There was a time when Kia made cheap but not particularly cheerful vehicles, for buyers who prioritized purchase price above all other factors.
Starting at $15,200, the 2012 Kia Forte compact four-door sedan will still give those price-sensitive buyers much to smile about--together with its two-door sibling the Forte Koup, and the versatile Forte five-door. All vehicles you could happily buy on merit too.
The first thing you'll notice about the Forte is the crisp styling. It's not as dramatic as the Hyundai Elantra or Ford Focus, but it's still modern, clean and pleasing to the eye--particularly on the sporty Koup.
The standard engine is a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four, used in the base LX and mid-range EX models, whereas the sportier top-line SX model gets a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four.
The first two models come standard with a five-speed manual gearbox; a four-speed automatic, now slightly behind the times, is optional. The SX with the bigger engine has a six-speed manual standard, and its optional automatic adds an extra gear, giving it five speeds.
Equipment levels are good too. You get Bluetooth on all models, as well as Sirius Satellite Radio, and steering wheel controls with voice activation. Step up a notch to EX trim and you'll get air conditioning and more electronic gizmos, and the sportier SX models get uprated suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels on top of that. A power sunroof, leather trim and a Convenience Package are all optional extras.
The Forte Koup model drops the regular Forte's LX trim level, and the range starts at $2,000 more than the Forte, prices starting at $17,200. For another $900 you can get behind the wheel of the Forte 5-door.
The five-door model comes only in 2.0-liter EX and 2.4-liter SX trim levels, both only available with automatic transmission. However, you do benefit from the practical hatchback body shape. Both the Koup and Five-Door also offer a greater level of standard equipment than the Forte.
Whichever Forte you choose, you'll find it pleasant enough to drive. The cabin is spacious and airy, and it's fairly refined on the move, too. Performance is good from either engine, though the automatic transmissions are more pleasant to drive--the clutch and gearbox action in the manual cars isn't great. The Forte is no sport sedan, but still handles well, with good body control and a ride quality that smooths away the bumps.
So what about the Forte's green credentials?
Available on EX models is the Fuel Economy Package. This gives the 2.0-liter four the five-speed auto normally found in the 2.4, electric power steering, a smart alternator system, low rolling resistance tires and some aerodynamic tweaks. The net result is an improvement of the EX's standard 26 mpg city, 36 mpg highway rating, to 27 city, 37 highway. Combined economy for the EX Fuel Economy Package is 30 mpg, with lower emissions than the regular EX.
That's not quite up to the standard of some other vehicles in the class, like the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, but for the cost-conscious the Forte does cost less to buy initially.
For more details, see the full review of the 2012 Kia Forte on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
|2-Door Coupe Automatic (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|2-Door Coupe Manual (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4-Door Sedan (1)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|Manual LX Specs||$15,200||$14,900||25||34|
|4-Door Sedan Automatic (3)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|5-Door HB (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|