It’s easy to feel sorry for the 2017 Kia Forte EX, a Korean front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan competing with other stylish entries from Honda, Toyota, Nissan and even its cousin Hyundai. Refreshed for 2017, this upswept traditional four-door gains familial features, particularly at the front where its grille clearly resembles that of the upmarket Optima sedan.
Available in sedan, hatch and coupe styling, Kia’s Forte slots into a very crowded category where the faves are Honda’s Civic and Toyota’s Corolla. It’s tough to compete against that duo, but Kia has gone forward with its compact sedan, driven here in top-of-the-line EX trim. In addition to changes of the grille, there are newly designed front bumper, headlight, taillight and wheel designs.
Kia now offers one engine in two varieties for its Forte group of vehicles, choosing a directly-injected 2-liter four-cylinder power plant that delivers, in EX trim, 164 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000; redline is 6,500. In LX and S sedan trims, fuel delivery is through port injection, which releases less horsepower (147) but may give a bit more in fuel economy. Yes, this engine has been around and used in the Kia lineup for over half a decade, but it continues to perform modestly and well. Power often isn’t the deciding point for a car like this anyway.
Performance in the Kia Forte EX can be directed through three drive modes: eco, normal and sport; this driver kept the car in normal or eco mode throughout the trip from Long Beach to Las Vegas and back. There was no reason to run the Forte hard on the 4-hour trip so that’s not what happened. Even so, with 25/33/28-mpg EPA fuel economy expected from the Forte’s 13.2-gallon tank, over-the-road economy on this trip extended to 39mpg, while in-town mileage dropped to 31, all using regular unleaded – and not always top tier.
The sole transmission available on the EX model is a traditional 6-speed automatic, which has good gearing choices that keep the Forte operating within traffic norms. MacPherson strut front and torsion beam/coil spring rear suspensions keep the 2017 Kia Forte EX firmly planted, helped by P215/45R low profile Nexen tires mounted on 17-inch five-spoke twinned alloy rims. Steering is motor-driven rack-and-pinion and feels well-connected to both chassis and road. Brakes are all-wheel solid discs and perform as expected
There is more standard equipment on the 2017 Kia Forte EX, made in Monterrey, Mexico, than was offered in the 2016 model line. These included amenities are standard heated front leather seats, dual-zone climate control, rear vents and pushbutton start. There are buttons on the doors that allow ingress/egress, so that the fob remains tucked into a pocket.
So what’s the bottom line on this 2017 Kia Forte EX sedan? For a total of $26,540, starting from a base of $22,050 including freight, the EX premium plug package brings a navigation system with 4.2-inch color LCD screen, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot detection, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with two memories, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Xenon HID headlights and a medium-size power tilt/slide one-touch sunroof.
On a boring drive like I-15 between these two cities, a good navigation and infotainment system are mandatory. The navigation system here is excellent and helped me get to my AirBnB residence each night, together with telling me where to find dining choices in that particular area of North Las Vegas (closer to the venue). The voice actuation could be a bit louder in my case.
I also like the UVO settings which include 911 access, a parking minder, trip info sync and scheduled diagnostics. It’s possible to split the screen in the Forte EX so that one can look at information and a map – or music choices – simultaneously. Settings offered in the UVO setup screen include navigation, sound, display, eServices, voice recognition and clock. I enjoyed the satellite radio that’s standard with 3 months gratis and it was nice to have the sunroof to let warmth in when it was chilly outside or air in when it was warm.
The Forte’s leather-wrapped steering wheel neatly complements the leather seating of this very business-like cockpit. Phone and audio controls are on the left and the excellent cruise control is actuated on the right side. All driver aids can be activated or can remain unused through buttons on the lower left of the dash. There’s a covered central stack storage which has, at its base two 12-volt plugs, along with a single auxiliary and USB. There’s also bilevel tunnel storage and cup drivers abound through the cabin.
There was so much space in the trunk I could have slept there if the accommodations were lacking, but instead it swallowed my suitcase, backpack, track bag, Halloween goodies for all and the accumulation of stuff that’s standard for my trips. The 15 cubic feet of trunk space is more than sufficient and finished well. There is no spare tire beneath the carpeted trunk floor but Kia does include an inflation kit for emergencies.
After more than 800 miles in a week, one gets to know a car pretty darn well and the 2017 Kia Forte EX, with its Silky Silver exterior and black leather interior is invisible on the big, bad interstate, which is good when you’re exceeding the speed limits. Power is sufficient, handling predictable and accommodations are comfortable for extended drives. While it may not have the cachet of some of its competitors, the 2017 Forte EX sedan does have Kia’s outstanding 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty to go with its 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, neither of which the customer is likely to use.
I liked this Kia; it’s a good choice for over-the-road and in-town ventures but it sure didn’t steal my heart. That’s why it’s tough to be a 2017 Kia Forte EX; you’re always liked but never really the life of the party.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit