Overview

2014 Kia ForteBy James Hamel

Overview (Graded Score after Eight Categories: C+)

This comprehensive review of the truly exemplary 2014 Kia Forte sedan (it was totally redesigned for this model year) also marks the start of not only a clearer number based ratings system at iSeeCars.com but also marks the start of a 12 compact sedan review by review comparison test. At the end of reviewing all twelve models we will then publish a list of who was first and who most certainly was not.

As for the number based rating system it will go from one (the lowest score) to ten (the highest) in each review category and, no, there will be no additional percentage point scores like 6.4. This is not the Olympics and we are not the judges from some recently independent Eastern Block Nation. Even we are not that picky and to us a cup holder design can make or break an interior.

Included in the 12 will be the 2014 Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Subaru Impreza, Ford Focus, Dodge Dart, Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra and, well, that's pretty much everyone. Yes, that's a lot of compact cars but this model class is not only huge from a sales volume perspective but also is one of the most fiercely competitive in the auto industry. So if you are a car shopper looking at a compact sedan take comfort that we are taking this endeavor very seriously so you make the best choice for you.

As one last side note, not only are cars like the Forte vital for people on a car buying budget but they also represent the advances smaller cars have made in this country due to many people choosing to "downsize" their next new car purchase. So while 8 years ago that Explorer seemed like a perfectly good commuter right now many want an affordable, fuel efficient, reliable yet still feature packed and fun to drive compact car. So, how did the latest Kia Forte fare during its weeklong stay with us? Read on to find out.

What We Loved about the 2014 Kia Forte


  • The Exterior Styling is a Big Improvement and it Looks Like an Expensive Car

  • The Layout, Design and Execution of the interior is truly class leading

  • The 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed auto proved to be quick and efficient


What We Didn't Love about the 2014 Kia Forte

  • We think electric blue should be outlawed as a car color but that's just us

  • The Forte can get very, very pricey when you tack on all the appealing extras

  • Brakes were a bit grabby and prone to some fade in LA traffic


Exterior View (Score: 8 of 10)

At first we thought that the electric blue paint adorning our test Forte was a little bit overpowering for our corneas but with time, the strength and undeniably

Happy face

chunkiness of the Forte's new lines are handsome in any color. Very few cars can pull that off; much less a color that we thought was outlawed for use on cars in 1987.

Interior Comfort, Quality and Overall Ease of Use (9 out of 10)

Compared to the last generation Forte, the interior of the new Forte is akin to a Cadillac compared to a Pinto. Okay, that's an exaggeration but especially when equipped with the rich feeling leather the entirety of the cabin is one of upscale luxury. The fact that there are more upscale features than you can shake a stick at doesn't hurt. Our tester had heated front seats, rear seats, a heated steering wheel, an air conditioned driver's seat, a moonroof, in-dash navigation with a huge and easily decipherable screen, dual zone climate control and the list goes on forever. The side mirrors even fold to the side when you lock the car and as you approach they come out as some sort of odd welcome.

Materials choice is excellent and those who like to stroke soft touch plastics will love the dashboard as they ride to their next psychiatrist's appointment. Also, the beauty of all the technology in the Forte is how easy all of it is to use. The navigator is so idiot proof it is borderline ridiculous, the climate controls have no unnecessary fussiness and it is quite simply the kind of car anyone can get in for the first time and immediately feel comfortable.

We also liked the many storage spots and cubby holes as well as one small thing that we have found makes a car so much more livable on long road trips. The center console lid not only slides forward and back but also can be adjusted for height so it works as an armrest for anyone of any size. Prior to this we only saw this in VW products and thank you Kia for this feature. We love it.

IMG_1476

Technology (10 out of 10)

On Kia's website they call the Forte "the car for people who love technology" and they truly are not lying since most every conceivable gadget and gizmo is available somewhere in the line-up. The optional in-dash navigation features a large hi-resolution screen, not only are the front seats heated but so is the back bench and the steering wheel which is something no competitor offers. Kia also goes one step further by featuring a cooled and ventilated driver's seat for those hot and muggy summer months.

Kia's UVO telematics system developed with Microsoft is terrific so connecting Bluetooth is just a two-step process taking all of perhaps 10 to 15 seconds. The stereo will either connect to your iPod via the USB port or you can just use the remarkably clear Bluetooth system to stream music from your MP3 player. There is also a CD player for those of you out there who think an MP3 was the name of the robot character in "Star Wars."

 Fuel Economy (8 out of 10)

The 2014 Kia Forte EX we drove boasted EPA fuel economy estimates of 24 city/36 highway and in our hands over the course of seven days filled with drives back and forth to the Los Angeles Auto Show we averaged a pretty stead 29 miles per gallon. So any concerns about "real" Kia fuel economy as opposed to what is claimed should be sensibly quashed by that quite impressive result.

Predicted Reliability (8 out of 10)

As the 2014 Kia Forte is an all-new model, long term reliability statistics are unknown but if the last version is any guide then it should have average to above average reliability when compared to class competitors according to Consumer Reports. J.D. Power and Associates has, however, done an initial quality survey for the latest Forte (first 90 days of ownership) and they ranked it 4 out of five stars overall. Adding to peace of mind should be Kia's excellent 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Safety (5 out of 10)

We were quite pleased to see that the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) named the 2014 Kia Forte a "Top Safety Pick" for this model year until we also

Trunk is enormous.

noticed why it did not quality as a "Top Safety Pick Plus" vehicle (currently the 2014 Civic and Mazda3 are the only compact sedan competitors to have this designation) as the Forte did not receive a "Good" or "Moderate" score in the very tough small front overlap impact crash test.

In this test the IIHS takes a rigid barrier meant to mimic an object like a pole or tree and it impacts with just 25 percent of the vehicle's front end which often times allows the front crumple zones to not do their jobs effectively. Disturbingly, this year the all-new Forte got the lowest score of "Poor" in this new test meaning it wasn't even close to getting a "Top Safety Pick Plus" rating.

It so happens that these kinds of accidents are the most deadly for drivers and if you want more information regarding how this test works go to iihs.org.

Performance (7 out of 10)

Now the 2014 Kia Forte is not exactly the sport sedan of the compact class but from and ride and refinement perspective it is one of the most comfortable making it an exemplary choice as a daily commuter. The 2.0 liter 173 horsepower/154 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder that comes standard on EX models is a smooth operator up until you get near the top of the redline and the 6-speed automatic really does make the best of this engine's powerband.

Not only is Kia's 6-speed automatic impressively smooth and refined, we also want to do a Lady GaGa and give them a round of "Applause" for sticking to this type of gearbox instead of installing an annoying CVT (continuously variable transmission) just to add a couple of miles per gallon to their EPA ratings. Clearly their six-speed automatic helps the car return very good real world fuel economy numbers so although the Forte may not have the magic 40 miles per gallon highway number it is one of the more enjoyable compact cars to drive on the market as a result of this excellent powertrain.

Technology (10 out of 10)The Forte also features Kia's new Flex-Steer Driver Selectable Adjust system which lets you choose between three levels of boost for the power steering. We pretty much left it in the sportiest mode as it gave up the most feel even if it felt a tad artificial. Go for the most boost if your last car was a 1984 Buick Century. No matter, we appreciate Kia giving drivers the choice.

Overall, with each successive new car Kia gets closer and closer to perfecting the driving experience in its vehicles. With a bit more attention paid to adding a sportier feel to the handling and steering there is very little we think that could hold the Forte back from being a class leader. We are quite sure Kia can do it but if comfort is of utmost importance to you, the Kia Forte is the perfect choice.

Pricing and Value for Money (8 out of 10)

The 2014 Kia Forte starts out in LX trim at just $15,900 and yes that does include a steering wheel and tires as standard. We are kidding, even the LX models feature Bluetooth, a decent audio system, USB/iPod integration, power windows, door locks, air conditioning and comes with a 1.8 liter 148 horsepower/131 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder. At least in the LX where the 2.0 liter engine is unavailable Kia has made a 6-speed manual gearbox optional.

We tested an EX model which started at $19,400 and added higher quality interior plastics, more interior storage spaces, the UVO telematics system with center screen and back-up camera display, Sirus/XM radio, LED headlamps, power folding side mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear disc brakes as well as a standard 6-speed automatic mated to a direct injected 2.0 liter 178 horsepower/154 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine. An owner would be very happy with a Forte so equipped.

Our tester added 17-inch alloys for $300, a $2,600 Premium Package which included a sunroof, leather seats, power driver's seat with memory, push button starting; heated rear seats and front seats, a ventilated driver's seat, a heated steering wheel and anything you need apparently to survive a Snowpocalypse. Lastly Kia included the $2,300 Technology Package which gave us dual zone climate control, navigation, Xenon headlamps, LED tail lamps and HD radio. All told, our total came to $24,715.

"The Final Score" and the Competition ( 63 out of 80)

We were surprised by how much we truly enjoyed our week in the Forte and we were sad to see our little electric blue tester go. It is refined, has plenty of power for IMG_1440most, is efficient and it offers more gadgets and gizmos than you can shake a stick at. Who are its main competitors? Well, the Mazda3 offers more value and features for the value plus it simply dominates the class as a driver's car. The Honda Civic is always a stalwart in the class, its steering and handling is undeniably excellent but its new CVT can be annoying.

We know that not everyone loves driving like we do but frankly we would love to see a turbocharged version of the Forte sedan available with a manual gearbox. If Kia did that, tweaked the suspension on that performance model and took the time to reinforce its front crumple zone structure this sedan could easily be unstoppable. And if you think it is far-fetched that Kia could improve its safety score, Honda did a redesign of its safety cell for the 2013 Civic's model year and although it added 125 pounds to the car it is the only reason it has the "Top Safety Pick Plus" designation.

Pricing and Value for Money (8 out of 10)

The 2014 Kia Forte starts out in LX trim at just $15,900 and yes that does include a steering wheel and tires as standard. We are kidding, even the LX models feature Bluetooth, a decent audio system, USB/iPod integration, power windows, door locks, air conditioning and comes with a 1.8 liter 148 horsepower/131 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder. At least in the LX where the 2.0 liter engine is unavailable Kia has made a 6-speed manual gearbox optional.

We tested an EX model which started at $19,400 and added higher quality interior plastics, more interior storage spaces, the UVO telematics system with center screen and back-up camera display, Sirus/XM radio, LED headlamps, power folding side mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear disc brakes as well as a standard 6-speed automatic mated to a direct injected 2.0 liter 178 horsepower/154 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine. An owner would be very happy with a Forte so equipped.

Our tester added 17-inch alloys for $300, a $2,600 Premium Package which included a sunroof, leather seats, power driver's seat with memory, push button starting; heated rear seats and front seats, a ventilated driver's seat, a heated steering wheel and anything you need apparently to survive a Snowpocalypse. Lastly Kia included the $2,300 Technology Package which gave us dual zone climate control, navigation, Xenon headlamps, LED tail lamps and HD radio. All told, our total came to $24,715.

IMG_1502

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sedan - FWD
LX 4dr Sedan Man LX 4 Cylinder FWD 15900
LX 4dr Sedan Auto LX 4 Cylinder FWD 17500
EX 4dr Sedan Auto EX 4 Cylinder FWD 19500

Comparison of 2014 Kia Forte with Similar Cars

2014 Kia Forte MSRP Invoice
2014 Kia Forte $15,900 $15,599
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2014 Toyota Corolla $16,800 $15,876 2014 Kia Forte VS 2014 Toyota Corolla
2014 Nissan Sentra $15,990 $15,590 2014 Kia Forte VS 2014 Nissan Sentra
2014 Hyundai Elantra $17,200 $16,687 2014 Kia Forte VS 2014 Hyundai Elantra
2014 Ford Focus $16,810 $15,843 2014 Kia Forte VS 2014 Ford Focus
2014 Chevrolet Cruze $17,520 $16,907 2014 Kia Forte VS 2014 Chevrolet Cruze

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2014 Kia Forte ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2014 Kia Forte rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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