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Don Adair: Kia Forte thrives in the compact sedan segment

The Forte is well-equipped in its base trim and can be ordered with a variety upscale options — including several life-saving driver-assist features — without breaking the bank (Kia)

Who can argue with the crossover’s growing popularity? Crossovers are roomy, utilitarian and, with the easy availability of all-wheel-drive, enormously practical in snowy climes.
In our rush to crossovers, though, let’s not forget the humble four-door sedan. Sedans are more affordable than crossovers, they’re more efficient and they’re less costly to maintain and insure.

Typically, they offer more bang for the buck than comparably priced crossovers.

Consider this week’s tester, the 2017 Kia Forte, a compact, five-passenger sedan. As with most modern sedans, its computer-designed chassis is built of lightweight, high-strength steel. It’s strong enough to protect occupants and rigid enough to allow precise suspension tuning.

The Forte rides well, handles well and is as quiet inside as can be expected of a 2,800-pound car. Its cabin is roomy enough to handle four six-footers and its split folding rear seatbacks boost the cargo capacity of its generously sized trunk.

The Forte ($17,340, including destination) is well-equipped in its base trim and can be ordered with a variety upscale options — including several life-saving driver-assist features — without breaking the bank.

The base Forte LX includes heated mirrors, air-conditioning and full power accessories. There’s Bluetooth and USB connectivity and a four-speaker sound system, with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack

With its tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and height-adjustable driver’s seat, the Forte comfortably accommodates nearly every driver. Long-legged ones, especially, will appreciate the  lengthy bottom seat cushion. High-quality interior materials and, on upper trims, infotainment controls are consistently user-friendly.

Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack are standard. 

Although it’s only midway through its current lifecycle, the Forte gets a new and more efficient base engine this year and adds a sporty new trim level.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 147, which is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

With the automatic, combined fuel economy climbs from 31 to 32 mpg and city mileage from 26 to 29 mpg.

The same engine also powers the new S trim ($20,500), which gets a sport-tuned suspension, decklid spoiler and chrome exhaust tips — but not the manual gearbox. Its marker lamps are LEDs and its steering wheel and shift knob are leather-wrapped. 

The S is eligible for a $1,491 Technology package that adds autonomous emergency braking, with pedestrian detection; blind-spot detection; lane-change assist, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, which automatically keeps the Forte in its lane.

All that’s missing is adaptive cruise control, which is not yet available on Forte.

Kia currently offers the S, with Technology package, for $19,900, a low-cost entry into the driver-assist market.

The topmost EX trim ($22,050) gets a 164-hp 2.0-liter engine that’s paired with the automatic and returns an EPA-estimated 28/25/33. It adds leather seats, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and more. A $4,500 Premium Plus package adds the driver-assistance bundle and expands Forte’s infotainment offerings.

At $26,835, it’s a good reminder that lots of life remains in the compact sedan segment. 

Contact Don at don@dadair.com, or visit www.dadair.com.

2017 Kia Forte EX
Vehicle base price: $16,490
Trim level base price: $21,200
As tested: $26,835
Options included navigation, autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, ventilated front seats, power driver’s seat with memory, xenon HID headlights, sunroof
EPA rating: 28 combined/25 city/33 highway
regular unleaded fuel specified

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