The cars we loved.
The Kia Motors has been quietly selling cars in America since 1992 but is actually the oldest Korean car builder. All of Kia’s products in America have been compact to sub compact cars that anchored the lower end of the market with middle of the road design and quality. After being saved from bankruptcy in 1997 by Hyundai, Kia cars in a parallel with Hyundai have been growing in reliability, design distinctiveness and overall value. One of the fruits of this tight relationship is the Forte.
The Forte was inspired by the Kia KOUP, a concept car from 2008. The KOUP featured some impressive specs for a presumed to be affordable car from Kia: 290 hp direct injection turbocharged engine, adaptive lighting, on demand navigation system and panoramic glass roof. Penned in California by a former Audi designer, the first Fortes went on sale as a sedan in Korea as a 2008 model. They were sold in America shortly after being unveiled a year later at the Chicago Auto Show. Around the same time the coupe was shown at the New York Auto Show and is slated to roll into dealerships late in 2009 as a 2010 model.
The US lineup will most likely feature thee trim levels with various option packages. The LX and EX models will come with the standard 2.0 L 4 cylinder with continuous variable valve timing, making around 156 hp and getting as much a s 34 mpg. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard with a 4 –speed automatic optional. The sportier and more desirable model will be the SX, which has a larger 173 hp 2.4 L 4 cylinder mated to a 6-speed manual or optional 5-speed automatic transmission. In a model naming and options convention similar to Honda’s Civic, LX models will come with all the basics, while the EX will add things like air conditioning, power windows and door locks. The three trim levels will be available in cope or sedan. The coupe has a package available on the EX and SX that adds leather seats, trim and interior/exterior chrome accents.
Kia sales have been picking up, even as most of the auto industry is cutting back. The small number of Kia’s sold annually could only go up, and due to the company’s efforts to reinvent itself, its sales future might be bright. The media seems to have taken notice, giving the Forte good reviews. Most seem to agree that the car is well executed inside and out. All Fortes feature a front independent suspension with MacPherson struts and torsion beam rear. Despite not having a fully independent suspension, the ride manages to be good while handling is controlled and predictable. Its performance seems to be something they agree about also with Motor Trend saying that “It’s performance was right up there with the best the segment had to offer”.
Kia is making a strong effort to market the Forte to younger buyers. As it did with the Spectra before, much of its marketing efforts focused around sponsoring sports and musical events. The sharp design (especially the Alfa Romero 159-like coupe rear end), improved quality and lower price should make the Forte a contender to buyers cross shopping between Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas and Mazda 3’s.