2017 Kia Forte S
The 2017 Kia Forte S is a sporty, practical compact sedan.
The Kia Forte S is a compact, economical sedan that provides a fair amount of driving fun for a reasonable price.
The $19,200 Forte S is the sportiest of the Forte sedan line, fitting between the entry LX and top-line EX sedans. (The Forte also comes as a hatchback and coupe, which aren't covered here.)
The front-drive Forte sedan has jazzed up styling for 2017 with such items as a new front bumper, grille, headlights and taillights.
The S also has a supple sport-tuned suspension, which some might find a bit firm. Other features are 16-inch alloy wheels, 55-series tires, sporty trim, a rear spoiler and a chrome exhaust tip. Too bad Kia didn't throw in another chrome exhaust tip for an even sportier look.
The quick electric-assist steering is on the firm side. Helping keep the Forte S securely on the road during trying conditions are traction, electronic stability and vehicle stability management control systems.
Safety items include side curtain air bags and anti-lock brakes with a brake-assist feature and good pedal feel.
The Forte S is fairly well-equipped. Standard are air conditioning, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, AM/FM/MP3 with an easily used 7-inch color touchscreen and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors. (Rear windows lower all the way.)
There's also an always-welcome rearview camera, remote keyless entry, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors and 60/40 split rear seatbacks with releases in the large trunk.
However, my early production test car's rear-seat releases didn't allow the seatbacks to budge. It felt as if the releases weren't connected to the seatbacks.
Backlit gauges can be easily read, and the digital speedometer inside the regular speedometer housing is often helpful in tightly speed-restricted zones. All controls can be easily used and there's good cabin space, with such things as large door pockets and a deep bin on the console, which has handily placed cupholders.
A key option, which was on my test Forte S, is the $1,490 technology package.
That package contains blind spot detection, lane departure warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning system and outside mirrors with LED turn signals. It also contains a push-button start and automatic up-down front windows. (all windows lower all the way).
It seems to be increasingly old fashioned to start a vehicle by turning an ignition key these days.
The quiet upgraded interior of the S has handsome black cloth seats with white contrast stitching and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The supportive driver's seat is adjustable, and the steering column has a tilt/telescopic feature. Wide door openings allow easy entry, but a stiff rear-seat center area makes seating only comfortable for two back there.
The S is powered by a 2-liter, 147-horsepower four-cylinder dual-overhead-camshaft engine similar to the one in the Hyundai Elantra. It has 16 valves and provides the 2,855-pound car with lively performance--although the engine makes a droning sound during hard acceleration.
The engine works with an upgraded, smoother shifting six-speed automatic transmission with a responsive manual-shift feature. A driver can choose "Normal," "Eco" or "Sport" driving modes. I couldn't tell much difference between the three modes during normal driving.
Estimated fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on highways. The fuel tank holds 13.2 gallons.
The prop rod that holds the hood open is awkward to use, although it's easy to reach engine compartment fluid containers, especially the one for oil.
The Kia Rio S feels tightly built and is backed by a 10-year/100,00-mile limited powertrain warranty.