Many of us are hooked on romanticizing the past, but you likely won't find too much pining nostalgia for the economy cars of yesteryear. The Yugo GVs and Hyundai Excels of days gone by were cruel and punishing beasts, and every minute spent behind the wheel served as a bleak reminder that you simply didn't have the coin to afford something better.
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Like neanderthals and portable music players, the economy car has evolved over the years, and today's models are miles ahead of their more primitive forebears. Goodbye, Sony Walkman, hello Apple iPod.
The 2017 Kia Forte sedan is a prime example of this growth and development. While it may not offer luxury-car levels of refinement, the Forte is a good-looking car that provides a great deal of polish for a low price. The Kia Forte won't beat you up with a rough ride, and its sheet metal won't cause you to hang your head in shame.
Yep, that's progress.Never sleep, never rest
Kia has worked mightily to craft an upstanding reputation for itself in recent years, offering strong products and outstanding warranties. This has reaped dividends with the Forte, and the model had its best-ever sales year in 2015.
Part of this commitment to staying in the game involves making sure each model gets the extra kick it needs to be at the leading edge of the curve each year. For 2017, the Kia Forte receives enhancements that include revised sheet metal, a new base engine, an updated transmission, and additional driver-assistive safety features. The Forte also adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to its list of optional infotainment amenities.
Additionally, the Forte ushers in a new trim, the S. You guessed it—S is for sporty, and this trim aims to provide more engaging performance.
The Kia Forte sedan is available in LX, S, and ES trims. I spent a week in the company of a Forte S, navigating the clogged freeways, labyrinthine city streets, and winding mountain roads of Los Angeles.Books and their covers
The good thing about being stylish is that it doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. Everyone has that friend who's able to put together a modish wardrobe despite a limited budget. Good taste, after all, is free.
The same theory holds with car design. While the best-looking cars are often the most expensive, fine design isn't inherently costly, and there's no reason why budget-friendly cars shouldn't be blessed with handsome good looks.
The 2017 Kia Forte wants to look like a European sports sedan. It's a lofty goal for a modestly priced Korean import.
Still, the Forte doesn't fall too short of the mark. Its sinuous curves are in step with the current design vocabulary from some of the industry's most prestigious brands. You won't mistake it for a Mercedes, but its sheet metal has an assertive charm that turns heads. The Forte is inexpensive, but its exterior does an admirable job of concealing it.
For 2017, the Forte gets a new front bumper and redesigned headlights, and the car's tiger-nose grille has undergone a growth spurt. These changes give the Forte's front fascia a blockier look, and this works to provide the car with a mien that's more aggressive and substantial.Cabin pressure
Car buyers these days expect more, even when shopping in the economy-car segment. This has tightened the screws on value-oriented brands like Kia. It's not enough to merely offer passable levels of quality. Exceptional is the new normal.
This is perhaps most apparent in the cabin environment provided by the cars in this category. Budget-friendly cruisers of the past were saddled with interiors that were cramped and tacky. Today, many value-priced models offer cabins that are spacious and nicely put together.
The Kia Forte provides a cabin with ample legroom in both rows. Headroom is especially strong, and the Forte offers more space for your noggin than rivals such as the Mazda 3. This makes it a good choice for taller drivers in search of affordable solutions.
The trunk in the Forte sedan provides 14.9 cubic feet of capacity. This is an impressive figure in the compact sedan class. The trunk in the Mazda 3 sedan, for example, offers a meager 12.4 cubic feet.
The Forte provided a perch that remained agreeable even on commutes that stretched past the 60-minute mark. The car's standard 6-way power-adjustable driver's seat and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel made it easy to find a position that kept a sore back and posterior at bay.
Cabin design in my test car was decent, and materials quality was respectable. S models like my review vehicle come with jazzy black sport seats with white contrast stitching. There were lots of textured soft-touch plastics in evidence throughout the cabin, and this gave the Forte an upscale feel.Road manners are pleasant, for the most part
While economy cars as a whole have certainly blossomed, there are still quite a few models in the segment that will treat you with unnecessary roughness when you're behind the wheel. Thankfully, the 2017 Kia Forte isn't one of them.
S models like my test car feature sportier suspension tuning to help deliver more engaging driving dynamics. Upgrades like this sometimes create a stiff ride that transmits pavement bumps directly to the cabin.
In most circumstances, the Forte S was a well-mannered companion, but it got a bit rattled when driven down a couple of streets whose surfaces were pockmarked with neglect, exhibiting ride quality that was nervous and bouncy. Some rivals in this segment are more consistent when it comes to delivering a certain measure of composure. At the very least, I'd recommend avoiding the S trim if you prize forgiving ride quality.
Two powertrains are available. LX and S models get their mojo from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine offering 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. The EX steps things up with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder good for up to 164 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. LX models come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, with a 6-speed automatic offered as an option. S and EX models are sold only with the 6-speed automatic, and all Forte sedans are front-wheel drive.
My Forte offered no shortage of power. Acceleration was relatively crisp, and there was enough pep underfoot for the car to capably tackle passing maneuvers and easily get up to speed with fast-moving traffic on the freeway.
The shifts from the Forte's 6-speed automatic transmission offered good timing and smooth delivery. Steering was suitably responsive, and the Forte's braking was sharp and dependable.
LX and S models have an EPA rating of 32 mpg combined with the automatic transmission; while EX models get 28 mpg. This represents strong fuel economy for the segment, and it's equal to or better than that of rivals such as the Ford Focus (up to 31 mpg combined) and Mazda 3 (up to 32 mpg combined).Safety and technology
As glued as most of us are to our smartphones, it's not exactly a shocker that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring is a coveted automotive amenity. This feature works to seamlessly integrate your smartphone with your vehicle, and the Forte has made this technology newly available for the 2017 model year. It was part of the lineup in my S test car, and it allowed me to access driving directions and stream music via the car's touchscreen with little fuss.
As part of its $1,490 S Technology package, my test Forte included blind-spot detection, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. All the driver-assistive safety features in the S Technology package are well worth the investment. The blind-spot detection was especially useful, serving as an extra pair of eyes when I was making lane changes.
The 2017 Kia Forte is no slouch when it comes to safety. In government crash tests, this Kia scored a perfect five stars for overall crash protection.A livable approach to value
Forte models with the automatic transmission start at $17,500, not including an $850 destination charge. This makes it one of the most affordable models in the segment. A 2017 Mazda 3 with an automatic transmission has a starting price of $18,895, while a Honda Civic with a continuously variable transmission starts at $19,540.
The 2017 Kia Forte is certainly priced for value, but it doesn't scrimp on style or feature content. For most shoppers, that represents a compelling combination.
All hail the new golden age of budget-priced transportation.
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