2014 Kia Forte EX: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2014 Kia Forte EX as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Fuel Economy Update for June
- Dog Report
- Bright Seat Cooler Lights
- Folding Rear Seats
- Las Vegas Road Trip, Part 1
- Las Vegas Road Trip, Part 2
- Las Vegas Road Trip, Part 3
- Three Things I Like
- What English Majors Fight Over
- DRLs and LED Brows
- Slick Navigation System
- Smooth, Quiet and Not Very Fast
- Driver Selectable Steering Feedback
- A Nice Little Touch
- Fuel Economy Update for July
- Good Graphics
- Rear Suspension
- Nice Details for the Class
- The Second Impression
- The Cooled Seat
- Can't Hear the Nav Directions
- Poor IIHS Crash Test Result
- Check the Oil
- What's Not to Like?
- Back Seat Features
- Track Test
- 10 Things I Like About You
- Two Discrepancies
- Not Needed But Nice
- Simple Navigation Display
- Kia Kudos
- Fuel Economy Update for August
- Sittin', Chillin
- 5,000 Miles So Far
- Power Folding Rearview Mirrors
- Easy To Drive, But Not Boring
- Darn Good Day Tripper
- In Relative Terms, the EX's Engine Is Strong
- Luxury Car-Like Feature Compendium
- Comfortable Rear Seating
- Wheel Feel
- Customized Radio Channel List
- Fuel Economy Update for September
- User-Friendly Controls
- Adjustable Center Armrest
- GPS Speed Info
- Shows the Road
- Fuel Economy Update for October
- Classy Headlights
- Can You Tow It Behind a Motorhome?
- Front Door Reflectors
- Controls Close at Hand
- First Service Required Soon
- Seat Heat Review
- First Service Visit
- Ancestor Spotting
- The Relentless Pursuit of Customer Satisfaction
- Passengers Pluses and Minuses
- Fuel Economy Update for November
- Kia Trunk-Lid Hinges
- 10,000 miles
- Parking Lot Scrape
- Flex Steer
- Hey, Good Lookin'
- Let's Drive to Vegas for the Holidays
- Adults in the Backseat
- Fuel Economy Update for December
- I'll Take Xenon Headlights at Any Price
- LED Taillights? Yes, Please
- Really, It Has Seat Memory?
- Fuel Economy Update for January
- Acquiring Signal
- Perforated Leather Not for Kids
- Steering Feel
- Two Sides of Fuel Economy
- What Would It Really Cost?
- Fuel Economy Update for February
- Rear Vents Are a Nice Feature
- This Car Knows When You're Coming
- Rearview Cam Replaces the Tennis Ball
- Tall People May Have Trouble
- A Winning Choice for A Small Sedan
- 15,000 Miles
- Does Using Active Eco Improve Fuel Economy?
- Using Uvo Voice Commands
- Find Some Bumpy Roads During Your Test-Drive
- Fuel Economy Update for March
- Audible Car Alarms in 2014
- Fuel Economy Update for April
- 15,000-Mile Service
- Easy Commuter
- A/C Is Only OK
- Not Many Color Options
- Fuel Economy Update for May
- Adjustable Seatbelts
- Long Haul Comfort
- Four-Star Safety Rating
- Road Trip MPG and Range
It's a good time to be shopping for a compact sedan, but not such a good time to be introducing a new compact sedan. The competition out there is tough, and the 2014 Kia Forte EX joins a crowded field that makes it even tougher.
The newly redesigned Forte is longer and wider than before, with a fully revised suspension that promises more control and compliance. There's also an all-new direct-injection motor that brings more power to the party. On paper, it's an impressive package that appears to have everything it needs to compete in the crowded compact sedan segment. And now that a 2014 Kia Forte EX has entered our long-term test fleet, we've got a year to see if that feeling holds up.
What We Got
With a $20,200 starting price, the 2014 Kia Forte EX comes well equipped with standard USB/aux input, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted controls, air-conditioning and Kia's unique Uvo eServices infotainment/telematics system with standard back-up camera.
We've never spent a full year with Uvo, and this is the perfect opportunity. This system not only gives real-time maintenance notifications, but it features 911 Connect in case of an accident, roadside assistance and apps like Twitter, Siri and Pandora. This is free for 10 years/100,000 miles and does not require an additional data plan on your phone.
Another first for us from the Kia family is the new 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder that's hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission. This new motor, in direct-injected trim, isn't currently shared with anything else in the Kia line and makes 173 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 154 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. This outguns most of its rivals like the Civic (140 hp), Dodge Dart (160 hp) and Ford Focus (160 hp). Though it makes the most power of the group, there's no real sacrifice to fuel economy. The 2014 Kia Forte returns 24 city/36 highway and 28 mpg combined.
But those are just the features of the base EX. Ours, as is usual for our test fleet, is loaded. First up, the 17-inch wheels replace the standard 16s and ring up $300. Next up is the $2,600 Premium package that includes a sunroof, leather seats with power adjustability and ventilation for the driver, heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, push-button start and entry and a heated steering wheel. The EX Technology package adds $2,300 and includes xenon HID headlights, dual-zone climate control, navigation, LED taillights and a 4.2-inch color LCD in the instrument panel.
When everything gets added up, this Crimson Red 2014 Kia Forte EX wears a sticker price of $25,735. It was provided to us by the manufacturer for the purpose of this test.
Why We Got It
This 2014 Kia Forte EX joins our fleet at a prime time for us and a difficult time for the Forte. The compact sedan segment is booming. For starters, Honda has just released the 2013 Honda Civic with extra content and a lot of refinement to an already solid package. The 2013 Ford Focus is excellent as well, not to mention the Chevy Cruze and Hyundai Elantra. On the horizon, the Toyota Corolla is getting a full redesign for 2014 and the all-new Mazda 3 is right around the corner. And then, finally, in our very own test fleet is the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart that is equipped very similarly.
Not only does it have to live up to the now-high standards we have for Kia cars, but it has to impress us in what may be the freshest and most competitive segment in America. We've got 20,000 miles to see if the 2014 Kia Forte is a front-runner, or just a member of the pack. Follow along on our long-term road test page for daily updates on this and the rest of our long-term test fleet.
Best MPG: 35
Worst MPG: 20.3
Average MPG over 852 miles: 24.2
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
We just got our long-term 2014 Kia Forte with its first fill logged in for June 19. But here's how it did so far. On the day of its first fill, editor Mike Magrath took it to the gas station twice, first topping it off and then after a loop.
So far with four fills we've averaged 22.5 mpg on 87 octane. That's lower than the EPA rating of 28 combined.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.0
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 22.5
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway/Combined): 24/36/28
Best Range: 249.4 miles
Current Odometer: 1,078 miles
I broke in our new 2014 Kia Forte by using it to carry precious cargo: my dog Mya. Since it was a gorgeous weekend I wanted to bring her to Santa Monica for a morning run. Fortunately, the Forte had everything to make her short trip to the beach extra comfortable.
Since we've had record-breaking temperatures this weekend, the air vents in the backseat were crucial. Located in the back of the center armrest/storage, they're in perfect position to blow the cool air in Mya's cute face which I could tell she appreciated as her panting eventually subsided during the course of the trip.
Also, I'm always a big fan of seatbelt fasteners that protrude from the seat because I can tuck her blanket into the crevice and still fasten her in with ease as was the case here. Bonus that the Kia has leather seats. No sticky dog fur issues and minimal cleanup!
I'd gladly sign out the Kia Forte for a longer road trip with Mya. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't mind.
I did the initial instrumented testing on our latest long-termer, the 2014 Kia Forte EX. Nice car.
It was exceptionally hot out in Fontana the day we were running the numbers, so I was thankful for the Forte EX's front seat coolers.
But later on I noticed something that hadn't stuck out in the bright California sunshine.
Those blue seat cooler lights are surprisingly bright at night, to the point that I noticed they were bright. Still, it might be something I'd get used to. Plus, when you think about it, most of the time we won't be using the air conditioned seat feature at night anyway, since it's generally cooler.
It did get me thinking about interior lights though. I recently drove the 2014 Maserati Ghibli, and some of its center console button lights were impossible to see during the day. But the Maser folks told us they are totally visible when it's dark.
Whereas these Kia seat cooler lights are easily noticeable during the day, but possibly too bright for some at night.
Maybe I should drive to Vegas for the weekend. It'll surely be hot enough there that I'll want those seat coolers on at night. That way I can do a proper test.
It's super handy that our 2014 Kia Forte EX long-termer has split/folding rear seats.
And even though the seats don't form a perfectly flat (not even close) load floor, you can still pretty easily fit a road bicycle or a 29er mountain bike in the back, thanks to the generous trunk pass-through.
There'd be even more space in that pass-through if not for the seat-dropping mechanisms, which hang down a bit.
Speaking of those seat-droppers, they could be done better. Or maybe just go with the old seat-drop button/lever on the top of the seat accessed via the cabin.
The way Kia has it here, you have to pull the mechanism while reaching into the trunk to push the seat forward, because it usually won't completely release by just pulling the lever.
A road trip to Las Vegas in the summer? Pure insanity, even with the cooled driver's seat in our 2014 Kia Forte EX.
So why did I go? Good question. Honestly, I still question it myself.
Here's what happened. A friend bribed me with some extremely hard-to-come-by Garth Brooks tickets. Then she said she also got a good deal on a hotel for the weekend. I'm a sucker.
So we were off to Nevada through the boiling California desert. We saw a high of 111 degrees on the Forte's onboard thermometer. Yikes.
Not that the car complained. The temp gauge never moved. And the Forte worked just fine, with comfortable enough seats and a decent ride.
The only problem was that the 173-horsepower four-cylinder doesn't have enough grunt to pull sixth gear up sustained grades at 70-75 mph. At times it became quite the shifty situation, the transmission going down to fifth, then back up to sixth, then back down to fifth...you get the point.
Otherwise, it was a smooth and easy trip getting there.
I don't know about you, but I can only take Vegas for so long. Especially when it's miserably hot and the strip is crowded with all manner of...people.
So we took a break from Vegas during our Vegas weekend with a side trip to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead in the 2014 Kia Forte EX.
The Hoover Dam, which was built from 1931-1936, is quite the marvel of engineering. It's an utterly massive construction. If you're ever in Las Vegas, I recommend getting out of town for a few hours to check it out. It's only about a 45-minute drive.
If this photo was at all legible, you'd be able to make out the bridge that overlooks the dam. I know, pretty awesome photography.
As if I didn't have enough reasons to dislike Vegas already, traffic was big-time backed up on Interstate 15 as we headed out of the city on Sunday. At 8:30 in the morning!
This was clearly going to be a miserable road trip back to southern California. A plan was needed. Super secret back route, here we come.
I discovered a back route through Amboy and Twentynine Palms years ago. It's considerably less direct than staying on the Interstate, but it's mostly two-lanes with minimal traffic and much better desert scenery.
In reality these back roads still usually take longer (or about the same time if traffic is horrible on the 15) than slogging along the Interstate. But it's a ton less stressful. And therefore a whole lot more enjoyable.
And I was happy to see that even though it's been some time since I last took this route, few people have caught onto it. Or care, apparently.
And, Roy's in Amboy was open for the first time in years.
Total miles for the trip: 979
Average mpg: 30.9
Best mpg: 32.8
I drove our long-term 2014 Kia Forte this weekend. Our test model is a fully-loaded EX with pretty much every option except mudguards and a rear spoiler. There's a lot to like about this car, but I've narrowed it down to three.
1. Xenon HID Lights
It is rare to find HID lights in a compact-class sedan. You can't get them on a Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus (unless you get the more expensive Focus ST or EV), or VW Jetta. The Mazda 3 is the only other car I can think of that offers them in this price range.
The Kia Forte's HID lights are part of the "EX Technology" package, a $2,300 option that also includes navigation, HD radio, dual-zone climate control with rear vents and LED tail lights. It's a pricey package, but these are all options I'd want on a car I was buying.
2. Forward Visibility
It's been a while since I paid a compliment to the visibility on a modern car. It's hard to convey it in a photo, but the Forte's dash doesn't come up too high and offers a wide view of the road. The porthole windows on the A-pillar, while not too useful for locating objects, does add to the airiness of the cabin.
3. Large Sunglass Storage
I don't have those big '70s-style sunglasses that seem to be in vogue today, but my Oakleys don't fit inside the storage compartment in my own car, which is too bad. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that they fit in the Forte's case. Sure, there are other places to put sunglasses in a car, but if your vehicle has a built-in compartment, why not use it?
The word forte has two useful meanings: 1) something you're good at and 2) a musical instruction to play strong and loud. And I thought I knew how to pronounce it, too. For-tay, right?
But a couple of years ago I did something I'd never done before: I watched a season of Celebrity Apprentice. Penn Jillette was making his first appearance on one of the teams. His opponents named their team Forte to reflect their presumed skill and confidence, and they went around pronouncing it like I always had.
"It's pronounced fort," grumbled Penn more than once. He may have thrown a "morons" in there, too. I forget.
I thought this was just competitive grumbling, but then I went to the dictionary, another move I rarely make. He was right if the usage of forte referred to skill, competence and generally operating in one's wheelhouse. The dictionary crowd does begrudgingly concede that a secondary for-tay pronunciation exists, but they generally stand by fort as the more correct one.
American Heritage Dictionary: "The word forte, coming from the French fort, should properly be pronounced like the English word fort. Common usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation for-tay, which has been influenced by the music term forte borrowed from Italian. In a recent survey, a strong majority of the Usage Panel, 74 percent, preferred the two-syllable pronunciation. The result is a delicate situation; speakers who are aware of the origin of the word may wish to continue to pronounce it as one syllable but at increasing risk of puzzling their listeners."
Merriam-Webster: "In forte we have a word derived from French that in its "strong point" sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated for-tay because it reflects the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation fort, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with the English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whatever variant you choose."
The music one, on the other hand, is pronounced for-tay all the time.
I've never seen or heard a 2014 Kia Forte TV commercial, and I haven't heard a Kia staffer say the name out loud. If I had they'd probably go for the haughtier for-tay because its sounds Frenchier, even though it isn't.
I'm assuming of course, that they're using the "we really know what we're doing over here at Kia" version of the word. I'm pretty sure they don't want us to think the 2014 Kia Forte is an especially loud car. Besides, intra-squad rival Hyundai has laid claim to music-themed names with their Sonata.
Whatever the case, I feel empowered to cease and desist with the pseudo-French pronunciation. I'm going with fort from this day forward. Forts are cool. Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker deserve a little respect.
I'm a fan of daytime running lights (DRLs). They make it easier for me to spot cars at a glance in the rear-view mirror and on the road. In Canada, all cars are required to have DRLs. In the U.S., it is optional. Kia opted not to include DRLs on the 2014 Forte. But this could be a quick fix, if Kia wanted to add them.
See that LED brow on the Forte's headlight? Use that. This strip of lights is pretty common on new cars nowadays, and while many editors in the office seem to have "LED brow" fatigue, most agree that the lights are functional. But the Forte's LED brow only comes on when the lights are in parking mode or the headlights are on.
I wasn't able to find a way to switch on DRLs in the Forte's settings menu. The owner's manual, likely written to cover the U.S. and Canadian versions of the car, shows that the car is capable of having DRLs. But ours didn't come that way.
What are your thoughts on DRLs and LED brows?
After spending a few days in our long-term 2014 Kia Forte, I found that the navigation system and its associated functions are very easy to use and nicely designed. Take for instance this notification I got when the fuel was low.
This is not a groundbreaking feature by any means. There are plenty of cars that will show you where a nearby gas station is when you're low on fuel, but the fact that it popped up and offered the option without provocation was a nice touch.
On some systems you have to go in and set up this type of notification manually. In the Forte, it just pops up, and if you don't need it, just hit "no" and it's gone. Simple stuff that makes the navigation system feel like it's worth the trouble.
When you upgrade to the "EX" trim level of the Kia Forte you get the bigger 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. With 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque, it's one of the more robust engines in the compact segment. And combined with a standard six-speed automatic you would think it would be pretty quick.
In reality, it's peppy but hardly quick. Between the power band of the engine and the shift program of the transmission, this Kia doesn't accelerate with much urgency.
On the plus side, the engine is very smooth and quiet no matter how hard you push it. And the shifts from the transmission are very refined as well. In fact, some of the engine's lazy feel could be chalked up to the fact that it never really feels like it's working very hard. Not a bad trait for a compact, four-cylinder sedan.
See that little button on the steering wheel of the 2014 Kia Forte that looks like a steering wheel? You might assume it was the switch to turn on the heated wheel (which it also has), but you'd be wrong. That button changes the feedback of the electric-assist power steering (EPS).
Click through to see more.
These three screens cycle with each press of the button and it turns out I'm in favor of Normal. For me, Comfort is too numb, and Sport is artificially too heavy. While the EPS in the Kia is not nearly as good as in our Ford Focus, it's pretty good in the Normal mode.
I was killing time at a stoplight on a recent hot summer afternoon, when my eyes landed on the passenger side door panel of our long-term 2014 Kia Forte. And I was struck by those subtle arching lines the designers put there. Everyone probably knows by now that the Forte was completely redesigned for 2014 and that Kia was trying to up the ante with this version of the compact sedan, especially when it came to interior materials and styling.
Our model review of the Forte calls the styling sharp, and I agree. And I love that they carried that feeling not just into the parts of the interior that you look at a lot (like the dash), but to the door panels, too. Thumbs up.
Our new Kia Forte EX saw a decent workout schedule for the month of July, rolling up an additional 2,207 miles on the odometer. That included a trip to Las Vegas in 111-degree heat.
Tally that journey in with a steady diet of L.A.'s notorious commuter traffic and overall, the Forte is averaging 26.4 mpg. Not bad, but still a bit lower than the EPA Combined estimate of 28 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 26.4
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City / 36 Highway)
Best Range: 376.2
Current Odometer: 3,283
As a former art director/layout slave, I have a certain fondness for good graphics. And our Kia Forte's got them.
The first item I found praiseworthy was the touchscreen. The layout, resolution and ease of use are all excellent. As a graphics nerd, I'm particularly fond of the font the designers chose. One of my great struggles when selecting a typeface for a project is finding something modern and edgy, yet still legible. I call those rare fonts "edgible."
As an on-screen font, it definitely works well. For consistency's sake, Kia also used the same font everywhere else in the car: on buttons, knobs, gauges. And even the digital readouts on the climate control and are similar, if not identical.
A lot of other manufacturers will have a multitude of different typefaces throughout their cabins, and to most people it goes unnoticed. The latent designer in me sometimes gets irked by this, but when there's a wonderful consistency, like in our Forte, I feel compelled to call it out.
So there I was, making my daily migration to Santa Monica in our long-term Kia Forte. There's a small section on my drive where the road is pockmarked and choppy. And that's when I felt something familiar.
It was a strange and slightly unsettling shimmy coming from the rear wheels. The first time I felt it was when I was driving the Hyundai Veloster, and it's all down to a similar rear suspension. A Torsion-beam suspension.
Torsion beam suspensions offer some advantages, namely in the cost and packaging departments. In terms of disadvantages, well, there's that shimmy I mentioned.
In its defense, the Forte remained composed over these ruts, but it just felt like the tires were skipping from side to side. In the Veloster, I also felt another more unsettling shimmy under hard braking while heading into turns. This one felt more like the beginnings of a tail-slapper, but it never got to that point.
Considering that this Forte has no performance-based aspirations, the torsion-beam is probably just fine for the majority of drivers. Me? I prefer either a truly independent rear suspension or a solid rear axle a-la Ford Mustang. I know, that's a pretty wide range there, but this middle-ground beam thing doesn't do it for me.
Contrasting dash stitching in a Kia? Yep, and it's not even the big dollar Cadenza. And would you look at that faux carbon-fiber trim? A tad ambitious maybe, but it doesn't look half bad.
These are just a couple of the surprising styling details I've noticed in our 2014 Kia Forte. There are more, too, but the fact that there are any at all shows just how far Kia has come.
I don't expect compact sedans to put much effort into details like this since their main goal is basic transportation at a reasonable price. Then again, stuff like this never hurts, and if you can combine it with all the basics for a reasonable price, then all the better.
Kias make a tremendous first impression. They look great on paper, even better in the metal and even if they aren't great to drive, all their other positive attributes make them seem like smart purchases. That was certainly the case with our long-term Optima, but over time, our enthusiasm waned.
Now we have a new 2014 Kia Forte. I, for one, was very positive about it in the Edmunds video review, ultimately concluding that it's a worthy alternative to the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Mazda 3. However, will my appreciation for the Forte hold up over the course of a year?
I got my first extended drive in our new long-term Forte this weekend, driving it down to Los Angeles of Anaheim to watch one crappy baseball team play another one. As before, the Forte is a compact car I feel no shame walking up to and calling my own for a few days, especially when it so coolly greets you by automatically whirring out the folding mirrors as you approach. Getting in, our car's luxury car equipment level simply can't be touched by any competitor. On the surface, nothing about our Forte says "economy car."
Yet, the driving experience still betrays the Forte. Mid-corner undulations still send the rear suspension into a springy high-seas adventure, while none of the three steering settings provide the sort of feedback I'd prefer from a small car. And although the engine has plenty of power, its noises and vibrations are more indicative of a Lowe's saw department than its more audibly pleasing competitors. If I were buying a car in this segment, I'd ultimately opt for a Ford Focus and live without a cooled seat, a heated steering wheel and the Forte SX's other extra goodies. I would also recommend like-minded buyers consider the Honda Civic and Mazda 3.
So, I still say that the Forte makes a whole heap of sense for a whole heap of car shoppers. It looks great, gives you access to high-end features and really doesn't cost that much considering. I foresee happily signing it out this year, but like the Optima before it, I don't see it becoming a favorite.
After sitting in the sun for three hours atop a plastic baseball stadium seat, just about the last thing I wanted to do was return to a car that's been sitting in that same sun for the same amount of time atop black tarmac. And yet that's exactly what happened yesterday in Los Angeles of Anaheim.
Thankfully for my butt, however, our long-term Kia Forte has a cooled driver seat. Words can't fully express how awesome a feature that is in this particular instance. Sure, my passenger's butt was S.O.L. as there is no cooled passenger seat, but that's still one more cooled seat than any other car in this price range offers. To that I say, "huzzah!" And I suppose, so does my butt.
I may be blind, but I'm not deaf. At least that's what I thought until I found myself struggling to hear the verbal directions while using our 2014 Kia Forte's navigation system.
Starting the system in a quiet parking garage, I had no trouble hearing that the destination directions had begun. But once I hit the freeway, I couldn't get the volume loud enough. I tried turning up the volume knob while the "woman" was talking to me, but it didn't seem to make a difference over the road noise. I then found a volume adjustment on the touchscreen, but after giving it a few taps, it appeared that the volume was already on max.
Once we got off the freeway, it was easier to hear on surface streets, but it was never ideal.
The results are in for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety small-car "overlap" crash test, and the news is not good for Kia.
The 2014 Kia Forte was the worst performer in the test that replicates a crash in which the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole at 40 mph.
IIHS engineers said that the 2014 Forte test resulted in a "horrendous" crash with intrusion into the occupant compartment.
The 2013 Honda Civic was the only small car to get a top score in the new test.
Preparing for a trip to La Quinta, Calif. in the desert where the temperatures are often 110 degrees Fahrenheit, I thought it would be a good idea to check the oil. I was recently in our long-term 2013 Cadillac ATS and tried to check the oil, only to find the dipstick was so hot I couldn't touch it. Also, the dipstick is at the rear of the engine and close to the hood so it was difficult to draw it out.
In the Kia, it couldn't have been more obvious, and easier to check. And if I had needed to top it off (which I didn't) filling the oil would be easy too.
I tried hard to find something about the 2014 Kia Forte that I didn't like. Ultimately — and this is pretty lame — the only thing I really disliked were the wheels and the graphics on the nav screen. Everything else worked so effortlessly, was so well designed, and so nicely balanced, that it was beyond reproach.
I did, however, find several features worth calling out.
I had to agree with Executive Editor Ed Hellwig's comments about the power in this Kia. Despite its name, its forte is not speed, or at least acceleration. With 173 horses on tap, and 154 pound-feet of torque there's all the zip you need to get out ahead of traffic. The problem is, it just doesn't give you that burst of power, the low-end grunt we like. And, wind it up a little, it sounds like it's trying too hard. But on the flip side, it got 33.2 mpg over more than 300 miles of driving.
One thing that did surprise me were the brakes. I'm not a driver that pays a lot of attention to brake-feel. But within the first couple of miles I noticed that the brakes engaged at the right level and modulated perfectly for my taste.
Finally, under the heading of hidden features, I found this air conditioning vent in the glove box to keep drinks cold. Only problem is, then you have to put your stuff somewhere else while the glove box becomes the ice box.
Basically, this is an impressive car that carries a sticker price of $25,735 (TMV is about a grand less). That's a lot of car for the money.
Our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX comes with heated back seats, which I don't really need to tell you is a rarity in the compact sedan segment. In fact, only the mechanically and corporately related Hyundai Elantra offers them. More common, though still rare, are the Forte's rear seat air vents.
These features, along with the back seat's generous space (the front seat above is at its rear-most position), add to the Forte's viability as a family car as well as an alternative to larger midsize sedans.
Aside from our Tesla, this 2014 Kia Forte is my current favorite car in our long-term fleet.
I have a soft spot for cars in this economy compact segment. They are the workhorses of the middle class. And in the real world (that world that exists outside the fantasy of automotive journalism), this is probably the level of car I would buy for myself.
Sure, I would love to have a Tesla Model S or a Jaguar XF Supercharged, but I also want a healthy retirement fund, so this is more in line with what I want to spend on a car.
These are a few of my favorite features:
1. price that starts under $20K, optioned like our test car, about $25K
2. quick downshifts don't keep me waiting
3. good looks (I get asked about this car as much as the Tesla. Yes, really.)
4. an effort at good interior materials that look nice and fit well
5. a real hand brake
6. heated and cooled driver seat
7. heated passenger and rear seats
8. roomy back seat
9. front storage cubby (I like the placement, depth, and shape)
10. speed limit display on map (more on this in my next post)
11. clean, simple instrument panel
Oops, that's 11. I guess I really like this car.
Can you notice two discrepancies in this photo of our long-term 2014 Kia Forte?
1) The speed limit sign on the street doesn't match the speed limit shown on the Kia Forte's nav screen.
Most of the time (I would say about 95% of the time) this feature displays the correct speed limit. And it adjusts quickly as the limits change while you are driving. This section of Olympic Boulevard near our office used to have a posted limit of 45 mph. But I've noticed several roads in this area now have lowered speed limits. I suspect the town is trying to get more money in speeding tickets, but I might just be paranoid.
Our Cadillac also has this feature in its heads-up display. And I noticed it displayed a speed limit of 40 mph on Ocean Boulevard while a brand new blinking-light street sign said 35.
2) The time on the nav does not match the time on the display above it. Oh well.
Much like the contrasting stitching I noted before, our Forte has another notable design detail that's hard to miss. The section you see above is just above the glove box. In most cars, it's dead space. No design needed, just make it look smooth and non-reflective.
In our Forte, the interior designers made a concerted effort to add some visual excitement. Nothing crazy, just a few ripples to break up the monotony.
Some have called it "gimmicky," but I'm fine with it. It shows effort and a willingness to try something different in an area that doesn't really require it. Cars in this class could use more of this kind of thinking.
A couple of weeks ago I complained about not being able to hear our 2014 Kia Forte's navigation system provide directions. Now, after spending some time in other test cars this week, I realize how much I do appreciate the simple graphic display the Kia offers.
Some systems overly clutter the page with additional details. But when you're not interested in POI or alternative routes, the Kia does a great job of showing just the potential slow-downs.
During my daily commute, this is all the info I need.
The first car review I wrote was for the 1996 Kia Sephia. It was for Automobile Magazine, and if there was a link to that old CompuServe page, I would certainly post it.
Folks back then were like, "Kia? I thought it was Chia (Pet)."
As the most junior writer on staff, I was obviously assigned the least desirable car for review.
It has been amazing to watch the evolution of Kia in the U.S. And now it's not just the Optima that deserves a high level of praise. Our long-term 2014 Forte is no slouch, either.
As Managing Editor Donna DeRosa recently said, "Aside from our Tesla, the 2014 Kia Forte is my current favorite car in our long-term fleet."
In our test-group where some cars carry sticker prices north of $100K, this $25K sedan is a crowd pleaser.
During August our Kia Forte EX added nearly 1,600 miles to the clock. Although plenty of clogged commuting miles are still obviously part of its work duties, a fair measure of open freeway cruising helped boost our Forte's average fuel economy to an even 27 mpg, just a single mpg off the EPA's combined estimate.
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.0
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City / 36 Highway)
Best Range: 309.4
Current Odometer: 4,869
A semi-tropical heatwave has settled in Southern California, bringing heavy air from Texas and storm leftovers from Mexico's Baja peninsula. The Forte registered an ambient temperature of 90-degrees F. at noon today, slightly unseasonable but not unusual. Sixty-percent humidity makes the day stickier and sweatier, so it's a good time to be grateful that we spec'd our long-term 2013 Kia Forte with a ventilated driver seat.
You don't expect to find bum coolers in the Forte's class. Granted, we ordered them in a $2,600 package that also includes a sunroof, power-adjustable leather front seats, heated rear seats, push-button start and a heated steering wheel. But even with that package and other features we opted for, our loaded EX comes in under $26,000. Not exactly budget compact money, but not bank-busting either.
The ventilated seat isn't the best. The spread feels a little uneven, as if you're sitting on thin dowels of chilled air instead of a cool pad. There's no back cooling. But these are absurd criticisms. This is not an Equus, a Quoris or whatever else Kia's eventual luxury flagship will be called. With the 2014 Forte, Kia further hones its value equation. You feel like you get a lot of car for the money here.
Our 2014 Kia Forte has crested 5,000 miles on its odometer. So far the Forte has been trouble free in our driving, and we've already used it for a couple road trips.
Looking back, our updates the past couple of months have been pretty positive. I suspect the Forte will continue to be a popular car in our fleet, making it easier to hit 20,000 miles during its one-year stay.
After spending three glorious days in our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster last week, I hopped in our Kia Forte last week for a trip to San Diego.
I expected at least some initial shock based on the differences between the two cars, but it just wasn't there. Sure, the Forte is no tire-shredding supercar, but it was comfortable along the highway and (as many of our editors have noted) it feels nicer than its price tag suggests.
Once in San Diego I parked the Forte and locked it via remote. To my surprise, the rearview mirrors folded up all on their own. In the SLS, you have to do this via button control on the driver's-side door. These power folding side mirrors are an option on lower trim levels, but standard on our EX. Nice touch, Kia.
There's no modern production vehicle sold today in America that I'd describe as "hard to drive," at least in the sense that something like a Ford Model A would be challenging unless you're very familiar with it. That said, I have noticed our 2014 Kia Forte is super easy to drive, which is perfect for an affordable sedan like this.
There are two reasons for this I think. One is the Forte's control layout. Everything is where I'd expect it to be. There aren't any quirks or oddities. In general the stalks and buttons have a solid feel to them. Other than maybe for the Uvo service, I don't think you'll need to get out the owner's manual.
The other quality is the way the Forte drives. It steers smartly, has adequate but not overwhelming power, offers a nicely tuned ride quality, has a comfortable seating position, and provides respectable outward visibility.
In the way I'd expect the typical Kia Forte owner to use his or her car, I think the above aspects would be quite pleasing. The Forte is a car you can just hop in and drive. But it doesn't come across as just an appliance, either. There's some style and personality that I appreciate.
I recently took the 2014 Kia Forte to one of my favorite day-tripper destinations, Solvang, CA, which is located about 125 miles north of L.A. This quaint Danish village is surrounded by beautiful vineyards and also has an unexpected treat for guys like me in the form of a motorcycle museum. The latter's eclectic collection includes such gems as a Brough Superior and a number of early-1900s bikes. Oh yeah, a trip there also includes a really nice drive.
We headed out around 7:45 a.m. Sunday morning when the roads are blissfully free of traffic. Our route included the scenic PCH as well as 154-West, which provides some driving fun with its curvy sections of blacktop. The Forte, which averaged about 30 mpg roundtrip, proved itself a great road trip companion for three main reasons: performance, comfort and convenience.
First off, the direct-injected-four provides a respectable spread of power and it's teamed with a well-sorted transmission. The latter steps down a gear or two when needed without hesitation and holds lower gears so there's a minimum of gear hunting while running up steeper grades. When maximum thrust was needed to swiftly pass lumbering trucks, the Forte stepped up without ever sounding strained.
Thick, well-shaped seats provided proper support for the missus and I, while the heating and cooling features for the driver seat were used and greatly appreciated. Lastly, taking advantage of the Forte's high-tech features, such as Bluetooth, iPod integration and the navigation system, was super easy. That's something that can't be said for some other cars so equipped.
Our long-term Kia Forte is the EX model, and that means it comes with the upgraded engine. This 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 173 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque, as compared to LX trim level's 1.8-liter engine that's rated at 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque.
As we reported a while back in track testing, our long-term Forte accelerated to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. (In an earlier test of a different Forte EX, we recorded an even quicker time, 8.1 seconds.) But either way, this is actually one of the quickest times you'll see for a 2014 small sedan.
At Edmunds we keep an internal record of our track-test times. As an average, the typical small economy sedan with an automatic transmission does the 0-60-mph sprint in 9 seconds. Some specifics? The last Honda Civic we tested (2013) posted a 9.6-second time. A 2011 Hyundai Elantra checked in at 9.4 seconds. The Ford Focus was closer at 8.4 seconds.
In the real world, I think this difference is noticeable as our Forte accelerates with more pop than is typical. (I realize that this opinion does contrast with a couple of previous updates and here, though it's likely the difference is related to what we're comparing the Forte to.) But I would agree with other updates that the engine seems a bit buzzier than some others.
We haven't tested a Kia Forte LX yet. But overall I think the EX's extra power would be pretty attractive to me if I were looking to buy a Forte, especially since there's just a minimal drop in fuel economy (1 mpg in combined driving).
We've already had a variety of previous updates noting that our 2014 Kia Forte EX came loaded with features, many of them unexpected for this class of car. I've collected those updates here so that you can see them in one place. I've also added a few more features that I've noticed.
Some other, less noticeable premium features our Forte has: dual auto-up/down front windows; keyless ignition/entry; exterior access lighting (door handles automatically illuminate as you approach the car); LED taillights; full interior control illumination (even including the USB/iPod and auxiliary ports); audio system voice commands (the Uvo system).
If some friends of yours end up going along for a ride in your 2014 Kia Forte, they'll likely be pretty pleased with the rear seating.
For starters, there's 35.9 inches of rear seat legroom, which is very good for this class of car. (Here's a link to the Edmunds comparison tool loaded with two other cars known for their roomy rear seats, the Civic and Jetta, and one with a smaller-than-typical rear seat, the Focus.) Headroom should also be sufficient for adults up to about 6 feet tall.
As for the seating itself, I've found it to be pretty comfortable. There's adequate support under your thighs from the seat cushion, the backrest isn't overly upright, and there's a pleasing amount of padding on the door and center armrests.
Of course, our loaded Forte EX also has those rear air vents and heated rear seats.
Each time I get in the 2014 Kia Forte, I'm slightly more amazed at how much stuff they squeezed in here: heated front seats (ventilated and 8-way power adjustable for the driver), power-folding mirrors, a nice nav and multimedia system, a rear-view camera, keyless touch entry and ignition, and upholstery and steering wheel covered in something resembling leather.
The upholstery's pretty nice, somewhere between genuine leather and M-B Tex. The steering wheel wrap, meanwhile, feels something more like polyvinyl chloride than leather. If it's indeed leather, I'm certain I'll hear about it. If not, it's a pretty good approximation, if with just a slightly chalky texture.
I once had a swag jacket made from the polyvinyl stuff. I wore it for manual labor, helping friends move, and crawling under the Jeep during the cool months. It got down to the fibers pretty quick. Granted, this was a piece of cheaply-made promo clothing that I abused. I give the Forte wheel better odds. It's made from the same material that covered the wheel in our former long-term Optima, and I believe that made it to 20,000 miles with nary a blemish. The plastic inserts on the inner bottom rim also make a nice contrast to the rest of the texture.
I can only guess that the upholstery and materials (and loads of other features on the Forte) come through Hyundai/Kia's lauded vertical manufacturing structure, the product of in-house or in-network suppliers that help keep costs down, and allow a car loaded like our Forte out the door for $25,700.
This is the screen you get when you want to "browse" through all the Sirius/XM channels in our long-term 2014 Kia Forte. You can go up and down the list using either the little touch buttons on the screen (annoying) or the little rotary knob at the right (much better). Notice the "buttons" next to the channel name ones that say "skip?"
These essentially make the list work like the customizable channel guide I so very much enjoy with DirecTV. With both I can remove from the guide any channel I have no intention of ever watching or listening to. As far as I'm concerned, the Home Shopping Network and Fox News simply don't exist. If I owned the Forte, Outlaw Country and I suppose also Fox News would meet similar fates.
Having said that, you'd have to be pretty darn eclectic to exhaust the number of SXM channels that can fit in the normal radio preset lists, and therefore need to use this "skip" functionality. Still, even if it would be helpful for only a few people, it's neat that somebody thought to include it.
Though Kia and its parent company Hyundai have come under fire for their cars missing EPA fuel economy estimates, our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX is essentially meeting its combined estimate of 28 mpg. With 6,707 miles on the odometer, we're averaging 27.9 mpg.
The best we've been able to do is 35 mpg accomplished during our standardized 116-mile Edmunds test loop, which falls short of the 36 mpg highway figure. As we're always quick to point out, however, it's EPA combined you should care about. Our Forte is nailing that.
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.9
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City / 36 Highway)
Best Range: 377.2
Current Odometer: 6,707
It seems like some manufacturers find joy in "challenging" us with infotainment intricacies and all manner of hidden menus.
So it was refreshing to get into the 2014 Kia Forte EX the other night. Within seconds I had made room on the car's phone list by deleting "Scott's iPhone," whoever that poor guy might be.
An instant later, my phone was paired and ready to go. Truly that simple.
The touchscreen is easy to use and the climate controls are all right there for you in plain old large knobs and buttons.
Lots of cars have adjustable fore/aft center armrests.
But they aren't all created equal.
The one you see here in the 2014 Kia Forte EX is one of the good ones.
I realized this not so much from driving the Forte, but rather from a recent drive in the 2014 Mazda 6.
Great car, for sure, but its adjustable armrest moves too easily. It kept moving its position every time I, or my passenger, altered the amount of elbow force. Annoying.
No such problems with the 2014 Kia Forte. Its center armrest has more robust locking positions, so you're far less apt to move it back and forth by mistake.
The 2014 Kia Forte has nice, classic-style analog gauges. By classic, I mean sharp typeface, no clutter, no corny digital inset Tron graphics. That said, I still like an electronic readout of vehicle speed on long trips, mostly to prevent becoming a target of overzealous enforcement. If the Forte has one to show in the LCD display between speedometer and tach, I couldn't find it.
But I did find a cheat. The GPS Info screen within the nav system displays your speed as measured by eyes in the sky. Although it'd be impractical to keep this screen up all the time, particularly if you actually needed nav guidance, it's a useful little feature.
I'm most curious to learn if the system stores any of this information and whether it's accessible. I could see that coming in handy for those occasional nebulous speeding violations.
I knew the route anyway, but I appreciate nav systems like the 2014 Kia Forte's that use clear graphics to tell you, in not so many words, "dummy, stay in your lane, stay on this highway." It shows up only for a half-mile or so before the navigation point, but I find it easier to process this kind of graphic direction than reading from a list of actions.
Also a commendable job of loading the screen with information, yet keeping most of it to the left-hand periphery.
We took possession of our 2014 Kia Forte in the latter part of June, so we've been pouring fuel into this nice-driving Korean compact sedan for a little more than 4 months. In that time we've driven it 7,963 miles, which works out to a little more than 1,850 miles per month.
Those numbers put us ahead of schedule in our quest to amass 20,000 miles in one year. From this point forward we only need to average 1,563 miles per month to reach our goal. The Forte seems popular enough around the office to handle that easily.
What's more, we're pleased with the MPG numbers we've been seeing. Our 2014 Kia Forte EX has the 2.0-liter engine and a six-speed automatic, which is good for an official EPA rating of 28 mpg Combined (24 city / 36 highway.) To this point our 8,000-mile average is 27.8 mpg, which rounds to 28 mpg.
Our best highway tank so far has been 35.0 mpg, and that came on our overall evaluation loop, a mix of city, mountain and freeway driving that is far from a boring freeway stint on cruise control. We can beat the 36 mpg Highway number, is what I'm saying, and we have nearly 8 months to make it happen.
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.8
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City / 36 Highway)
Best Range: 381.0 miles
Current Odometer: 7,963
During the four months we've had the 2014 Kia Forte in our long-term fleet, there hasn't been much to complain about. It's a strong competitor in the compact sedan segment, partially because of how functionally excellent it is, but also because of quality styling cues. Take the headlights, for example.
Our car has the HID headlights (included in the optional EX Technology package on the Forte), and they're great. They emit a clear beam of light, and although there is a strip of lights along the top of the housing, it doesn't look like a cheap knock-off of some luxury brand. Like the rest of the car, it's understated and aesthetically pleasing without being over the top.
Almost all of the cars in the compact market today are, at the very least, adequate. So, any small touches that make you stand out from the crowd are a plus.
You can tow anything behind a motorhome if you load it on a trailer first. But most RV regulars see this as a huge hassle, and they'd rather not have to resort to a two-wheel tow dolly, either.
The ideal scenario is shown above. A so-called "dinghy" vehicle tags along behind on its own four wheels, ready to be unhooked and driven on side trips while the motorhome sits moored with its awnings unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode. Flat-towing makes it unnecessary to fret about the extra towed weight, loading time and storage problem that a trailer or dolly represents.
That's all well and good, but could I tow our 2014 Kia Forte behind a motorhome?
Sorry, but the answer seems to be "no." The owner's manual in our 2014 Kia Forte does not authorize it for such duty.
This answer isn't spelled out specifically because, quite frankly, the owner's manual creates the impression that Kia doesn't even know what dinghy towing is. There's no acknowledgement that flat-towing exists beyond the need for vehicle recovery after a mechanical breakdown.
Terms such as "recreational," "RV" and "motorhome" are fully absent in any section that references towing. The only relevant advice comes under a section entitled "What to Do in an Emergency" in which diagrams of tow trucks feature prominently.
And there's a sketch of a car being pulled by a tow strap with the following caution: "If the car is being towed with all four wheels on the ground, it can only be towed from the front. Be sure that the transmission is in neutral. Be sure that the ignition switch is in the ACC position. A driver must be in the vehicle to operate the steering and brakes." It goes on to say that cars equipped with an automatic transmission can be towed this way no faster than 10 mph and no farther than 1.0 mile in order to "avoid serious damage."
This very limited speed and distance limitation doesn't seem to apply to the LX manual transmission version, but nothing here says it's OK to flat tow a manual-equipped Forte behind an RV at freeway speeds for hundreds of miles, either. This scenario isn't even acknowledged as a possibility. It's as if the idea that anyone might want to engage in 4-down flat-towing for purely recreational purposes is completely alien.
It's a pity. The 2014 Kia Forte is the right size and it carries an attractive price.
When I opened the doors on our 2014 Kia Forte, I noticed something unique: reflectors. Sure, I've got them on the wheels of my bicycle, but I couldn't recall seeing this feature on the inside of many car doors.
I went down to the Edmunds.com parking garage to investigate a half-dozen of our long-term cars and sure enough, only a couple of them shared this safety feature. It's just a small piece of trim, but details like this put the Forte among my favorite compact sedans.
I grew up in Philadelphia, sometimes affectionately referred to as Philthydelphia. From time to time (and this is pretty gross) a pig truck would try to take an illegal shortcut through my neighborhood and pollute the air. A pig truck is just like what it sounds, a truck full of pigs. And boy did they leave a trail of stick behind them. We'd all run for cover, shut our windows and protect our noses. I don't think they do this anymore, at least I hope not.
What does this have to do with our 2014 Kia Forte? Well, despite every vehicle in California having to get smog inspected regularly, there are still a lot of really stinky vehicles in this town. When I get stuck downwind of one, I appreciate how easy it is to recirculate the air in the Forte.
The recirc button is not hidden inside the nav screen controls, or several steps inside a complicated climate system. It's right there and only takes one second to block out the stench.
One last thought: bacon.
I drove our long-term 2014 Kia Forte for three days before I noticed the service warning. It only appears for a few seconds before the display reverts back to the default information screen, so it's easy to miss.
I consulted the owner's manual, which says the 7,500-mile service should include an oil change, tire rotation, inspection of the air filter, battery and vacuum hose, and, somewhat unusual, the use of a fuel additive. Looks like we'll be scheduling the first service soon.
I always get happy when I see that a car has seat heaters. Our 2014 Kia Forte positioned the buttons right where you can't miss them. The Forte driver gets heated and cooled seats, but the passenger only gets heat.
But that's OK. At least they provide something for the passenger.
I must report, however, that the seat level is inadequate for my liking. And you know how I like my seat heaters. The third level is comfortably warm but could be hotter, while the second and first levels are barely noticeable.
As Travis previously noted, our 2014 Kia Forte was subtly telling us it was time for its first oil change and other minor service stuff. I had the choice of three Kia dealerships for the inaugural visit and went with the one that was, by a hair, the closest to my house. The fact that it's within walking distance of a Nordstrom did factor into my decision.
The service advisor said that the car would be ready in 1.5 to 2 hours. I was in the middle of trying out some very nice dresses less than an hour later when he called to say the car was done.
The minor service included the points laid out in the owner's manual, with the exception of the fuel additive. We didn't get that. According to the fine print, fuel additive is only required if the owner doesn't use Top Tier gasoline. Our service folk seem to trust that we do. We got no upsell, and no surprises. Just the way we like it.
Total Cost: $61.53
Days Out of Service: None
Damages to editor's Nordstrom credit card: Negligible
I had just picked up our 2014 Kia Forte after its first service when I realized I was behind another Forte EX, also in Crimson Red. I don't know what year this one is, but you can see how the Forte is evolving, having shed its boxier backend and squared off headlights with the 2014 redesign.
When you buy cars, do you tend to stick with a model as it's redesigned? Or do you like to mix it up?
The service advisor, of course, prepped me for what would come next. You might get a survey, he said, and we want to make sure you were 100 percent satisfied with the service. I nodded, smiled. I might have said that everything was great, and it was.
The next morning, I got an email from the dealership's CSI administrator. These initials, of course, do not stand for "crime scene investigation," but for "customer satisfaction index."
"If we have not achieved EXCELLENCE in your service experience, we have failed," the note said. The tone was one of slight panic. (I should add that the dealership didn't know that this was an Edmunds car. I used my own contact info.)
Later in the day, I got the dealership's invitation to join its email service-reminder list, with a promise of lots of perks. Still later, I got a phone call from the service department, just checking in to make sure the service experience was all it could have been. I assured the caller it was fine.
I know what's going on. If I happen to get a Kia customer service index survey in the mail and I decide to score it with anything less than "more ecstatically happy than I've ever been in my entire life," the dealership service department gets dinged. It's CSI inflation.
Why isn't "good" good enough? I got good service, and that's all I expected. For a 7,500-mile service visit to send me reeling, it would have to be so laden with goodies that the dealership couldn't afford to stay in business. What if I wanted lattes, pedicures, iPad charging stations and lots of other foolishness in exchange for my business? That kind of service might be fine for the swanky Mercedes dealership in Newport Beach, but nutty for a Kia shop in Cerritos.
Chill out, OEMs. Give your dealerships a break. Good is great.
I spent some time in the passenger seat of the 2014 Kia Forte this weekend. It's a nice place to be, in many respects.
First and foremost, Kia allows passengers to set destinations and otherwise use the navigation system while the car is in motion, at speed. Hooray for common sense. It's a minor but understandable inconvenience that the screen is canted slightly toward the driver. Most passengers won't mind that.
The window sticker for our 2014 Kia Forte tells us it comes with a four-cylinder engine (which it does), as well as leather seats, a nav, sunroof (check, check and check) as well as host of other goodies. But the window sticker also has EPA MPG numbers and those, while claimed, can be much less easy to prove. Is our Kia living up to those numerical expectations?
As it turns out, it's pretty close. Over the month of November the Kia saw a fair bit of city driving. That did drop its combined average a bit, but it's still a near-as-makes-no-difference .3 (27.7 MPG) off the EPA estimate of 28.0. And while the highway claim of 36 MPG remains elusive, the Forte is holding its own while still managing to be a decent drive.
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.7
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 city/36 highway)
Best Range: 381.0
Current Odometer: 9,714 miles
I've been looking for something I don't like about our 2014 Kia Forte. And while loading up a trunkful of Goodwill items, I noticed its box-crushing trunk hinges.
I was careful to move the junior fireman's hat toward the middle of the trunk, safely out of harm's way.
Our 2014 Kia Forte test car crossed the 10,000-mile mark this weekend, which means we've added 5,000 miles to the odo since mid-September.
With a lifetime average of nearly 28 mpg, it's easy to see why the Forte remains one of the most popular commuter cars in our test fleet.
The only thing worse than having a stranger frantically wave at you from across the parking lot is to then have that stranger point out the new scrape on your car.
According to the observant bystander, our Kia Forte was sitting there minding its own business when a young kid was piloting one of those oversized shopping cars made to look like a racecar. The boy dragged the cart alongside the Forte and a lower metal part caught the Kia's left rear wheel well, etching a deep scrape in the paint.
Having missed the whole episode myself, I have no recourse now than to relay the story to car minder Mike Schmidt, and drive it to the body shop when he issues the order.
It's pretty cool that the 2014 Kia Forte EX has adjustable steering effort, called Flex Steer. Especially considering the segment and price-point this car falls into.
There are three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport, and you can adjust them by pressing that button with the little steering wheel on it just above the cruise control.
While I like the feature, sometimes the Sport setting feels wonky, particularly at low speeds. It's okay on-center, but as soon as you start to turn, and even more so when you turn back, there's a disconnected, artificial feeling, like the system isn't completely sure how much assist to be giving.
So while I preferred the Sport setting during slalom testing of this car, for all other driving I prefer the more consistent effort of the Normal mode, even if it's a lighter effort.
I continue to enjoy the styling of our 2014 Kia Forte EX long-termer. It has sleek, interesting lines and some neat details.
What's truly cool is that with cars like this Forte, the Ford Focus and the new Mazda 3, this compact economy segment offers buyers multiple choices of good-looking cars.
They're not just about inexpensive pricing and fuel economy anymore.
And that's a huge win for buyers. These are now cars that you want to own, not cars that you have to settle for buying.
Vegas would never be my first choice for a holiday destination, but when one side of my family decreed that we'd meet up in Sin City (instead of our usual spot: subfreezing central Illinois) the week of Christmas, my husband and I were obliged to make the drive. Never mind the annoyance of good weather, though. This would be an opportunity to take our long-term 2014 Kia Forte on a short road trip.
I hadn't spent much time with the redesigned Forte before this trip. Experience with the previous-generation car shaped my expectations, though. I knew I would enjoy all the amenities packed into our $25,735 long-term car but figured I'd find the actual driving experience rather dull, no more than adequate.
But after spending close to 1,000 miles in our 2014 Forte, I like our Kia a great deal more than that.
Honestly, the only thing I don't like about driving our Kia Forte EX is the steering. Even that's not terrible. It's just a few paces off the class lead if you want to talk about feel. Although it performs its primary function (turning the front wheels), it isn't sporty. Plus, I found myself making small corrections when I had the car pointed straight on Interstate 15, which wasn't a big deal but suggests that this electric-assisted power steering system could use additional refinement.
Then again, most Forte buyers won't be looking for awesome steering, and the rest of the car makes up for this ho-hum aspect. The EX model's 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, for example, offers very solid performance.
Passing maneuvers came easily on Interstate 15, and the six-speed automatic transmission was quicker than I expected to drop down a gear or two when needed. Full-throttle acceleration down entrance ramps felt good, too. This engine is smoother than previous iterations of this 2.0-liter.
Ride quality is also quite agreeable. Nah, it doesn't quite have that ratcheted-down, junior-BMW feel of the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus, but I could totally live with the Forte's setup day to day. It's comfortable, composed and quiet, and it hangs in there nicely if you pick up the pace around a curvy highway interchange.
And although I didn't have occasion to do any hard braking, the brake pedal feel during light-to-moderate applications is quite good, too. It's not too soft, nor is it overly grabby.
Ultimately, if you decided you wanted a small sedan with an automatic transmission, I think you'd owe it to yourself to at least consider the 2014 Kia Forte EX, not something I've ever thought or said about any previous small Kia. I'll share more thoughts from Vegas in subsequent updates.
Under the original plan, my family members were all going to rent cars during our holiday rendezvous in Las Vegas. So when I picked out our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX for my road trip, I never envisioned more than two adults riding in it.
However, for most of our travels around Vegas (including this day trip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area), there were four or even five adults inside the compact Kia. It was cozy, but for the most part, the Forte was up to the challenge.
Ordinarily, when I'm driving our Kia Forte, I don't use all the seat-track travel, which is pretty good since I'm 5-feet-10-inches tall with a 34-inch inseam. However, the shortest member of the Red Rock Canyon hiking party was 5-feet-9 and most were over 6 feet. My 6'-4" brother rode shotgun out of necessity, so I scooted the driver seat up to make room for my stepfather to ride behind me.
My knees were bent more than I'd prefer for optimal comfort, but it was still a safe driving position and it opened up adequate legroom for everyone in back. Later in the trip, my husband took the wheel and I sat in the backseat with my parents for the drive to dinner. It was snug, but there was enough shoulder room and hiproom that we weren't pressed up against each other.
During a subsequent drive to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the racetrack's drive-through holiday lights display (which is really well done by the way and worth the $20 admission), I noticed a slight decline in the Forte's performance when accelerating up to speed on Interstate 15, but with 800 pounds of us on board, that's pretty understandable.
Bottom line, if you need to haul four or even five adults in a 2014 Kia Forte, it's doable, at least for drives of 30 minutes or less.
We put 1,983 miles on our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX in the last month of 2013, thanks to three weeks' worth of commuting and a holiday week in Las Vegas.
The extra highway mileage pushed the Kia's lifetime average to 28.1 mpg (up from 27.7 a month ago), which matches its EPA combined fuel economy rating.
As is typical for us, we've yet to hit the EPA highway rating, which is 36 mpg for a Forte EX sedan with the 173-horsepower, directed-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
So far, our lifetime best is 35 mpg even. In December, our best run was 33 mpg, which was logged during a 241-mile tank that included use of the Kia's Eco mode and some particularly efficient driving by my spouse on Interstate 15. Unfortunately, I turned off Eco as soon as I took the wheel again and thwarted his attempt at a record-setting tank.
One more note for the month from my husband: The Forte's fuel door doesn't really open wide enough to accommodate both the gas cap (when stowed in the holster on the inside of the door) and the chunky, pollution-fighting filler nozzles we have here in California. Of course, as you see here, it can be done, but you have to jam the nozzle in there.
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.1
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/36 Highway)
Best Range: 381 miles
Current Odometer: 11,277 miles
Xenon headlights are one of my few must-haves on any car. The reason is simple: I like seeing things. Good headlights facilitate seeing things at night and make road trips a lot more enjoyable.
Problem is manufacturers tend to bury them in the upper trim levels and/or expensive option packages. On our 2014 Kia Forte EX sedan, they're part of the $2,300 Technology package.
That's a big chunk of change, but with the Forte EX's relatively low starting price, you can add that package without things getting out of hand. Our long-termer has both the Technology and Premium packages and ends up at a $25,735 MSRP, which is not an insignificant amount, but it's reasonable, I feel, for what you're getting.
As for the headlights themselves, they're not remarkable for xenons nor are they adaptive (they don't swivel when you turn the steering wheel), but they throw nice, bright, consistent beams of light on the road. And that's really all I want for nighttime driving on the highway.
Hiring away designer Peter Schreyer from Audi is one of the best decisions ever made at Kia. His presence at the company over the last six years has resulted in dramatically better looking cars that usually manage not to hit you over the head with overdone styling flourishes.
Our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX sedan is an example of this new wave of Kias, and these LED taillights are one of my favorite design details.
They're actually optional. You've got to pay for the $2,300 Technology package if you want them, but that's also your ticket to xenon headlights, so if you're like me, you're already getting that package anyway.
In addition to the energy efficiency argument you can make for LEDs, this is one of the most distinctive sets of taillights available on any sedan under $30,000. You see these lights at night and you instantly know you're looking at a Forte, or at least some new cool Kia.
Our 2014 Kia Forte EX sedan is pretty loaded with features, so much so that I overlooked a few during my drive to Vegas last month. Halfway through the trip, my husband and I realized we hadn't been taking advantage of its seat memory settings for the driver seat.
Mind you, we're close to the same size, and in cars with an automatic transmission, our respective seating positions are pretty similar. Still, if we owned a Forte EX, we'd certainly use the memory settings.
Apart from that convenience, the Forte's driver seat proved comfortable for a few hours of highway travel, though I'd need to drive the car for 8 or 10 hours before pronouncing the seat worthy of long-haul travel.
My only complaint about this seat is that the outer lateral bolsters are already showing wear with fewer than 12,000 miles on the odometer. You can't really expect leather upholstery in this price range to be of outstanding quality, but clearly, if you get a Forte with leather, regular conditioning will be necessary to keep the upholstery looking respectable.
We added 1,391 miles to our 2014 Kia Forte in the month of January.
In that time we averaged 32.2 mpg, which is considerably better than the EPA estimated combined. It helped raise our lifetime average for the car from 28.1 to 28.5 mpg.
Best Fill MPG: 35.0
Worst Fill MPG: 20.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.5
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/36 Highway)
Best Range: 381 miles
Current Odometer: 12,668 miles
I was driving our 2014 Kia Forte and just as I was about to get all nostalgic about Jimmie's Chicken Shack and my former skateboarding youth, I got the message below.
More than any other cars in our long-term fleet, Hyundais and Kias lose their satellite radio signals often. Several times on my 20-mile commute to and from the office, the Forte goes radio silent.
What is your opinion? SiriusXM's fault and just a coincidence that I always happen to be in a Kia or Hyundai? Or do these cars have a signal strength problem?
Maybe the only downside to perforated pleather rear seats: crumbs from the kids. Our 2014 Kia Forte's rear seats offer heating elements, hence the holes. Heated rear seats are a pretty upscale feature for an economy compact, but this shouldn't surprise. Kia excels on the features-for-price ledger, and now does it with style and satisfaction.
But the perforations, lux as they feel, still catch crumbs and crud. Nothing a can of compressed air and a shop towel with a spray of protectant can't erase, though. And unless we're talking about a pristine Buick Grand National, don't get sanctimonious on me about kids eating in the car.
Last week I spent five days in a 2014 Nissan Altima S while my Leaf was in the shop. It reminded me how important extended test drives are in selecting the car you want to buy. Case in point: the Altima is a pleasant commuter car, but after a few days I began to notice that the light steering requires frequent adjustment to stay centered in the lane. As soon as I identified this issue, it grew in my mind to the point where I think it might be a deal breaker. Was I being overly critical?
Enter the 2014 Kia Forte EX.
I got the Kia Forte for a run to Las Vegas. With steering feel on my mind, I noticed how the heavier steering feel and the chunky steering wheel inspires confidence. Or, you can dial in your favorite setting with a touch of the steering-wheel button on the electric-assist power steering (EPS). It seemed to need little correction to point it between the dotted white lines.
On a long trip, this might be fatigue-reducing. In the twisties it would mean a more pleasurable precise driving experience. If you're doing a lot of around town driving and parking, the comfort setting might be a good choice.
I then put myself in the place of the average car shopper. Would the weight of the steering be noticeable on a typical test drive? It's doubtful. For that reason, when you're car shopping, ask for a little freeway time. And key in on steering feel.
Each year Edmunds editors hold a "Fuel Sipper Smackdown" to show how different driving conditions provide very different fuel economy results. On a recent trip to Las Vegas in our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX, I conducted a mini-smackdown of my own by isolating the city driving from the two highway legs. The results were amazingly different.
As anyone who has recently driven from L.A. to Las Vegas knows, the traffic is terrible. There are so many coned off lanes you'd swear that Chris Christie was in charge. So I wasn't surprised to see that the city mileage in our Forte dropped substantially.
I calculated my fuel economy driving to Las Vegas at 33.7 mpg (while the Forte's onboard computer showed 34.4 mpg). Driving around town for three days, I averaged 26.4 mpg (onboard computer: 27.1 mpg). And returning to Los Angeles I got 35.3 mpg (onboard computer: 35.3 mpg). By the way, the 2014 Kia Forte EX is EPA-rated at 28 Combined (24 City/36 Highway).
What does all this add up to? First of all, it appears that the onboard computer is pretty darned accurate compared to other cars I've driven. Second, the lower fuel economy driving to Las Vegas was probably due to the fact that Sin City is at an elevation of 2,181 feet. And finally, these fuel economy levels, both city and highway, are pretty impressive.
In our long-term introductions we always list the MSRP of the vehicle we are testing. But we rarely talk about what it would actually cost to buy the car. Of course, the purchase price is a moving target. Incentives come and go. The price of new cars rises and falls. And car buyers each have their own ability level when it comes to deal-making.
Since I liked this feature-rich 2014 Kia Forte EX, and I'm coming out of a lease on my current car this summer, I was curious to know what it would take to put this car in my garage. So I ran the numbers to see how much a purchase and a monthly payment would cost. Here's the skinny.
According to Edmunds' True Market Value (TMV), a similarly equipped 2014 Kia Forte EX is now selling for $24,333 (after a $1,000) cash rebate. That price is $562 over invoice. Anyone interested in buying this Kia could also look for Price Promise offers which are likely to be at this price or perhaps even lower.
If someone wanted to finance this car, they could look at sample monthly payments by using Edmunds calculator. I plugged in the $24,333 purchase price and the calculator automatically pulled in local sales tax and registration fees to give a real-world monthly payment of $443 a month with $1,000 down.
With a little bit of number crunching, you can educate yourself about the costs before going to the dealership. This will help you take control of the deal and double-check the dealerships offers.
During February, our 2014 Kia Forte EX rolled up nearly another 1,500 miles on the odometer. For the month, it averaged 30.6 mpg. That's 2.6 mpg higher than the EPA combined figure and pretty good considering L.A.'s notorious traffic.
Even more impressive is that, at 28.5 mpg, the Kia's lifetime average is still above the EPA combined average.
Worst Fill MPG: 15.2
Best Fill MPG: 36.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.5
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City / 36 Highway)
Best Range: 381.0
Current Odometer: 14,149
Rear vents seem like a no brainer, one of those things you expect to have in any modern vehicle with rear seats. Surprisingly enough, they're not always as prevalent as you think. There's a certain pickup truck in our fleet that has full-size rear seats and no vents.
Given the sheer number of features in our 2014 Kia Forte I probably shouldn't have been surprised that it has vents in back. After all it has cupholders in the rear armrest, too, not to mention a decent amount of space for a compact sedan.
True, it's not the least expensive compact sedan we've ever tested, but it backs up its price with outstanding value.
If you have a dog you know what it's like to put the key in your front door and hear the eager barking inside. Not to take anything away from man's best friend, but the LED perimeter approach lighting and illuminated door handle pockets on our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX have a similar effect.
Under some circumstances it might be a good safety feature. But mostly, it just gives you a "welcome home" feeling.
Old habits die hard. While living and driving in Japan, you quickly learn to back into spaces. It's not part of traffic law, but it's socially expected behavior in parking lots and garages. I haven't driven regularly in Japan since rearview cameras have proliferated, but I can only imagine they're a welcome tool.
They certainly come in handy for tandem parking in the Edmunds garage. Although it dulls the game of chance that comes from parking nose-to-tail and effectively replaces the dangling tennis ball that is a fixture of American garages, the rearview cam allows you to maximize inches of space in a crowded lot. Though generally skeptical of most rearview cam guidelines, I like that the Forte's are a familiar color wheel of "Proceed," "Caution," and "Don't Be an Idiot, Idiot."
The rearview cam comes standard on our EX model, which starts at $20,300.
At 6'4", I realize I am slightly taller than the average American male (5'9", according to the Centers for Disease Control, in case you were wondering). My height has been known to cause me discomfort in certain automobiles, especially in compact cars. Such is the case in our long-term 2014 Kia Forte.
My ideal seating position is with the seat bottom angled as much as possible for maximum thigh support combined with a more or less upright seatback. This usually involves slamming the seat bottom to the floor. The Forte, however, doesn't allow vertical travel to the extent I'd like, leaving my hair brushing the ceiling. The choice is either deal with the annoyance or recline the seat past the point I find comfortable.
Our Forte came equipped with a sunroof, an option that typically reduces headroom for front seat occupants. There are other cars in this segment, such as our long-term 2014 Mazda 3 S hatchback, that offer my ideal seating position and a sunroof. I measured headroom in both cars. The Forte did come up shorter, 36 inches from seat-bottom to the roof, against Mazda's 37.25 inches. Not a huge difference, until you get behind the wheel. And when trying to find the perfect position in your new car, don't compromise if you don't have to.
Choosing a new small sedan to buy for 2014 isn't easy. There are plenty of great choices. But if you end up with a 2014 Kia Forte you'll have what I find to be one of the best cars in the class.
I really do enjoy driving our Forte on a daily basis. It looks pretty sharp. Its 2.4-liter engine delivers quick acceleration and decent fuel economy. The interior is roomy and the touchscreen interface is easy to use. The ride quality is agreeable. And you really do get a lot of features for your money here.
While our long-term Forte and long-term Kia Cadenza are obviously different in mission and segment, I still find it compelling that our $25,735 Forte has nearly all of the same luxury-oriented features as our $43,250 Cadenza.
We've had our 2014 Kia Forte in our long-term fleet for about 9 months now. We also just recently cleared 15,000 miles in the car, which means we're right on schedule for getting about 20,000 miles at the completion of our one-year test.
I also went back and checked our previous updates. Nothing has broken on the car, and it's been to the dealer just once for its initial 7,500-mile service. The in-car maintenance indicator has popped up on the car, so we will be bringing it in again soon. But overall, it's been very smooth and steady sailing for the agreeable little Forte.
The past few days I've been driving our 2014 Kia Forte with its "Active Eco" mode turned on. This mode, which you activate by pushing a button on the dash to the left of the steering wheel, adjusts certain aspects of the car to potentially improve fuel economy.
According to Kia, Eco mode "adjusts the torque map, shift schedule, torque filtering, and idle rpm speed, to maximize fuel efficiency." What does this mean from the driver seat? Basically, with Eco on, our Forte feels duller and less responsive. The transmission upshifts sooner and the gas pedal is less responsive to your foot. In Eco mode, it's like the car is slightly groggy after waking up from a nap.
This isn't necessarily all that bad. It's not a huge change in the car's personality, and I've honestly gotten used to driving with Active Eco activated.
It makes sense that using Eco can improve efficiency slightly. Much of what it does mimics more efficient driver behavior, and as demonstrated years ago in our We Test the Tips Part II article, changing your driving style has the biggest impact on fuel economy, more so than any other tip or trick you can try. But that's assuming you don't try to outdrive what the Eco mode is doing in order to avoid those more sluggish responses.
One issue, though, is the difficulty in determining how much of a boost you're getting. Any improvement is going to be undoubtedly small, and that's going to be very hard to pick up in the normal ebbs and flows of the Forte's fuel economy.
For what it's worth, I did notice an improvement on our Forte's fuel economy by about 2 mpg. But I also know I was driving more conservatively overall during that period. Part of that was because of Active Eco, and part of it was because I didn't want to ruin what it was trying to do. Still, from that standpoint, it was a success.
Our 2014 Kia Forte EX comes standard with Kia's Uvo service. There are a lot of neat features within Uvo, such as having an Uvo app on your smartphone, maintenance notifications and indicators, emergency assistance and enhanced entertainment.
Uvo also includes voice command functionality for phone, audio and navigation on our Forte, and since it's something you can use frequently, I was curious to see how well it worked.
A lot of in-car navigation systems do offer voice commands, so being able to do it in our Forte isn't all that unique. But I've tried it out a couple of times and, at least on those times, it worked well. Assuming your destination is in the same state you're currently in, all you need to do is press the voice button on the steering wheel, say "Find Address," wait for your prompt and then say the address and city. Easy, and you can do it while driving.
The voice command functionality in our Forte for audio isn't as useful in my opinion. You can use it to select modes (AM, FM, satellite, etc.), presets and other main functions. It also has basic control of an audio player/iPod. But those are functions that are also easily done just using the buttons on the steering wheel or center stack.
Ideally, Uvo could also be used to select specific artists, tracks or music on your iPod like you can with Ford's Sync voice-command system, for instance. I find that to be very useful as it requires a lot less of my attention to just speak an album name rather than search for it using the touchscreen while driving. Unfortunately, though, this functionality isn't available on our Forte.
Early on in our test of the 2014 Kia Forte, Mark Takahashi wrote about the rear suspension and how its relatively unsophisticated design can lead to awkward undulations coming from the rear of the car when driving over bumpy or choppy pavement.
This isn't something you'll encounter on a daily basis necessarily. But it is a quality that cars like the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus don't suffer from, and it's important enough that I'd encourage a shopper to factor it in for his or her car purchasing decision.
The problem is going to be testing out the Forte to see how much of this ride quality issue will bother you. If you're test-driving a Forte, the "best" type of pavement to drive over is indeed bumpy and choppy pavement, especially if that bumpy pavement is when you're going around a turn. Ideally, you'd want to drive a competitive vehicle (the Focus or 3, for instance) over the same stretch to serve as reference. The Forte's steering doesn't provide as good of a feel of the road as those cars, either, so that's another aspect to pay attention to.
Admittedly, this is kind of a tall order considering how structured test-drives at the dealer can be. But given how good all of these top-level small sedans are, even the little things like this can make a difference, and it's worth trying it out for yourself.
We put 1,416 miles on our long-term 2014 Kia Forte EX in March. With a healthy dose of open highway travel to balance out the Southern California gridlock (plus Brent's Active Eco mode experiment), the Forte managed a 30.3 mpg average for the month.
Its lifetime average crept up to 28.7 mpg, which surpasses the EPA combined fuel economy rating of 28 even.
In addition, we actually matched the 36 mpg EPA highway rating on one tank in February. We didn't come close to that in March, but the Kia's tanks were all pretty consistent, ranging from 28.4 to 32.1 mpg. As a reminder, the Forte EX sedan comes with a 173-horsepower, directed-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
Worst Fill MPG: 15.2
Best Fill MPG: 36.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.7
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/36 Highway)
Best Range: 381 miles
Current Odometer: 15,565 miles
We've all had the pleasure of hearing an audible car alarm blaring in a parking garage or on a nearby street when you're trying to enjoy a nice meal or just go about your business. The loud sounds are usually accidentally triggered and any potential theft is completely ignored by everyone.
According to legend (or Popular Mechanics) the car alarm was invented by an unknown automobile mechanic serving a stint in a Denver jail back in 1913, more than 100 years ago.
Most cars today have alarms built in with newer technology like passive immobilizer, a system that makes it virtually impossible to steal a vehicle without the key, sometimes standard or an additional add-on feature like GPS vehicle tracking.
I signed out our 2014 Kia Forte recently and had two car alarm experiences. The first was Friday morning when I was parking in the Edmunds.com garage and was greeted by a nearby car's alarm and its owner looking very much annoyed. It was yet another false alarm that tests everyone's hearing and patience at the same time. Little did I know that I would be swapping places with that car owner soon.
I was at the car wash getting the 2014 Kia Forte all cleaned-up for the week ahead and was put in that same position. The alarm was triggered during the drying phase of the wash and woke up the crowd when Kia's standard alarm was accidentally triggered by the hard-working car washer.
I think it's time to end the audible car alarm and replace it with newer silent immobilizer technology that doesn't add to noise pollution and actually helps prevent car theft.
What do you think?
With numerous test cars coming and going this month, our 2014 Kia Forte didn't get the love it deserves.
Only 500 miles were added to its odometer, which didn't move the needle on any of its monthly fuel economy numbers.
Worst Fill MPG: 15.2
Best Fill MPG: 36.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.7
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/36 Highway)
Best Range: 381 miles
Current Odometer: 16,096 miles
With just over 16K on the odometer, our 2014 Kia Forte is slightly overdue for its 15,000-mile service.
Yesterday afternoon I called Kia of Cerritos, and was told they could take the car any time after 1:30 p.m. today.
When I arrived, Service Writer Nick cheerfully wrote up the paperwork for the prescribed cabin air filer replacement, oil change, and tire rotation, plus a host of additional inspections. He did note that there was one outstanding Technical Service Bulletin (TSB), but said he wouldn't know what the TSB was for until the service guy read the code.
Nice Nick said the service would take approximately two hours including a complimentary wash, and he'd call me when it was ready.
As promised, the 15,000-mile service on our 2014 Forte was completed in less than two hours. The service writer called to say our Kia was washed and ready to go.
Edmunds.com maintenance calculator advised the total service, including oil change, new cabin air filter and tire rotation, plus the necessary inspections, would cost $204.21 for parts and labor. Actual charge from Kia of Cerritos was $166.89.
The dealer also performed an update to the car's ECU which was covered under warranty.
In the past, I've commented on what a good road trip car our 2014 Kia Forte is. But the Forte also serves very well in the considerably less glamorous, but much more commonplace role as a commuter. From start to finish, the Forte makes it as easy as possible. Walk up to the car and the perimeter lights automatically greet you. Open the door, hop in and fire it up. All while leaving the key in your pocket thanks to the optional keyless entry/ignition system.
Once underway, the Kia's peppy, on-point response makes putting some distance between me and unpredictable, inattentive drivers a snap. During the ride in, the Forte's comfortable seats (they fit my shorter frame just fine), quiet cabin and respectable (if not quite as refined as our Mazda 3's) ride quality further reduce commuter stress. And once I've arrived and it's time to park, the rearview camera with its color-coded proximity lines makes that task a quick and easy exercise in precision.
Despite my choice to live in Southern California for the past 14 years, I dislike hot weather very much. I love air conditioning, especially when driving. I like to shut out the noisy world and drive in temperature-controlled splendor. But the A/C in our 2014 Kia Forte is only OK.
No matter what temperature I set with the rotary dial, the air only feels slightly cool, not cold. I had to double-check that the A/C button was actually on.
The A/C in the Forte will eventually cool the car, but it takes a while. I had to drive with it blasting for at least a half hour before I felt comfortable enough to back it off. And the front vents are not in a good position. I've complained about this before in Kias and Hyundais. The vents are placed so that they blow right onto your hands as you hold the steering wheel, which blocks cool air from reaching the rest of you.
You'd think both companies would have corrected this by now. I mean, don't they read this blog? ;)
Ed mentioned before that our Forte has vents for the rear passengers, which is a bonus in this price category.
But it's time to pay more attention to the driver.
One of the things I like about our long-term 2014 Kia Forte is its eye-catching crimson red paint. But the only other colorful option on the 2014 Forte is a bright blue.
The other colors are white, black, silver, gray, and a bluish gray. No green, no alternate red like a burgundy, no pastel shades, no warm colors in the gold/orange/beige family. And the interior only comes in black or gray. It has a very limited color palette.
Just for yuks I looked up the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 and they also have a very limited color selection. The VW Jetta at least comes in a toffee brown. By contrast, the Kia's relative, the Hyundai Elantra comes in 12 colors.
What is your favorite car paint color?
During May, our 2014 Kia Forte saw 1,037.4 miles added to its odometer.
Did this make a dent in our EPA-beating 28.7 mpg lifetime mpg?
No. In fact, we've gone up a tick and are now averaging 30.4 mpg, a couple ticks above the EPA combined rating of 28 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 15.2
Best Fill MPG: 36.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 30.4
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/36 Highway)
Best Range: 381 miles
Current Odometer: 17,662 miles
Well, I wasn't expecting this in our 2014 Kia Forte.
Look: Adjustable seatbelt height. For both driver and passenger (pictured).
Okay, it's not a new thing, or terribly rare, actually. Still, with a longer-than-normal torso, it's a feature I'm happy to see.
It started with a bit of an apology. I had a road trip up to Berkeley coming up and requested something fun. It was a stretch, sure, as most of the time the car would be parked, but the way up and back would be on California's 1 and 101 highways. If you haven't driven either, you need to. In something fast. I've done it before and was still excited
But then, due to scheduling, I was dumped into our 2014 Kia Forte.
Personally, I've never been a big fan of this Forte. Objectively it's darned good. We gave it an overall rating of A. I'm just not that into the interior style and find the seats flat, featureless and lacking enough thigh support and seat-bottom recline for even short drives. (The driver seat is heated and cooled which is nice. Gotta give it that.)
Turns out, with the Forte, time is your friend.
I wiggled around trying to get comfy for the first hour or so of the trip and then, BAM! I was settled. I hit the right combo of wiggling, lumbar, rake, height and tilt and just clicked into the seat. This is how safecrackers must feel.
With that pesky annoyance out of the way, I was free to enjoy some of the Kia Forte's other good points. Specifically, the quiet, high-speed cruising. Seriously, this thing just kinda bombs down the interstate at about 10 mph faster than you think you're going. This is big-car behavior, not compact stuff. The engine itself isn't particularly fond of steep grades, but loves flat cruising and settles into a smooth whir.
The only thing that can't keep up at these speeds is the suspension: Those spots over bridges where the surfaces changes from concrete to asphalt? Those turn into an adventure as the rear twist-beam suspension makes everything go a bit jiggly. Mark has commented about this behavior before.
I couldn't find that perfect seating comfort on any of the short drives I took up in the Bay Area. But on the way back, it clicked again and I cruised back to L.A. without an ache.
The 2014 Kia Forte earned four out of five stars in the overall safety rating from the NHTSA.
It breaks down like this:
- three stars in the front crash test
- five stars in the side crash test
- four stars in the rollover crash test.
In IIHS testing, the 2014 Forte received "good" ratings in all crash tests, except for a "poor" rating in the small overlap front crash test.
You can read more details in Edmunds news.
Working here at Edmunds, I'm pretty good at dealing with people who know nothing about cars. It's actually pretty rewarding walking someone from absolutely zero information to a place where they can make a confident car purchase and have a good ownership experience.
Still, there's one little thing that never fails to drive me nuts. People will say, "I love my car, it only takes $xx to fill the tank!" They don't ever seem to mention the miles or the number of gallons it took to get that number. Just the price.
They'll love our 2014 Kia Forte.
With a 13.5 gallon tank, the Kia Forte is right in line with everything else in the segment. It's also got a competitive fuel economy with 28 mpg combined (36 highway and 24 city). So, owner's will drive it a bunch and, if they're bold, put in 13.5 gallons for about $50.
Unfortunately, we've never done that. We've managed 12 gallons once, and 11 a handful of times. This is partially due to not hitting 36 mpg that frequently (it's possible, but requires pretty ideal conditions), and partially because the Kia's kind of a baby and starts crying low fuel and popping up a warning on the nav screen (super handy, do like this feature) with about 3 gallons left in the tank.
On a recent trip to/around Berkeley, CA I threw just over 800 miles on the Forte with a max distance of only 300.5 miles and a maximum one-tank fuel economy of 36.4 mpg. Overall I managed 32.8. Do the math and I should have been able to go 491.4 miles on that 36 mpg tank.
I think with a few thousand more miles under my belt, I'd get to know the Kia's warnings and fuel level a little deeper and be able to push into the 400-mile range.
What We Got
A base 2014 Kia Forte EX sedan starts at $20,200. For that price, there's an extensive list of features. Standard USB and aux inputs, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted controls, Uvo infotainment and telematics services and a back-up camera were the most notable.
We also added additional options in order to test as many features as possible. The Premium package ($2,600) added a sunroof, leather seats, power seats, heated seats for all outboard passengers front and rear, a ventilated driver seat, push-button start, keyless entry and a steering wheel heater. The EX Technology package ($2,300) added xenon HID headlights, dual-zone climate control, LED taillights and a 4.2-inch color navigation screen. A set of 17-inch wheels was also on the options list ($300).
The total cost for our 2014 Kia Forte EX was $25,735. We had one year before this loaner had to be returned to Kia. Our goal was to reach 20,000 miles. Here's what our editors had to say.
"With 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque, it's one of the more robust engines in the compact segment. And combined with a standard six-speed automatic you would think it would be pretty quick. In reality, it's peppy but hardly quick. Between the power band of the engine and the shift program of the transmission, this Kia doesn't accelerate with much urgency. On the plus side, the engine is very smooth and quiet no matter how hard you push it. And the shifts from the transmission are very refined as well. In fact, some of the engine's lazy feel could be chalked up to the fact that it never really feels like it's working very hard. Not a bad trait for a compact, four-cylinder sedan." — Ed Hellwig
"Passing maneuvers came easily on Interstate 15, and the six-speed automatic transmission was quicker than I expected to drop down a gear, or two, when needed. Full-throttle acceleration down entrance ramps felt good, too. This engine is smoother than previous iterations of this 2.0-liter." — Erin Riches
"Early on in our test of the Forte, Mark Takahashi wrote about the rear suspension and how its relatively unsophisticated design can lead to awkward undulations coming from the rear of the car when driving over bumpy or choppy pavement. This isn't something you'll encounter on a daily basis necessarily. But it is a quality that cars like the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus don't suffer from, and it's important enough that I'd encourage a shopper to factor it in for his or her car purchasing decision.... The Forte's steering doesn't provide as good of a feel of the road as those cars, either, so that's another aspect to pay attention to.... Given how good these top-level small sedans are, even little things like this can make a difference." — Brent Romans
"Honestly, the only thing I don't like about driving our Forte is the steering. Even that's not terrible. It's just a few paces off the class lead if you want to talk about feel. Although it performs its primary function (turning the front wheels), it isn't sporty. Plus, I found myself making small corrections when I had the car pointed straight on Interstate 15, which wasn't a big deal but suggests that this electric-assisted power steering system could use additional refinement." — Erin Riches
"I calculated my fuel economy driving to Las Vegas at 33.7 mpg (while the Forte's onboard computer showed 34.4 mpg). Driving around town for three days, I averaged 26.4 mpg (onboard computer: 27.1 mpg). And returning to Los Angeles I got 35.3 mpg (onboard computer: 35.3 mpg). By the way, the 2014 Kia Forte EX is EPA-rated at 28 combined (24 city/36 highway). What does all this add up to? First of all, it appears that the onboard computer is pretty darned accurate compared to other cars I've driven. Second, the lower fuel economy driving to Las Vegas was probably due to the fact that Sin City is at an elevation of 2,181 feet. And finally, these fuel economy levels, both city and highway, are pretty impressive." — Phil Reed
"I'm just not that into the interior style and find the seats flat, featureless and lacking enough thigh support and seat-bottom recline for even short drives.... Turns out, with the Forte, time is your friend. I wiggled around trying to get comfy for the first hour or so of the trip and then, BAM! I was settled. I hit the right combo of wiggling, lumbar, rake, height and tilt and just clicked into the seat. This is how safecrackers must feel." — Mike Magrath
"For most of our travels around Vegas, there were four or even five adults inside the compact Kia. It was cozy, but for the most part, the Forte was up to the challenge. Ordinarily, when I'm driving our Kia Forte, I don't use all the seat-track travel, which is pretty good since I'm 5 feet 10 inches tall with a 34-inch inseam.... I scooted the driver seat up to make room for my stepfather to ride behind me. My knees were bent more than I'd prefer for optimal comfort, but it was still a safe driving position and it opened up adequate legroom for everyone in back. Later in the trip, my husband took the wheel and I sat in the backseat with my parents for the drive to dinner. It was snug, but there was enough shoulder room and hiproom that we weren't pressed up against each other." — Erin Riches
"I've been looking for something I don't like about our 2014 Kia Forte. And while loading up a trunkful of Goodwill items, I noticed its box-crushing trunk hinges. I was careful to move the junior fireman's hat toward the middle of the trunk, safely out of harm's way." — Kelly Hellwig
"It's super handy that our 2014 Kia Forte EX long-termer has split-folding rear seats. And even though the seats don't form a perfectly flat (not even close) load floor, you can still pretty easily fit a road bicycle or a 29er mountain bike in the back, thanks to the generous trunk pass-through. There'd be even more space in that pass-through if not for the seat-dropping mechanisms, which hang down a bit." — Mike Monticello
"Contrasting dash stitching in a Kia? Yep, and it's not even the big-dollar Cadenza. And would you look at that faux carbon-fiber trim? A tad ambitious maybe, but it doesn't look half bad. These are just a couple of the surprising styling details I've noticed in our 2014 Kia Forte. There are more, too, but the fact that there are any at all shows just how far Kia has come. I don't expect compact sedans to put much effort into details like this since their main goal is basic transportation at a reasonable price. Then again, stuff like this never hurts, and if you can combine it with all the basics for a reasonable price, then all the better." — Ed Hellwig
"If some friends of yours end up going along for a ride in your 2014 Kia Forte, they'll likely be pretty pleased with the rear seating. For starters, there are 35.9 inches of rear-seat legroom, which is very good for this class of car. (Here's a link to the Edmunds comparison tool loaded with two other cars known for their roomy rear seats, the Civic and Jetta, and one with a smaller-than-typical rear seat, the Focus.) Headroom should also be sufficient for adults up to about 6 feet tall. As for the seating itself, I've found it to be pretty comfortable. There's adequate support under your thighs from the seat cushion, the backrest isn't overly upright and there's a pleasing amount of padding on the door and center armrests." — Brent Romans
Audio and Technology
"It seems like some manufacturers find joy in 'challenging' us with infotainment intricacies and all manner of hidden menus. So it was refreshing to get into the 2014 Kia Forte EX the other night. Within seconds I had made room on the car's phone list by deleting 'Scott's iPhone,' whoever that poor guy might be. An instant later, my phone was paired and ready to go. Truly that simple. The touchscreen is easy to use and the climate controls are all right there for you in plain old large knobs and buttons." — Mike Monticello
"Our Forte EX comes standard with Kia's Uvo service. There are a lot of neat features within Uvo, such as having an Uvo app on your smartphone, maintenance notifications and indicators, emergency assistance and enhanced entertainment. Uvo also includes voice command functionality for phone, audio and navigation on our Forte.... I've tried it out a couple of times and, at least on those times, it worked well.... The voice command functionality for audio isn't as useful in my opinion. You can use it to select modes (AM, FM, satellite, etc.), presets and other main functions. It also has basic control of an audio player/iPod. But those are functions that are also easily done just using the buttons on the steering wheel or center stack. Ideally, Uvo could also be used to select specific artists, tracks or music on your iPod like you can with Ford's Sync voice-command system, for instance.... Unfortunately, though, this functionality isn't available on our Forte." — Brent Romans
A couple of weeks ago I complained about not being able to hear our 2014 Kia Forte's navigation system provide directions. Now, after spending some time in other test cars this week, I realize how much I do appreciate the simple graphic display the Kia offers. Some systems overly clutter the page with additional details. But when you're not interested in POI or alternative routes, the Kia does a great job of showing just the potential slow-downs. During my daily commute, this is all the info I need." — Kelly Hellwig
As Travis previously noted, our 2014 Kia Forte was subtly telling us it was time for its first oil change and other minor service stuff. I had the choice of three Kia dealerships for the inaugural visit and went with the one that was, by a hair, the closest to my house. (The fact that it's within walking distance of a Nordstrom did factor into my decision.) The service advisor said that the car would be ready in 1.5 to 2 hours. I was in the middle of trying out some very nice dresses less than an hour later when he called to say the car was done. The minor service included the points laid out in the owner's manual, with the exception of the fuel additive. We didn't get that. According to the fine print, fuel additive is only required if the owner doesn't use Top Tier gasoline. Our service folk seem to trust that we do. We got no upsell, and no surprises. Just the way we like it." — Carroll Lachnit
"The Forte also serves very well in the considerably less glamorous, but much more commonplace role as a commuter. From start to finish, the Forte makes it as easy as possible. Walk up to the car and the perimeter lights automatically greet you. Open the door, hop in and fire it up. All while leaving the key in your pocket thanks to the optional keyless entry/ignition system. Once under way, the Kia's peppy, on-point response makes putting some distance between me and unpredictable, inattentive drivers a snap. During the ride in, the Forte's comfortable seats (they fit my shorter frame just fine), quiet cabin and respectable ride quality further reduce commuter stress." — John DiPietro
"These LED taillights are one of my favorite design details. They're actually optional. You've got to pay for the $2,300 Technology package if you want them, but that's also your ticket to xenon headlights, so if you're like me, you're already getting that package anyway. In addition to the energy efficiency argument you can make for LEDs, this is one of the most distinctive sets of taillights available on any sedan under $30,000. You see these lights at night and you instantly know you're looking at a Forte, or at least some new cool Kia." — Erin Riches
Maintenance & Repairs
Routine service intervals for the Forte occurred every 7,500 miles. We found the service team at Cerritos Kia so agreeable after our first visit that we went back again for our second. The maintenance cost us $62 and $167, respectively.
A routine ECU reflash was the only service bulletin to affect the Forte during our test.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
EPA estimates for the Forte EX sedan are 28 mpg combined (24 city/36 highway). Our best single tank averaged 36 mpg, while the average for the year was 29 mpg. The most distance covered on a single tank was a respectable 381 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
Our Kia Forte EX sedan had an MSRP of $25,735. One year and 19,057 miles later it was valued at $18,941 by Edmunds' TMV® Calculator, based on a private-party sale. This equates to 26 percent depreciation, which is slightly higher than what is typical for the segment.
Pros: Strong engine, smooth shifting transmission, delivers its posted mileage ratings, excellent seats, easy-to-use navigation system, long list of features for the price, simple heating and air-conditioning controls, good forward visibility.
Cons: Can get buzzy at high engine speeds, trunk hinges intrude on cargo space, slightly higher depreciation for the segment.
Bottom Line: One of the best compact sedans in the segment. After nearly 20,000 miles, we had a hard time finding something bad to say about it.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$228.42 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||None|
|Warranty Repairs:||ECU update per open service bulletin|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||2|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||None|
|Days Out of Service:||None|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||36.4 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||15.2 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||28.8 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$18,941 (private-party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$6,794 (26% of original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||19,057 miles|
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.