Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's not its name that makes the Kia Forte Koup a car to remember

The Kia Forte Koup has a world-class interior.


Is it possible that Kia's new Forte Koup can single-handedly reignite an auto industry's dilapidated sales?

Probably not, but there is so much going for the Koup that when consumer confidence returns, it should have buyers lining up to take test drives. The Koup is that much of a what-to-watch-for winner.

It has everything smart buyers want--style, comfort and high-content standard features. If only we could get over its ill-fitting name.

Looking past the name to the car, you immediately note the Koup's exterior design. It was not long ago that when you saw a Korean car, its Blandness Gone Wrong captured your attention. But that was then, and this is wow!


The Forte has distinctive European flair; look too quickly, and you might think you saw a coupe from Ford of Europe, which is no bad thing. Still, the Forte Koup is not a perfect design; one line--the belt that curls up into the A-pillar--is dissonant with the rest of the car's angularity. But it is not enough to spoil the experience.

This Kia has a world-class interior whose fit and finish fit the high standards we've come to expect. If you remember decade-old models, you won't believe the transformation from a once-elemental and uninviting environment into a place in which you want to spend time. Kia knows that selling more cars requires that their interiors be as comfortable as possible, and it seems to be pursuing that goal with extraordinary zeal and effect.

Two models are available: an entry EX and a sportier SX. Powering the SX is a173-hp, 2.4-liter, fuel-injected multivalve four, coupled with a six-speed manual. It's not a screamer, but it gets the job done handily and delivers 22 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway. A five-speed automatic is an SX option. Standard in the EX is a 2.0-liter, 16-valve four fitted with a five-speed manual that gets 25/34 mpg. A four-speed automatic also is available.

As far as mechanical/exterior bits are concerned, the automatic trannies and tilt sunroofs are the only available options. Everything else is standard on both cars. Both get MacPherson front struts with sway bar and a torque-tube rear (a surprisingly effective setup with these cars, the SX getting some "extra tuning" to take more power). The Koup has disc brakes front and back, plus the complete alphabet of goodies, including ABS, EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), ESC (stability control) and TCS (traction), and a tire-pressure monitoring system.


Leather, metal trim and heated seats are the only options on the Kia Forte Koup.


The EX comes with 16-inch five-spoke wheels, and the SX gets 17s with 10-spokes. In keeping with its sportier image, the SX wears standard fog lights and gloss-black fascia accents.

But it is the high level of standard features in both cars that will blow consumers away. The only interior options involve leather and metal trim and heated seats. When the dealer says these critters are loaded, that's not just sales gibberish.

Inside you see it clearly. From A/C to power door locks, speakers and tweeters to Bluetooth connectivity with wheel-mounted controls, remote keyless entry to cupholders and cruise control and speaker lights that pulse with a rhythmic beat, it almost makes you want to go out tomorrow with that 10-year-old Oldsmobile and clunker your way to a great deal.

Throw in the company's exceptional warranties and add to the equation the fact that Kia rocketed toward the top of industry quality studies, and you can begin to see that the Forte should be Kia's tipping-point product to make it a company on the rise.

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