Two shapely five-door models rolled onto Kia's display stand this morning, but in true reality TV show fashion, only one will advance to reality -- at least, immediately.
That car is none other than the 2014 Forte 5-door, the model that allows Kia's new compact Forte to directly square off against the likes of the Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza, Mazda 3, and the (mechanically similar) Hyundai Elantra -- all of which are offered in both four- and five-door forms. Compared to the blocky Forte5 it replaces, the new Forte 5-door is a breath of fresh air -- it's stylish, swoopy, and like many other recent Kia designs, looks a little more upscale than it actually is.
Base Forte 5-Doors are EX models, meaning they're actually on-par equipment-wise with the top grade 2014 Forte sedan. We'd love to tell you our firsthand impressions of the car, but Kia opted to launch the Forte hatch in Chicago by rolling out the sportier Forte SX model. This car gains a new 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4, but it's not entirely a complete sleeper. SX models gain a new nose, with a truncated "tiger nose" grille and a large, trapezoidal lower grille opening. It also gains unique 18-inch wheels and a number of little interior and exterior modifications. We hope you like carbon fiber accents, as they're everywhere -- the pattern can be found on the SX's rear valance panel, dash and door trim accents, and even the seat bolsters. SX models also gain perforated leather seating, which actually looks and feels rather nice in person. Heated front and rear outboard seats are available as an extra-cost option.
But, as we noted when Kia Europe first announced the Pro C'eed GT, will 201 hp be enough? This may not be positioned as a full-on rival to the likes of a Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, or a Mazdaspeed 3, but buyers could easily view it as one -- if they do, they may be a little displayed that it's nearly 50 hp shy of both the ST and 60 shy of the MS3. Perhaps if the Forte SX resonates well enough, Kia's motorsports partners could help craft something a little more potent for horsepower junkies like us. Forte Trackster, anyone?