With offerings such as an air-cooled driver’s seat and driver-selectable steering modes, the ratio of expected features to actual features is exceptionally high in the MY2014 Kia Forte when compared to other carmakers’ models in the U.S. compact sedan segment—especially in its highest trim level (EX). On the other hand, its U.S. EPA fuel-economy performance is an unremarkable 24 mpg city/36 mpg highway/28 mpg combined.
Whether Kia has struck the right balance among the many vehicle attributes (including a price tag starting at $15,900) only consumers can decide.
What can be said without bias is that Kia engineers shoehorned quite a bit of technology and comfort/convenience into the completely redesigned Forte—which is roomier in some aspects such as rear legroom, but which at 96.2 ft³ (2724 L) overall offers less passenger space than the outgoing model. Many of the features and amenities are those found more typically in cars above the compact segment. The base LX version comes standard with, among other things, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and outside heated mirrors. Keyless entry with remote trunk release and 16-in alloy wheels are among features available in the Popular Package.
Kia’s next-generation UVO in-vehicle entertainment system with eServices (see http://www.sae.org/mags/aei/11824) is among the many other advanced technologies that come standard in the EX, and the system can be integrated with an optional navigation system. Rear backup display and cooling glovebox are among the other standard EX features. The optional FlexSteer system lets the driver choose between Comfort, Normal, and Sport settings for distinctly varying levels of driver effort.
The EX’s optional Premium Package adds a menu of additional amenities including heated front and rear seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with class-exclusive air-cooled ventilation, leather seat trim, power sunroof, and heated steering wheel. Included in the EX Technology Package are HID headlights, LED taillights, 4.2-in color LCD cluster screen, and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear-seat ventilation.
AEI test-drove the Forte around Phoenix during a media launch event earlier this year and again during a recent week-long test at its Pittsburgh offices. For a car in its class, there is not much to complain about in terms of acceleration, ride, handling, NVH, comfort, convenience, and other criteria an average car shopper would weigh. It wasn’t the advanced-technology features that impressed this AEI editor as much as their ease of use and intuitive presentation. If there is beauty in such simplicity, the Forte is an impressive work of art.
The Forte comes off the same platform as the Hyundai Elantra. In a presentation to media, Ralph Tjoa, Kia Motors America’s National Manager, Car Product Planning, noted that engineers increased the torsional rigidity of the vehicle structure by 37% for improvement in ride and handling. He said this was done via reinforcements to the cowl, rear floor, and package tray, as well as extensive use of high-strength steel in the body. About 20% of the body is made of especially strong steel in the 60-kg/mm² class or higher.
Engineers also increased the diameter of bushings on the front subframe, offering the twin benefits of greater flexibility in “tuning” the suspension and road-noise mitigation. Dual-layered engine mounts are employed to account for both low- and high-frequency vibration for further improvement in NVH. For the outgoing Forte pillars, only the inner cavities were foam-filled, while on the new model the inner and outer cavities are. NVH was a high priority for engineering, and the improvement in that area is distinct, said Tjoa.
Underbody panels front, center, and rear help improve aerodynamics, as do exterior body features such as wraparound taillights and integrated lip spoiler on the rear trunk lid.
Two new four-cylinder DOHC engines are fitted. The 1.8-L unit in the LX has a compression ratio of 10.3:1 and produces 148 hp (110 kW) at 6500 rpm and 131 lb·ft (178 N·m) at 4700 rpm and turns the wheels through a standard six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic. The 2.0-L GDI unit in the EX has a compression ratio of 11.5:1 and generates 173 hp (129 kW) at 6500 rpm and 154 lb·ft (209 N·m) at 4700 rpm.
Both powerplants feature dual continuously variable valve timing and a lightweight intake manifold that reduces weight by 30% over a cast unit. They are smaller and lighter than the engines they replace while offering similar performance. “Isn’t that what technology is all about?” Tjoa said.
An aluminum bed plate below the cylinder block in both engines reduces NVH and improves rigidity by 30%. The crankshaft is offset by 11 mm (0.4 in) for reduced friction.