You look at the 2017 Kia Forte EX from the outside, and you see a pretty typical sedan.
But when you are behind the wheel driving the thing, you imagine you're in a race car.
Part of that is because you are sitting so low to the ground, part of it is the sporty interior and most of it is the pep. The Kia Forte EX has a lot of pep. It's peppy.
I discovered this out when I got on the 405 heading south from Harbor Boulevard and found a solid row of drivers unwilling to let me on despite my signaling. So I floored it, quickly got ahead of the pack, slid over and commanded the mass of metal. Pound sand, traffic jammers!
This was not what I was expecting from a low-emissions vehicle. It gets an eight—with 10 being best—on the government's smog rating chart. (The fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating is a six.)
The 2.0-liter Gas Direct Injection four-cyclinder engine and smooth six speed automatic transmission have you taking off from a dead stop like a bat out of Busan, although you must fight the urge to grab and move your shifter as if driving a manual.
The EPA's fuel economy rating is 25 mpg city, 33 highway with a combined 28 mpg. You can scroll on the instrument panel to a display of what kind of mileage you are getting as you drive. Based on my lead foot, I mostly saw 22 mpg-ish in the city and 31-32 on the highway.
Sure, you can find commuter cars with better mpg, just as you can find performance cars with bigger, badder engines. The Kia Forte EX is for those seeking a bit of both worlds, with lower emissions to help The World.
For a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $21,200 it has some nice features you find on more expensive cars, including 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone automatic climate control, power windows, locks and outside mirrors, AM/FM/mp3 player with steering wheel controls and 7-inch touchscreen and rear camera, UVO eServices Infotainment System, SiriusXM satellite radio (with three-month subscription), USB/auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth capabilities with steering wheel controls, also for cruise control.
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In addition, it has as standard leather seat trim with heated front seats and 60/40 split folding rear seats and leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, a push button start, smart key and smart trunk, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, LED positioning lights, fog lights and auto on/off projector headlights, LED turn signal indicators on the outside mirrors, front door handle pocket lights and LED tail lights.
Standard safety features include dual front advanced air bags, front seat mounted side air bags, full length side curtain air bags, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist (BAS), a traction control system, Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and tire pressure monitoring.
My test ride included the EX Premium Plus Package, because I'm special, which includes: supervision media cluster with color LCD, a navigation system, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS), Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), ventilated front seats, power adjustable driver's seat with memory, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Xenon HID headlights and a power sunroof.
That pushes the suggested price tag up to $25,690, or $26,540 with the inland freight and handling charge.