2014 Kia Forte EX first drive review: Back so soon with the next generation

2014 Kia Forte EX

2014 Kia Forte EX

It’s a fast turnover. Usually a carmaker makes a model last for seven years before introducing its replacement. But Kia has a new generation of the Kia Forte ready in just three and a half years. And not because there was anything particularly wrong with its predecessor. It’s just that Kia is on the move. The new 2014 Kia Forte is the third generation in the same time the Toyota Corolla has had just one.

That’s not exactly fair. This is actually the second generation Kia Forte, replacing the Kia Spectra, its name retired because it had worn out its welcome. Or more precisely, Kia didn’t want the Kia Spectra’s less than stellar reputation to tarnish that of the 2010 Forte.

That first generation of Kia Forte, however, was successful enough that Kia kept the name. The Kia Forte also kept the “tiger nose” grille that has become the hallmark of the brand, distinctive without being peculiar. The rest of the Forte, however trim, was too anonymous

2014 Kida Forte EX interior

The interior of the 2014 Kia Forte EX is completely revised, and of course, “drivercentric.”

The 2010-2013 predecessors to the 2014 Kia Forte were trim but the design rather conservative and anonymous, but according to Ralph Tjoa, Kia’s national manager of product planning, the inspiration for the new Forte was the cheetah. That’s rather presumptuous for a compact sedan…though appropriate, perhaps, with that tiger grille. The cat inspiration led to a cab-forward style, the popular coupe-like roofline and the hockey-stick check line, car stylist-speak for the curved crease along the lower sides of the car.

Drag coefficient is a remarkable 0.27, equal to many premium cars and to where concept cars were not too very long ago. Kia engineers also made the chassis stronger, increasing torsional rigidity with increased use of high strength steel in critical locations, without making the new Forte heavier.

Kia designers worked on the lighting, giving the 2014 Forte a tight streamlined look up front with light clusters that sweep more than halfway back to the A-pillar, pulling the outside corners of the grille back across the fenders. The headlights, of course, have the obligatory LED “positioning lights” along the upper edge. The 2014 Kia Forte also gets 81 LEDs circling each rear taillight as part of a Technology package.

The new Forte, too, is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, by 1.2 inches, 0.6 inches and 0.2 inches. The increase in the wheelbase was also igreater than how much was added to the length, maintaining the front and rear overhang of the earlier Forte while simultaneously increasing room inside. A smidge wider also translates into a smidge more elbow room. And the half-inch lower didn’t seem to affect headroom, even with the coupe-shaped profile in the rear, at least by comparing the 2014 Forte to, well, nothing on hand.

Inside the 2014 Kia Forte was updated as well. Kia calls the contours resembling “ripples radiating from a pebble dropped into a pond.” The right-side dash panel, in fact, has three ridges curving away from the center of the car. To give the car a more driver-oriented feel, the center stack is angled ten degrees towards the driver.

The optional Premium Package include heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with class-exclusive air-cooled ventilation (note: air-cooling is only on the driver’s seat, which will be much to the chagrin of the non-driving front seat occupant, and sure to come up at the next marriage counseling session), leather seating, sunroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Premium Package also includes a proximity key with push button starting, and delicious luxury of a heated steering wheel, which has to be felt on a cold winter morning to fully appreciate.  HID headlights, LED tail lights, a 4.2-inch color LCD cluster screen and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation are part of the Technology Package.

The 2014 Kia Forte comes with one of two all-new engines. A 1.8-liter four is standard with the base LX model; the EX is powered by a 2.0-liter engine.  Both engines have dual continuously variable valve timing. Both engines have an aluminum “bed plate,” a sort of brace attached to the bottom of the engine block. Engine rigidity increased by 30 percent reduces engine noise and vibration.

2014 Kia Forte EX engine

The engine of the 2014 Kia Forte EX is a crisp 2.0L DOHC four.

The 1.8-liter is rated at 148 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm, and it’s available with a standard six speed manual transmission or an optional six speed automatic gearbox.

The 1999cc four in the Forte EX makes 173-horsepower at 6500 rpm and 154 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm. The big jump in horsepower between the two isn’t from the 2.0-liter being slightly bigger, but rather direct injection (or as Kia calls it, GDI, for “gasoline direct injection”), which allows more precise timing and placement of the fuel delivery, along with a compression ratio of 11.5:1 compared to 10.3:1 for the smaller engine.  The EX comes standard with a six speed automatic.

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