The new Kia Forte is a looker. It's an excellent example of clean styling, nothing really fancy but with all the right lines. It's not a big car, and it doesn't look big.
It's shaped like a wedge, or appears to be, from the swept-back grille and headlamps carrying through climbing shoulders on the sides of the car, back to the short rear deck. From some angles it looks aggressive, from others subtle. Even the rear door seams carry this wedge line. The Coefficient of Drag is a low 0.29, reflecting the clean wind-cutting shape.
Refreshingly, there are no squared flares over the rear wheelwells. The large taillights have nice angles, and wrap horizontally around the corners of the car and into the trunk lid. The roofline is coupe-like. The 10-spoke alloy wheels on our SX were especially terrific looking. Body-colored mirrors and door handles, hooray.
The front fenders are subtly boxed, but there are no trendy flares there, either. The front valance between the grille and low air intakes is not bulky, as with too many cars, and the three black screened intakes that run the full width of the chin are tidy and businesslike.
The hood, too, is short, accenting the wedge. The short hood and deck mean efficient construction with no excess in overhangs, because the overall length is correct for the compact sedan class. It's got a long wheelbase and wide track for its size, which is the key to all the good proportioning.
Our Forte was parked next to a $100,000 BMW 750Li we were also testing, and frankly, from the rear, the Forte was cleaner and displayed more distinction.
The short hood and rear deck pay off in interior space. The Kia Forte has one of the roomiest interiors in the compact sedan class, with a total of 96.8 cubic feet of passenger volume. That's 3.3 cubic feet more than the 2009 Subaru Legacy. And the Forte's trunk space of 14.7 cubic feet is best in class, matching the redesigned and enlarged midsize 2010 Legacy.
Headroom is good front and rear, while front legroom is ample and rear legroom is 35.0 inches, good for a compact sedan.
The thing that Kia does exceptionally well is execute. The Korean manufacturer copies carefully, and perfects. There's no pretension about being original or unique with the Forte interior, no attempt to re-invent anything. This is excellent, the intelligent antithesis of so many others especially German namely BMW and Audi. The result here is no flaws, no quirks, nothing of debatable taste, just satisfaction, simplicity and convenience.
Here's the list of stuff that's right: brushed aluminum-look trim, good armrests and grab handles, deep door pockets with bottle holder, standard sporty black cloth seats with red stitching, or sharp optional perforated leather upholstery especially handsome in dark gray, nice shift knob in leather and aluminum, deep center console, two easy-to-reach cupholders, good cubby with nearby USB port, lovely center stack, big climate control knobs that are easy to read and operate, eave over the instruments making them easy to read in the sun, sporty aluminum pedals with a great dead pedal, pleasant and efficient cabin lighting.
The front bucket seats are excellent, in classy leather out of its league for a compact sedan. Great firm but not tight bolstering. Nice 60/40 split rear seat with fold-down armrest with two cupholders.
Only criticisms are that we found the air conditioning fan a bit loud, and the roofline's C pillar created a small blind spot when looking over your shoulder.