The Kia Forte5 has been out since 2012 so it’s no new comer to the block. However, for 2017 the car gets a more aggressive front end which gives the car a little more character. Priced as a mild hatch but it gives a hot hatch like performance it’s here to show the competitors what it’s all about.
The front end refresh is very nice. It gives the Forte5 a sportier look comparing to the previous rounded face. With the addition of subtle red pin-striping similar to something that’s found in VW GTI without overdoing it.
Out back it gets a nice fresh set of taillights and rear valence, again adding to that sportier look. Overall it’s not aggressive enough to seem like it’s trying too hard. It’s subtle but edgy enough to tell it apart from previous and others on the market.
Being the SX model there are a few things that separate it from the other models. Starting from the flat bottom steering wheel, it’s nice to hold with a good overall size. The centre stack is slightly skewed to the driver giving a cockpit feel. HVAC controls are easy to navigate with big round dials for temps and with dual zone climate control it’s easy to feel comfortable anywhere.
Being the top model, the 7″ in dash display is standard. Allowing for Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Bluetooth as well as GPS, it’s feature packed. Best of all, on the home screen, there is a total of three places that can tell time. Although the clock above does date the vehicle a bit.
The cluster like most recent Kia products is easily legible, with big sweeping dials and a little screen added in the centre showing vehicle information like fuel consumption, range, and navigation information.
Wrapped in leather, the seats are comfortable with ample support for both thighs and back. For the front row, the seats are also heated as well as ventilated which is a rare option in this segment. However, I did notice being a taller driver the seats does not adjust low enough to increase overall head room. I found myself pushing the seat further back than I liked to get a more comfortable position. However, your mileage may vary as I do like to sit more upright.
Dropping the rear seats down gives the Forte5 tons of room, with the seats up there’s 657L and 1597 with them down. Just to compare a Mazda 3 has 572L and 1334L and the new Civic Hatch is able to consume 727L and 1308L respectively.
Powering the SX is the well known 1.6L Turbo 4 producing 201hp and 195lb-ft of torque. Mated to a 7-speed dual clutch it’s able to propel the 1406kg vehicle with ease. The powerband is strong and has plentiful mid range torque which makes for zippy driving. The tester with the dual clutch which was eager to shift up early allowing for better than posted fuel consumption (9.4 City/7.9 Highway). While in sport, the engine spins freely within its rev range and generally sits neatly at its peak torque awaiting for throttle modulation.
Behind the wheel, the Forte5 can be a bit boring to drive, with vague steering and a poor driving position it doesn’t check the right boxes. However, when pushed the vehicle does respond nicely. Unlike some others, the rear suspension of the Forte5 is a torsion arm setup so on paper it’s not as good to drive as true sports hatch. Luckily that’s not true at the helm, it drives nicely and tucks into corners well. It’s not a sports car by any means but with good power and ability to accelerate quickly thanks to low-end torque it creates a fun driving opportunity.
Priced aggressively with all of the options and manufacturer discounts comes to $28,755. Comparing to the Civic hatch at $31,241 and the Mazda 3GT at $28,020 which are the two biggest competitors it’s priced well. Altho lacking in some active safety features that the Civic does have the Forte5 doesn’t seem to be a bad deal. But the brand name itself still struggles even though they make some remarkable products.