Besides knowing that Kia is a South Korean automobile company that had recently set up a manufacturing plant in West Point, Ga., I had scant knowledge of the car company’s line of vehicles and no driving experience at all with their cars.
However in January, I spent a week test driving the 2010 Kia Forte EX. I still don’t know a great deal about the company, but I do know that the Forte provides a respectable automotive experience–both aesthetically and behind the wheel.
Initially the dark cherry/coffee Forte EX that I drove visually struck me as a compact car in an exciting new color that probably would give a less-than-thrilling drive. I was wrong.
This car, a new addition to the Kia line, had plenty of pep, backed by its 4-eyclinder engine. Highway driving was a breeze (no reason to hesitate jumping into Atlanta’s lightning-speed interstate traffic) and the handling was extremely responsive whether taking corners or making a tight three-point U-turn. (Electronic stability control and traction control are standard.)
The Forte’s backseat accommodated three passengers comfortably. However, with the cabin full, there’s no room for anything else. And as a woman with a family, being able to store and tote stuff is crucial. The Forte comes with a trunk that can easily hold multiple suitcases, a week’s worth of groceries and sporting equipment.
I found the interior handsome (the test vehicle had two-tone black and brown leather) and the instrumentation console—illuminated in red and white lighting–had everything in a convenient location. Many of the essential controls—audio and Bluetooth—are incorporated into the steering wheel.
My 17-year-old—who was blasé about the car initially—fell in love with it when she realized that built into the console was a docking station where she could hook up her iPod and operate it from the vehicle’s audio controls. The fact that it would also charge her device practically sent her over the top. I appreciated that in the same place it also had two 12-volt power outlets and a USB drive. SIRIUS satellite radio is also standard and new vehicles come with a three-month complimentary subscription to the service.
What I also liked is that the Forte EX comes with a tire pressure monitoring system that alerts drivers when one or more tires are under-inflated. And “ECO” illuminates in green when drivers operate the vehicle at optimum fuel efficiency. It wasn’t intrusive, and I liked knowing when I was driving at best fuel efficiency.
According to EPA fuel economy estimates the 2010 Forte EX gets 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. With a 13.7-gallon tank, I was able to drive for practically a week without having to fill up.
One of the car’s neat features that I read about in the owner’s manual concerns the “smart” key. If the trunk is closed with the smart key inside, it will chime for three seconds and then open the trunk. Now that’s smart.
My first experience with a Kia was definitely a good one. So good, in fact, that I hated to see that Forte EX go.
Stats: Rack and pinion steering, front and rear disc brakes, anti-lock brake system with brake assist, dual front and side curtain airbags
Pricing: Forte EX base price: $16,795 and EX’s leather package, which includes leather seat trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats cost an additional $1,000. Add $800 for the optional sunroof.
For more information, visit www.kia.com.