Review of: 2014 Kia Forte5 5dr HB Auto SX Premium
2014 Kia Forte5: Turbo power with practicality
By Jil McIntosh
Jul. 14, 2014
If you’ve been following the auto industry long enough, you’ll remember when Kia was primarily about price: as the saying goes, it was cheap and cheerful. That’s hardly the case anymore. There’s now a focus on styling and more upscale features, and a new emphasis on performance in cars like the new-for-2014 Forte5.
The Forte5 is named that for its “five-door” hatchback configuration, and slots in between the Forte sedan and two-door Forte Koup. It starts in LX+ and EX trim, where it uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, but my top-line SX makes 201 horsepower out of its turbo 1.6-litre, a new powerplant for this model.
Pricing starts at $19,495 for the base LX+, while the SX—the only trim with the turbo—begins at $23,795 with a manual transmission, and $24,995 with an automatic. My tester was further outfitted with a luxury package (available only with the automatic) of leather seats, driver’s cooled power seat with memory, heated rear seats, HID headlights, navigation, sunroof, heated steering wheel, and premium LCD instrument cluster, for a total of $28,395 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Off-the-line responsiveness
- + Warranty coverage
- + Attention-getting styling
- - Cargo liftover height
- - Value for money
- - Steering feel
Under the direction of designer Peter Schreyer, Kia is turning out some of the best-looking models in their segments, and the new Forte5 follows that pattern. It’s longer and wider than before, but also lower, with a ground-hugging stance.
At the front, the Forte5 features the brand’s signature “tiger shark” grille, sweeping back into my tester’s HID headlamps. The car’s best angle is the three-quarter rear, with muscular haunches that seem to wrap around the 18-inch wheels. Unique to the SX is the faux-carbon-fibre rear valance, which nicely incorporates the twin tailpipes. The outgoing Forte5 looked like a handsome family car, but the 2014 version looks hot.
The interior is also redesigned, and while the general layout is the same as before, there are now more curves and interesting angles. The instrument cluster is upgraded, and the new steering wheel looks better than before, with a few more controls packed into it.
The SX Luxury includes perforated leather seats with bolsters patterned to look like carbon fibre, and they’re quite comfortable. But while both front seats are heated, only the driver’s chair gets ventilation. That’s a rather chintzy thing to do to a passenger on a hot-and-sticky day, who’s looking over at a driver enjoying some extra refrigeration. I really expected an improvement of two cooled seats on the new model.
Small-item storage is excellent in this car, including big map pockets on the doors, and a huge covered cubby in front of the shift lever that also contains the USB, auxiliary, and 12-volt chargers, so you can plug in your electronics and then hide them away.
The rear seat is relatively roomy for the car’s size, and the outboard positions are heated on the top-end Luxury trim. Those rear seats are easy to fold and they go down flat for extra cargo space. I also like that when you lift the cargo floor, you’ll find storage cubbies under it. The ones on the sides have independently-opening covers, and they’re just the right size to hold a six-pack of…umm…Coca-Cola, so it doesn’t slide across the cargo floor when you make a turn.
All Forte5 models include Bluetooth, CD stereo, and satellite radio, while the SX Luxury exclusively adds a navigation system. It’s very straightforward and easy to use, and I like that its voice-activation feature lets you say the complete address all at once, instead of waiting for a chime and reciting it one line at a time.
That said, a nice improvement would be a “go back” option once you’ve done that. For some reason it had difficulty deciphering one of the addresses I gave to it, and it came up with a choice of three possible destinations, all of them incorrect. Rather than give me the option of trying again, it insisted that I had to pick one. To get around it, I had to start the entire process from scratch.
The turbo engine is a blast, spooling up quickly and giving the car impressive oomph off the line, to the tune of 201 horses and 195 lb.-ft. of torque that peaks between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm. Rather than being in “hot hatch” territory like the Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST, though, it’s more of a daily driver that happens to move fast on its feet, instead of being on the muscle all the time. You can run your daily errands in this without feeling like you’re working at it, especially with the SX Luxury’s smooth-shifting six-speed automatic (which includes paddle shifters), but then you can take it out on the weekend and have some fun pushing it around. It even stays peppy when it’s put into “Eco” mode, too.
Despite being turbocharged, it runs on regular 87-octane fuel, and posts published numbers of 9.7 L/100 km in the city and 6.7 on the highway. In combined driving, I averaged 8.7 L/100 km.
The sport-tuned suspension produces a well-mannered ride, and torque steer is kept to a minimum. The letdown comes with the electric steering, which feels dull, especially compared to the car’s otherwise lively performance. There’s no feedback, and no feeling of connection to the rubber. The Forte5 includes Kia’s gimmicky “FlexSteer” system, which lets you select one of three settings to vary the steering weight and response. “Sport” is firm with quick response, and where the steering should be in the first place, while “Normal” is overly light, and “Comfort” is just plain sloppy.
This is where it gets tough. On one hand, for $28,395, the SX Luxury gives you a turbocharged engine, four heated leather seats, one (!) cooled one, backup camera, HID headlamps, sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, auto-folding rearview mirrors, and navigation. That’s a lot of stuff for the price, along with a warranty that’s pretty near bumper-to-bumper for five years or 100,000 kilometres.
On the other hand, perception plays a big part in value as well. While the Forte5’s interior is good-looking and well-fitted, there’s still a lot of hard plastic, and I never felt like I was sitting inside twenty-eight grand. Maybe it’s just me, but I had a tough time wrapping my head around a compact that priced out like a fairly well-equipped midsize. Some of the trim lines of the Forte5 and larger Optima sedan overlap, which could make for a tougher decision when you’re wandering the showroom.
But if you’re okay with the price, the Forte5 has matured into a great-looking car with an engine to match, and which still gives you the practicality of its hatchback styling, a roomy interior, and lots of features. Kia has come a long way, and I suspect it’s only going to get better from here.