Hot on the heels of its launch of the squarish Soul, Kia has unveiled the 2010 Forte sedan at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show. The Forte, which will effectively replace the Spectra (in both size and price), is due to go on sale in North America in the second quarter of 2009.
It's no accident that the Forte's face somewhat resembles the Honda Civic, since the Civic and the Toyota Corolla are the current kings of the hotly contested compact-sedan market. The front-wheel-drive Forte--whose length, width, and height measurements are within an inch of matching those of the Honda and the Toyota--shares its wheelbase and width measurements with its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Elantra, but the Kia pulls a more impressive 156 hp from its base 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine.
As enthusiasts, though, we're more interested in the Forte SX, which gets a 2.4-liter DOHC in-line four with 173 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. The sporty SX trim level also features seventeen-inch aluminum wheels, 45-series low-profile tires, larger front brakes, and a rear spoiler, as well as a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic. The Forte's other two trims, LX and EX, get one fewer gear attached to either gearbox, but the EX is also available with the so-called Fuel Economy Package, which includes the five-speed auto, "Motor Drive" power steering, and low-rolling-resistance tires, helping the vehicle achieve 1 or 2 mpg more than the other 2.0-liter-powered Fortes. (Kia isn't estimating fuel-economy figures with the stick shifts or the 2.4-liter engine, but the company quotes 25/34 mpg city/highway with the four-speed automatic and 25/36 mpg with the five-speed.) All Fortes will come standard with loads of safety features, such as four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control, active front headrests, and six air bags.
No matter what trim level you choose, Kia is confident about how the Forte will stack up to its rivals. "The Kia-engineered body achieves high torsional stiffness," says the Chicago unveil press release, "giving Forte better handling, smoother ride quality, and greater refinement than its competitors, with a specially tuned suspension adjusted perfectly for responsive handling on curvy roads."
We're anxious to get behind the wheel and find out how much truth lies in those promises. Stay tuned to Automobile Magazine and www.automobilemag.com for more on the Kia Forte.