First things first: KIA already has a history for quality.
In JD Power’s 2020 quality study, the Korean brand shared the top spot with Dodge with only 136 problems per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. KIA occupies the top spot as a mass-market vehicle for six years. Dave Sargent, VP Automotive Quality, J.D. Power said: “Kia has ‘cracked the code’ on quality”.
Forte is KIA’s model in the compact segment and it shares the same platform with Hyundai elantra, its corporate cousin.
Following the sedan, for 2020 model year KIA offers a five-door hatchback version, “the second-most space-efficient, not to mention second-most logical, automobile configuration” as Jim Kenzie, the veteran automobile journalist says (the first one being the station wagon). Indeed hatchback vehicles may not constitute the largest segment of the automobile market in Canada or the USA, yet these vehicles offer many advantages that may come into play more often, for instance, in case of a hike in oil prices.
Volkswagen Golf created this category almost 50 years ago. And you would be surprised to see how important and widespread compact hatchbacks are, when you are in Europe. The big hatch (not a door, even if we say 5-door) gives flexibility for quicker loading and more volume. Hatchback vehicles are cheaper than compact SUV’s and more fun to drive. Hatchbacks are more economical too. With a strong and desirable product like the Forte, KIA remains a strong contender in the class which especially American manufacturers completely ignore. It is worth remembering the the Hyundai-KIA Group has a strong presence on the highly competitive European market and runs design studios in the old continent.
The only design design flaw (subjectively) is low-mounted rear turning signals. With more and more SUV’s with higher seating position and muddy roads in winter this flaw may even cause a safety hazard and it remians a mystery my KIA insists on this despite the beautiful and thoughtful design.
Engine and Powertrain
The GT offers a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which delivers 201 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 195 lb-ft. of torque at 1500 – 4500 rpm. The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Sadly, the expectation for a manual-shift model which would make sense for this type of sporty, driver oriented car remains unmet. You have to turn the paddles to imitate manual driving.
Inside the Cabin
When you look at the materials, workmanship and layout in the cabin, everything is comparable to the bests of European and Japanese cars. Tablet-style infotainment screens have gained widespread acceptance in the last few years because these “plugged-in” screens give more flexibility for interior design, more space efficient, easy-to-read and less costly too. And the Forte successfully adapted an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen.
With heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated D-shaped steering wheel, embedded navigation, sunroof, foglights, 18-inch allow wheels and a lot more KIA offers a fully loaded car with nice features for harsh Canadian winters.
The “GTI tradition” is almost as old as the emergence of hatchback. The idea of generating “sporty performance” from a small engine works wonderfully well with today’s technology and KIA seems to understand well how it works. The acceleration form the 1.6-litre turbo engine is “motivating”. The wide distribution of the torque curve is more important than the horsepower. the Forte reaches 201 peak horsepower only at 6,000 rpm and hence less practical than on paper. So, not ideal for drag racing. What makes you really happy is the flat torque curve as low as 1,500 rpm. Especially if you choose the Sport mode (smart and comfort are two other modes), and use paddle shifters this is the best combination for moving into the sports cars territory.
As I did so, wind noises increased but it was still possible to have a decent conversation with the front-seat passenger.
Thr Forte 5 drives, accelerates and slows down condifently keeping the connection to the road safely. Having driven with German cars tens of thousands of kilometers in Europe, I have the impression that Hyundai-KIA Group digested German technology very well. (Keywords Peter Schreyer and Albert Biermann)
Our average fuel comsumption after a one-week mixed mode driving was 9.4 liters, hence a bit higher than the NRC figures, (which should be used for comparative purpose anyway). This is within class limits.
Pricing and Conclusion
Our tester, in the GT limited version is fully loaded and has an MSRP of 31,890 which includes also freight. So, it looks like buying a KIA Forte in this class may not be a wrong decision.
For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, please visit http://kia.ca
Article: Varol McKars
Photos: Varol McKars, Burak McKars