2014 Kia Forte: Wheel Feel
September 27, 2013
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.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor