Monday, March 16, 2015


The English translation of ‘FORTE’ is accepted as: ‘Strong, Sturdy, Robust’.

In the case of Kia’s Corolla-sized sedan, that’s an apt description in most senses.

Forte in the Florida orange groves

However, in Australia, the car is known as the Cerato S Premium (priced at $24,990) and comes with a 1.8L four cylinder pushing out 110kW.

In short, it is robust in its feel and manufacturing quality, but the 1.8L engine gets a bit breathless in freeway cruising, especially speeding up for lane-changing, or just keeping up with the traffic.

This past week I rented a Kia Forte LX 1.8L sedan in Florida and came away from the experience very impressed with everything about the car, except its cruising performance. 

The gross weight of the car, at 1770kg, is really the main cause of the lack of go! It's just too heavy. for a 1.8. In the USA the car is offered with an optional 2.0L engine, and with an extra 21kW, that would make all the difference.

Having said that, the rental car returned an impressive 6.7 litres per 100km in a mix of freeway and suburban driving, with the aircon on and lots of cog-swapping with the 6-speed auto transmission.

In fact, driving the Forte LX manually was pure delight. The transmission is responsive, shifts smoothly, and makes a real difference pulling away from traffic lights. That driving style also really helps to improve the fuel economy, rather than leaving it in Drive and flooring it.

In rental car spec, the American Forte misses out on some equipment found in the Australian model. There’s no GPS, no rear parking sensors and no touch-screen display.

However, there’s easy to set up Bluetooth, USB/iPod connectivity and cruise control, plus very impressive audio quality from the six-speaker sound system.

There’s also a huge trunk (boot), and loads of interior leg room, especially in the rear, even with the front seats adjusted for long-legged front seat occupants.

I’ve talked before about the success of the Peter Shreyer-led design revolution at Kia, but I think in terms of proportions and scale, the Forte sedan scores well.

It’s a smart-looking, contemporary design, with low wind noise and with just rudimentary soundproofing it’s quiet on the road. Even so, the first thing I would do if I owned one is to ditch the hard, noisy, Korean-made Nexen tyres. They are truly horrible, handle badly and howl at high speeds.

Mind you, you would never consider this a sporting car, so posing it outside Sebring Raceway is a bit cheeky. However, provided you drive it as a manual, using the excellent six-speed auto, the Forte goes well. Unfortunately the electric steering is a bit 'sticky' and lacks feel and sensitivity.

However, in its class Forte is highly competitive against Japanese and Korean rivals, and certainly shows a lot of attention to detail in areas like exterior design, interior fit and finish, and small margins in the gaps between panels.

I think the Forte is more strong evidence of Kia’s push to be perceived as a high quality manufacturer, and also that the appeal of the whole range of Kia models runs more than skin deep.

I think buying a Kia Forte (Cerato S Premium) is a pretty smart financial decision. It’s Strong, Sturdy and Robust, just like the Italian moniker suggests; it’s also good value for money and you’ll drive it confidently for years thanks to the outstanding warranty.

What more would you want?

1 comment:

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