Review of: 2017 Kia Forte 5-Door 5dr HB Auto SX
2017 Kia Forte5 SX: Checks all the right boxes
By David Miller
Jun. 2, 2017
The mainstream compact car segment is a crowded one, with more than a dozen quality options to choose from. Picking one depends on numerous factors that usually include style, comfort, versatility, safety, fuel economy and price. If you work with a clean slate by taking out biases and loyalty, choosing one can be a difficult decision that will inevitably come down to personal preference.
Kia may not be one of the largest players in this field, but it still brings in over five-figure sales in Canada with its Forte sedan, Forte5 hatchback and two-door Koup. For 2017, all versions received a styling refresh on the inside and out, as well as improvements in technology and fuel economy.
Those additions check off many consumer boxes, only to be made better by Kia’s reasonable starting price tag staying steady below $16,000. For this review, we opted for the always-popular hatchback in SX trim. This comes with a price still under $30,000, but with all the bells and whistles including a more powerful engine, leather seating and safety technology.
Pros & Cons
- + Styling
- + Value for money
- + Interior space
- - Throttle response
- - Bigger engine only with loaded model
A hatchback almost always adds a little character compared to the more conservative sedan option. And that statement holds true for the Forte5, especially with the SX’s chiseled front fascia that features Kia’s signature tiger-nose grille and multi-colour horizontal front bumper slats that are unique to the SX. To complement this modernized look are SX-standard Xenon HID headlights and LED positioning and taillights. The Forte5 is capped off with a sweeping roofline that flows into a rounded backside complemented by 18-inch machined-finish alloy wheels and a dual stainless steel exhaust tips.
The Forte5’s style won’t blow anyone away, but it’s a move in the right direction. The look isn’t too aggressive, but bold enough for the Forte to stand next to its cutting-edge competition.
Soft premium-looking leather rules the day in the SX. Occupants are surrounded by it, on the doors, dash, steering wheel, gear shift and comfortable seating with heated and cooling functions. You wouldn’t know you’re in a Kia, but alas, it needs to be noted that this is a low-volume top trim, so most will come with a sensible alternative in premium black cloth with stitching.
Regardless of trim, the Forte5 has an easy to understand layout and touchscreen. The responsive touchscreen unit is flanked by two knobs for volume and tuning positioned in-between buttons that control the phone, satellite radio and navigation (included in SX, but can be replaced in lower trims with Android Auto). Below that are climate control buttons that, once again, are simple to use and mitigate driver distraction.
The Forte5 doesn’t come across as a vehicle with lots of room, but the amount of headroom and legroom for both front and rear passengers is surprising. In addition, the middle seat wasn’t too shabby for short rides and that’s coming from someone who’s six feet tall. Total interior volume gets a boost up to 2,780 litres (2,740 with sunroof); while cargo capacity increases to 657 litres – 236 litres more than the sedan.
There is a long list of technological bonus features in the Forte5: heated and cooled seats, Android Auto and a power sunroof have already been mentioned, but on top of those, this hatch gets a heated steering wheel and a rear view camera.
Safety technology is ever-present throughout the Kia roster and the Forte5 receives blind spot detection, hill-assist control and lane keep assist. It’s a short list compared to other vehicles, including its own sedan that adds an autonomous emergency braking dystem, but it still sounds pretty good when you consider its sub-$30K price tag.
Kia offers up two engines for its Forte5: a 164-hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder and the Naturally, the SX trim comes with a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, which is matched to a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) with paddle shifters.
The power numbers may appear fair on paper, but the hatch can be sluggish, especially in city driving, where slow throttle response means the Forte5 takes its time to get up to speed. Once there, the Forte5 provides a balanced and smooth ride without much road noise, but that can get frustrating with the plethora of stop signs in residential areas.
In order to combat this, sport mode becomes essential. It won’t dramatically change the drive, but that peppiness is felt, and a little can go a long way when frustration sets in. Within those city ventures, drivers can take solace in the hatch’s ability to hold its own in tight corners and with sharp braking abilities thanks to a more sport-tuned suspension. With sport mode activated, the steering gets a bit heavier and turning precision can be surprisingly direct without much need for correction.
As helpful as sport mode is within the city, not much of a difference is felt between drive modes on the highway. Luckily, when you’ve reached that cruising speed, the Forte5 hits a nice comfort zone without the need for more power. That’s when its fuel economy kicks in the most, combining for 8.8 L/100 km during this week-long test, which is on point with its official ratings of 9.4 L/100 km in the city and 7.9 L/100 km on the highway.
For a compact car, the Forte starts out at an eye-catching price starting of $15,495. As aforementioned, the hatchback version starts at a higher LX+ trim which rings in at $19,695, but that comes with features such as a seven-inch touchscreen, rear view camera, heated front seats, cruise control and keyless entry.
If you work up the ladder to the SX we tested, that’s when the new turbo engine and its seven-speed DCT comes to play, along with some exterior touches and safety technology. At $29,895, it’s the consumer that has to judge whether those additions are worth it for their day-to-day. From my perspective, the better engine may be the key ingredient that puts it altogether; while those sporty exhausts, sport bumper and 18-inch wheels just sweeten the deal.
In today’s compact car landscape, there are so many options to choose from, and we’re past the days of cheap and cheerful offerings. The 2017 Kia Forte5 epitomizes what the segment has become: a well-equipped, reasonably-priced family car that provides good fuel economy.
Kia is here to play, and with a little more power at its disposal, the Forte nameplate can truly be a top contender in this heavily-contested segment. For now, we can settle on a well-rounded hatch that adds some bonus premium touches and extra gadgets to play around with.