Quick Drive: 2010 Kia Forte
By Charles Krome
At the beginning of summer, as I was chatting with my friend Rod about the curvaceous lines of my third-gen Ford Taurus, he asked me how many miles I had on the odometer. When I told him I was just about to hit six figures, he gave me a knowing look—Rod’s a Ford quality engineer—and mentioned I’d probably want to start searching for another ride in the not-too-distant future.
Sure enough, a few days ago, with about 103,000 miles on the clock, I heard the two words no one ever wants to hear from a mechanic: “head gasket.”
Now, the car itself was cosmetically very clean, with no rust issues, and I had long been telling everyone—with a certain amount of seriousness—that one day it would be a classic. This 1996-1999 generation was the fruit of the first comprehensive Taurus redesign, and, truth be told, the reception was positively Aztek-like. There was nary a straight line to be seen on the car’s exterior, which its designer supposedly likened to a pair of slippers, and that ovoid design theme carried through to the Taurus’ interior, with similar results.
But what turned off plenty of potential buyers back in the day, I viewed as a sophisticated, streamlined shape that was simply a bit too unconventional for the automotive hoi polloi. On the other hand, there was no way I was going to pony up a few grand to drop a new motor into the car, especially with a kid headed to college next year. The bottom line: I needed a new ride.
Because we’ve got a minivan for hauling around the full Krome crew and I don’t happen to need a separate car too often, I was just looking for a compact sedan that could hold a couple of kids when necessary, turn up some decent EPA numbers and provide at least a modicum of interest when driving.
And so far, the Forte has delivered, with the bonus that it’s also a pretty sharp-looking little car. I much prefer the new Kia design language to what’s going on at Hyundai, and it works quite well on the Forte sedan. It’s got a fast windshield and aggressive lines, yet Kia didn’t try to cram too much busy work into the sheet metal, a problem that’s noticeable on the Hyundai Sonata, and that car is a size larger than the Forte.
The inside is a bit on the spartan side as compared to the Taurus, but I’ve got a high tolerance for hard plastic at this price point, and the Kia does at least mix in a couple of different textures. The Forte also earns extra points with its relatively robust headlight and wiper stalks; I’m not afraid they’ll snap like kindling when I use them. There’s a high level of content, too, with a nice audio system with a USB port, defeatable stability control for when I want to wring the Forte out on the way to the grocery store (hey, it could happen), Bluetooth compatibility, steering-wheel-mounted controls, remote unlock, etc., etc.
I’ve also enjoyed the car’s driving manners more than I expected. 156 hp and 144 lb.-ft. of torque coupled to a five-speed manual go a long way in a car that weighs 2,700 lbs, and ride and handling are tuned to provide a decent facsimile of sportiness. The steering is overly heavy at low speeds and the suspension is too stiff—the car gets a bit skittish on particularly rough pavement—but frankly, I’d rather deal with this then the opposite problems.
The best part of the deal? I came out of the Kia dealership leaving a mere $16,000 behind.