2010 Kia Forte SX

As the former owner of a Kia Spectra, the Forte's predecessor, I'm slightly disappointed that the Forte didn't leave a stronger impression on me. Sure, it's a lot better than the Spectra, but I was kinda rooting for Kia to directly hit the Civic/Corolla target. Instead, the Forte comes up a bit short -- closer than the Spectra, but still short.

Don't get me wrong ... the Forte offers exceptional power, lots of features, and a comfortable and reasonably spacious cabin and trunk. My opinion is clouded, though, by hard (though well-grained) plastics in the interior, a strangely slow-revving engine that's easy to stall thanks to vague clutch-pedal engagement, and exterior styling that's nice but, to my eyes, too derivative.

To me, the base-model Forte, which starts at $14,390 but has a smaller engine, is more tempting. Once you option a compact Kia sedan to just under $20K, it's easy to get distracted by what else that cash could get you, be it a tricked-out Soul, a larger Optima, or something from the dealership next door.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

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