Forte ben­e­fits from se­ri­ous up­grade

The Southern Gazette - - Saltwire Wheels - BY RICHARD RUS­SELL WHEELS OT­TAWA, ONT.

Kia ar­rived on these shores less than two decades ago. The early years were lit­tered with lessons. The learn­ing curve was steep and im­prove­ment pur­sued re­lent­lessly. As a re­sult, the Kia story has changed — from price to value

Kia is now the #1 brand in ini­tial qual­ity and has been for four con­sec­u­tive years, ac­cord­ing to re­spected sources like J D Power and Con­sumer Re­ports. The IIHS (In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety) has awarded Kia ve­hi­cles its cov­eted Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus rat­ings — 10 mod­els to date.

Value con­scious Cana­di­ans have re­warded this march to recog­ni­tion and re­spect. Over the last decade, sales have more than dou­bled, from 35,000 to more than 76,000.

All this makes the ar­rival of the 2019 Forte wor­thy of note. The com­pact seg­ment, the largest car cat­e­gory in this coun­try, is crowded. This fifth-gen­er­a­tion Forte makes a choice even more dif­fi­cult.

The new Forte is packed with safety fea­tures, tech­nol­ogy and new­found driv­ing dy­nam­ics at a price that in­vites com­par­i­son.

The de­sign is sim­i­lar to the Stinger, the com­pany’s sur­pris­ing en­try in the hot car field. The new Forte is 80 mm longer and 20 mm wider than the out­go­ing model. The base of the wind­shield is set back 10 mm. The re­sult­ing long hood and slop­ing roofline has not only changed the pro­por­tions and pro­file, it has re­sulted in more legroom, and cargo ca­pac­ity. At 434 litres, the trunk, of the new Forte is among the largest in the seg­ment.

The com­bi­na­tion of ac­tive and pas­sive safety fea­tures de­ter­mines how ve­hi­cles pro­tect oc­cu­pants in a crash — and thus how they are rated by safety agen­cies. The body struc­ture of the new Forte is 26 per cent stronger. There is the usual ar­ray of airbags (six), anti-lock brakes, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol.

All but the base man­ual trans­mis­sion model come with for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, lane keep as­sist and driver at­ten­tion alert. The re­main­ing trim lev­els add the ad­vanced driver as­sis­tance sys­tem (ADAS). This in­cludes lane de­par­ture and blind spot warn­ing, au­to­matic high beams, rear and cross-traf­fic warn­ing.

To make the new Forte eas­ier to get in and out, the de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing teams re­vis­ited door open­ings and seat po­si­tions. The seats them­selves are stronger and lighter and have been rec­og­nized by the IIHS for their con­tri­bu­tion to in­creased pas­sen­ger pro­tec­tion. The pas­sen­ger seat on all trim lev­els is now height ad­justable.

The dash is hor­i­zon­tal in ap­pear­ance with a 20-cm float­ing screen for the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem in the cen­tre and a two-level tray be­neath, the up­per one pro­vid­ing a wire­less charg­ing pad.

The 2019 Forte is avail­able in six trim lev­els. In a bold move it is not go­ing to base its mar­ket­ing on the least ex­pen­sive model, as is the in­dus­try norm. Know­ing that fewer than five per cent of Cana­dian con­sumers buy that ver­sion, it has se­lected the most pop­u­lar trim level, and equipped it with the fea­tures con­sumers want. In­stead of ad­ver­tis­ing the $16,500 LX model with a man­ual trans­mis­sion, Forte ads will fea­ture the $21,000 EX.

The base LX MT comes with: heated front seats, heated steer­ing wheel, cruise con­trol, air con­di­tion­ing, 20-cm dis­play with rear view cam­era, An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Car­Play, wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity and re­mote key­less en­try. At $19,000 the LX adds au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, lane­keep as­sist and driver at­ten­tion alert.

The EX trim, fea­tured in all mar­ket­ing ef­forts, adds blind spot col­li­sion warn­ing, rear cross traf­fic alert, 16-inch al­loy wheels, LED head­lights, wire­less charg­ing pad and au­to­matic high beams.

There are EX plus ($22,500), EX Pre­mium ($25,100), and EX Lim­ited ($28,065) trims as well. As you go up the trim lad­der, they add things like larger wheels, sun­roof, dual-zone au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, power driver seat, UVO telem­at­ics, smart key, smart cruise con­trol, ad­vanced col­li­sion warn­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, Har­mon Kar­don au­dio sys­tem, ven­ti­lated front and heated rear seats.

All come with the 147-horse­power, 2.0-litre, four-cylin­der en­gine used pre­vi­ously. But, it is paired with an en­tirely new and sig­nif­i­cant con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion (CVT). Reg­u­lar read­ers will know I am not a fan of the CVT. In fact, that alone would stop me from pur­chas­ing a ve­hi­cle so equipped.

Kia engi­neers have come up with a ver­sion that thinks it is a reg­u­lar au­to­matic. It thinks it has dis­tinct gears.

A brief ex­pla­na­tion is in or­der. CVTs rely on belts and pul­leys in­stead of ac­tual gears. They put the en­gine in its most ef­fi­cient (high) rev range, and keep it there while con­tin­u­ously vary­ing the length of the belts. The re­sult is an an­noy­ing loud moan from the en­gine at con­stant high revs while ve­hi­cle speed in­creases.

Kia’s new In­tel­li­gent Vari­able Trans­mis­sion (IVT) swaps the usual fabric-like belt for a steel chain belt. The IVT in­cludes eight sim­u­lated gears and seven shift points. Un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion, en­gine revs rise and fall in a “nor­mal” man­ner. There is very lit­tle in­di­ca­tion of it be­ing a CVT — some­thing all of my fel­low scribes at the in­tro­duc­tion com­mented on.

Per­for­mance is class com­pet­i­tive and fuel mileage im­pres­sive. Kia claims a 17 per cent im­prove­ment over the out­go­ing model with most of that due to the new trans­mis­sion. I av­er­aged 6.5 litres per 100 km dur­ing sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres of mixed con­di­tions over ru­ral Que­bec roads and dipped into the fives on oc­ca­sion.

Those poorly-main­tained roads did point out that the sus­pen­sion of the new Forte has been weighted to­ward the han­dling side of the ride/han­dling spec­trum. The car han­dles ex­tremely well, but the ride is a slightly harsh over poor sur­faces. It was fine when we got to smooth sur­face.

The 2019 Forte ben­e­fits from a se­ri­ous up­grade, mak­ing it a vi­able com­peti­tor to any­thing in the class.

KIA PHO­TOS

The new Forte is 80 mm longer and 20 mm wider than the out­go­ing model.

The 2019 Forte comes with the 147-horse­power, 2.0-litre, four-cylin­der en­gine used pre­vi­ously, but it is paired with an en­tirely new and sig­nif­i­cant con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The Forte’s dash is hor­i­zon­tal in ap­pear­ance with a 20-cm float­ing screen for the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem in the cen­tre and a two-level tray be­neath, the up­per one pro­vid­ing a wire­less charg­ing pad.

To make the new Forte eas­ier to get in and out, the de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing teams re­vis­ited door open­ings and seat po­si­tions. The seats them­selves are stronger and lighter and have been rec­og­nized by the IIHS for their con­tri­bu­tion to in­creased pas­sen­ger pro­tec­tion.

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