2010 Kia Forte Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Attractive exterior design, good fuel economy, excellent handling in SX trim, affordable, long warranty, standard Bluetooth.
- Four-speed automatic's overly wide gear spacing, tepid handling except for SX.
Unlike the bargain-bin Spectra that it replaces, the new 2010 Kia Forte is good enough to compete against perennial segment stars from Honda, Mazda and Toyota.
Penned by a former Audi designer, the 2010 Kia Forte's sleek exterior signals that it's no longer business as usual in Kia's compact sedan department. The Forte's predecessor, the Spectra, was known for its cut-rate pricing and little else, but the new car announces its presence with authority thanks to crisp overall lines and unusual details like an upswept kink at the A-pillar. There are also derivative elements -- the nose is distinctly Civic-like, for example -- but the Forte is undoubtedly one of the best-looking small cars on the market. The question is whether the car itself is as good as the wrapper it comes in.
As it turns out, this Kia is actually a very competitive car, from its 156-horsepower base engine to its impressive fuel economy. The interior is pleasant, too, with plenty of standard features on most trim levels and decent-quality materials. As with the old Spectra, you get a lot for your money (including a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty), but this time around you're not going to feel as if you're driving a red-tag special. There's even a sharp-looking two-door "Koup" version that heaps an extra helping of two-door style onto the sedan's underpinnings.
As with any car, of course, things aren't perfect with the Forte. For one thing, the base 2.0-liter engine's four-speed automatic transmission -- the powertrain arrangement we expect most Forte buyers will be opting for -- is saddled with extraordinarily tall gearing. This helps fuel economy, of course, but it also means that you may not be able to summon those 156 horses when you need them. Additionally, the Forte's handling is uninspiring in the LX and EX trims -- we strongly recommend the SX model, as its more powerful engine and sport-tuned suspension make a big difference in the overall character of the car.
All things considered, the 2010 Kia Forte makes a strong case for itself as a legitimate alternative to established all-stars like the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Scion tC and Toyota Corolla. From fuel economy to backseat space, this Kia is remarkably solid -- and in SX trim, it's also one of the most enjoyable economy cars to drive. There can be little doubt that the 2010 Forte marks Kia's arrival as a serious player in this hotly contested segment.
2010 Kia Forte models
The 2010 Kia Forte is a four-door compact car available in LX, EX and SX trims; The two-door "Koup" is available in EX or SX trim only.
Standard equipment on the base LX includes 15-inch steel wheels, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, a tilt steering column, Bluetooth connectivity and a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with USB and auxiliary audio jacks. The EX adds air-conditioning, full power accessories, a six-speaker layout for the sound system, cruise control and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat with (on the sedan only) a center armrest and adjustable rear headrests. The EX Koup adds 16-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, sport front seats and a sportier exhaust note.
The SX trim tacks on a larger 2.4-liter engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, wider tires, foglights, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an enhanced gauge cluster, a trip computer, unique cloth upholstery and metallic interior trim. On top of these items and the EX Koup's extras, the SX Koup gets unique 17-inch alloys and a sportier version of the SX sedan's suspension, along with illuminated red speaker surrounds that can be configured to blink in time to the beat.
Options on the LX include air-conditioning and the split-folding rear seat, but power accessories are unavailable. The EX has an expanded range of options, including a sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels (sedan only) and leather upholstery with heated front seats. A Fuel Economy package for the EX sedan adds a five-speed automatic transmission, electric power steering, low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic enhancements. SX options are limited to the sunroof and heated leather seats. Notably, the SX's standard tilt-and-telescoping steering column cannot be specified on the LX and EX trims, which offer tilt only.
Performance & mpg
The 2010 Kia Forte LX and EX get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 156 hp and 144 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Ordering the EX sedan's Fuel Economy package changes out the four-speed auto for a more efficient five-speed automatic. The SX has a larger 2.4-liter four that generates 173 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque; it gets a standard six-speed manual transmission or the same optional five-speed automatic as the EX.
For most Forte models, fuel economy is above average for the small car segment. The LX and EX (with either transmission) have a 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined EPA estimate. Opting for the Fuel Economy package bumps the EX's figures to 27/36/30 mpg. The more powerful Forte SX has a less impressive 22/32/26 mpg rating with the six-speed manual and 23/31/26 with the five-speed automatic.
Standard Forte safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
The 2010 Kia Forte isn't exactly a driver's car in LX or EX guise. There's lots of body roll during enthusiastic cornering, and the steering is rather numb. However, the SX model's sport-tuned suspension makes for a night-and-day difference. It's still not as sharp as something like a Honda Civic Si, but the SX's overall driving dynamics put it at the head of the economy class.
In any trim, the ride is comfortable enough, and with the exception of intrusive road noise on some surfaces, the Forte is a confident highway cruiser. The four-speed automatic's tall gearing means you've barely crested 3,000 rpm in 2nd gear at 45 mph -- good for your gas budget, but decidedly unhelpful if you need to pass anyone while traveling at that speed. On the plus side, the the five-speed automatic is a capable unit, particularly when mated to the SX's 2.4-liter engine. The SX's manual shifter, however, is as vague and rubbery as they come.
The new Kia Forte's dashboard design doesn't raise the bar aesthetically -- frankly, it's pretty boring -- but it includes easy-to-read gauges, a clean layout and generally intuitive audio and climate controls. Standard Bluetooth connectivity across the lineup is also a nice touch. Materials quality is good enough to satisfy expectations in this segment. Unfortunately, the telescoping steering column is only available on the SX, meaning taller drivers might have a hard time getting comfortable in the LX and EX.
Rear legroom is good for this class, though the Koup's rear quarters are predictably tighter, and they lack the sedan's center armrest. Trunk space is plentiful, measuring an impressive 14.7 cubic feet in the sedan and 12.6 in the coupe.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
The 2010 Kia Forte Koup SX is a rare mixed bag from Kia, a slick fashion statement that handles better than it needs to and doesn't go as fast as it should. Like fellow Korean giant Hyundai, Kia has churned out a series of remarkably competitive products as of late, not least the Forte SX sedan on which the Koup is based. Indeed, that sedan took down a similarly priced Mazda 3 i in one of our most lopsided comparison tests ever. The Koup, however, could use some fine-tuning.
For years now, the Honda Civic and Scion tC have been the only names worth mentioning among reasonably priced sedan-based two-doors. Enter the Forte Koup, which comes with a choice of two engines, just like its rivals (if you count the tC's dealer-installed supercharger option), but offers more head-turning style than both Japanese entrants put together.
But the stakes are higher for coupes than for sedans, whose buyers often want extra flair in return for surrendering practicality. The 2010 Kia Forte Koup SX has a nice body, but its 173-horsepower four is unchanged from the sedan, whereas the high-revving Civic Si and supercharged tC boast 200 hp apiece and consequently much friskier acceleration.
And while the Koup SX's suspension tuning is sportier than the already capable sedan's — yielding a marginally quicker slalom run — the everyday result is a significantly harsher ride. In the transition from sedan to coupe, what the Forte needed, if anything, was more power — not better handling.
Consumers cross-shopping the comfort-oriented Civic EX coupe and base tC likely will find the Koup SX's ride stiff, and those interested in the Civic Si or supercharged tC will be disappointed with the Kia's lackluster engine. If only those 173 horses could be transformed into 200, or that suspension tuning could be dialed back to the SX sedan's level. One or the other might help the 2010 Kia Forte Koup SX join Kia's ongoing hit parade.
Used 2010 Kia Forte Overview
The Used 2010 Kia Forte is offered in the following submodels: Forte Koup, Forte Sedan. Available styles include LX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A), EX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A), Koup EX 2dr Coupe (2.0L 4cyl 4A), SX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A), Koup SX 2dr Coupe (2.4L 4cyl 5A), LX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), EX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), Koup EX 2dr Coupe (2.0L 4cyl 5M), SX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6M), and Koup SX 2dr Coupe (2.4L 4cyl 6M). Pre-owned Kia Forte models are available with a 2.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 156 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2010 Kia Forte comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2010 Kia Forte comes with a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 10 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2010 Kia Forte?
Price comparisons for Used 2010 Kia Forte trim styles:
- The Used 2010 Kia Forte EX is priced between $6,995 and$6,995 with odometer readings between 114106 and114106 miles.
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Should I lease or buy a 2010 Kia Forte?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.