Kia’s got a sporty new Forte model this year, the Forte5 SX. This car has jazzier styling, more horsepower, a sport-tuned suspension, and larger wheels.

Kia refreshed the Forte’s styling for 2017. A broader grille with headlamps that sweep back into the fenders provide a smooth cohesive look. A unique front bumper with fog lights, a distinctive red band across the air intake and larger 18-inch alloy wheels distinguishes the SX from other Forte models

Inside, the sporty theme continues with orange strips on the seat bolsters, aluminum foot pedals, a flat-bottom steering wheel and dash controls that are canted toward the driver. The dash itself features and easy-to-use 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes navigation and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The Forte accommodates four adults in reasonable comfort, and five in a pinch. The seats are nicely finished, but they may be a bit too firm for some folks. Passengers up front have an excellent view of the road via a huge windshield. Those in the rear have decent head-and legroom, considering that this is a compact car. Storage space in the SX is about average for its class at 23.2 cu-ft.

Forte buyers, except those with an SX, have a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder engine that generates 164 horsepower in their cars. SX owners get a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-banger that cranks out 201 horses. SX people also have a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox, or a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. My test car had the manual, and it was as smooth as silk to use. The engine, while delivering strong pulling power, was not as quick off the line as I expected, and it could have used a sportier exhaust note.

Compact hatchbacks with sporting qualities are bound to be compared to the Volkswagen GTI. The Forte5 SX is not as sharp as the GTI out on the twisty roads, nor does it deliver as much feel of the road to the driver. However, the SX is still enjoyable to drive, displaying good balance, and sure-footedness. But where it really excels is in the quality of its ride when the road gets bumpy. The SX smooths out the rough patches, and shields passengers from excessive road noise.

In a strange pricing arrangement, the SX with manual transmission has a higher base price ($26,895) than the automatic version ($24,695). However, the manual model comes standard with a sunroof, a rearview camera, navigation and heated and ventilated leather front seats with a power assist on the driver’s side. These items, plus safety features, like blind spot warning, rear-cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist are available in the automatic model with the $3,600 Premium Technology package.

Most buyers are likely to opt for the SX automatic, but either way, the Forte5 SX is a good choice.



Sporty Styling

Good Road Manners

Available Safety Features (automatic)

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