2011 Kia Forte Review

2011 Kia Forte - Hatching a new model completes Kia's compact offerings.


PLUSES: New hatchback edition in the Forte lineup. Good mileage and price.
MINUSES: Shorter than the sedan and coupe.  

The Kia Forte lineup is now complete.


The compact Forte sports a 2-door Koupe (coupe, 4-door sedan, and now a 5-door hatchback for 2011.

Everything but a convertible.

Here's hoping!

While all three offerings are built on the same 104.3 inch wheelbase, the 4-door sedan is the longest in the family at 178.3 inches, while the hatchback, surprisingly, is the shortest at 170.9 inches. The Koupe, or 2-door coupe, comes in at 176.4 inches.

Something for everyone in terms of sedan, hatchback or coupe, 2 or 4 doors, and a choice of 2 liter, 156 h.p. four cylinder with 6-speed automatic or manual or 2.4 liter, 173 h.p. four cylinder with choice of 6 speed automatic or manual for those who demand a little more spirit and spunk on the roadway. The smooth shifting 6-speed automatic is the wise choice.

The 6-speed automatic and manual are new, replacing the previous 4 and 5-speed automatics and 5-speed manual.

We tested the new for 2011 Forte hatchback, which like its siblings is strong on looks, mileage, price, and performance. There's LX, EX, and SX versions. We tested the SX hatchback with the 2.4 liter, 173 h.p. four and automatic, an energetic combination with ample power to sprint from the light while at the same time delivering 23 m.p.g. city and 32 m.p.g. highway mileage---or 2 m.p.g. less city and highway mileage than the 2 liter, 156 h.p. four promises.

Where the SX comes up a tad short is in length, giving up about 6 inches to the coupe and 8 inches to the sedan---space that would have given it a little more rear seat stretch room as well as added cargo capacity for gear and the junk you normally load into a hatchback. Wider door openings would aid rear seat entry/exit.

The cabin is clean and uncluttered and more upscale than bargain basement economy car. Among the South Korean automakers, Kia, like Hyundai, is guided by fashion, not just function.

If you have to haul more the second row seat backs fold flat. A nice touch is added stowage space in cubby holes below the cargo floor where items can be kept out of sight and not out where they can slip/slide around the cargo hold.

The SX hatchback is quiet, delivers pleasant, commotion free ride. Ride was firm without being harsh. The sport tuned suspension, which normally sacrifices ride firmness for handling dexterity, acted with above average manners with its 17 inch all season radials. Stability and traction control contribute to handling security. It's a snap to maneuver in the city, on the interstate, and into and out of the parking lot. Braking response is above average.

The perforated leather seats that are part of a $1,000 leather package, contributed to ride comfort. The seats are heated for wintertime comfort.

Front or rear, the seats are well cushioned and suitable for long distance travel without causing a case of the fidgets after 100 miles or so.

The center console offers auxiliary, iPod, and USB connectivity plus a couple power plugs. Like the sedan, the hatchback offers a host of standard comfort and convenience features, including power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, hands-free Bluetooth wireless technology connectivity, along with air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, side curtain air bags, and satellite radio.

Among options, a power sunroof runs $750, and a technology package with navi system, back up camera, and push button start runs $1,800.

The Forte SX hatchback tested started at $19,395 or about $500 more than the sedan, and if you opt for cloth over leather seats, and skip the navi system, you can bring the sticker to a little over $20,000 and still have a well equipped, high mileage, yet spirited economy car.

2011 Kia Forte SX hatchback

Wheelbase: 104.3 inches


Length: 170.9 inches


Engine: 2.4 liter, 173 h.p., four cylinder.


Transmission: 6-speed automatic.


23 m.p.g. city/32 m.p.g. highway.


Base price: $19,395.


Price as equipped: Add $1,000 leather package with heated leather seats,
$750 power sunroof, $1,800 technology package with navi system and
backup camera, pushbutton start, and automatic temp control, $45 wheel
locks, and $695 freight.

Jim Mateja

Jim Mateja enjoyed a 42 year career with the Chicago Tribune before retiring in 2007 as the newspaper's automotive columnist. He received numerous awards for his reporting and writing, including the National Automotive Journalism Association's "Moto" award for best regularly published column and automotive feature writing, and a Best in Show award for his test ride of a horse in conjunction with the Tribune's 150th anniversary. He also earned the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Gold Wheel Award for best car reviews, and a Tribune Professional Performance Award for his column and regular reporting. He still writes occasional car reviews for the Tribune, is one of the nation's 50 automotive journalists who serve as members of the North American Car of the Year judging panel, and is a panel member who helps select Best Buys for "Consumers Digest" magazine. Mateja also is the founding President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.