW Golf

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