2017 Kia Forte5: Unheralded hatchback shines tough segment

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The 2017 Kia Forte5 is the hatchback trim of its more well-known sedan sibling. It’s reminiscent of the short-lived, defunct Volkswagen station wagon squareback that debuted in the late 1960s and ceased production six years later.

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The VW squareback was underpowered and quirky, but more than 350,000 were manufactured before its demise in 1974. Loyal followers liked the sizable cargo area, drivability, and versatility. The VW’s motto was, “Is it a small sedan that’s a station wagon or a station wagon that’s a sedan?”

The 2017 Kia Forte5 is not well-known, but it should be.
The 2017 Kia Forte5 is not well-known, but it should be.

While similar is concept — a wagon-style cargo area in a sedan, the 2017 Kia Forte5 is far superior to its distant relative with a different name. But like the rest of its current family, it remains unheralded among mainstream buyers who mistakenly don’t realize the improvement throughout the Kia lineup.

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The Forte5 is offered in LX, EX and SX trims. The latter the top trim and my review vehicle, is the sport-oriented edition. It features a turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips, unique front and rear styling, larger front brakes and LED taillights. An auto-dimming rearview mirror and Uvo eServices are also standard.

Options for the Kia Forte sedan and Forte5 trims include a sunroof, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HD radio and a navigation system.

Considering the top competition — Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3 — the Forte lineup remains unheralded. But the Forte5 adds another option to Kia’s desire to grab a larger market share against the stalwart brands.

With its six-speed manual transmission option, the Forte5 nearly disavows any association of being a wagon. The smooth, short-shifting transmission is well-matched with precise steering and a commanding presence on the road. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is also available. Acceleration from 0-60 miles per hour is 5.9 seconds, quicker than what logically might be expected in any part of any conversation of hatchback specifications.

The Forte5’s transmission versatility and efficiency alone are sufficient for purchase consideration against some of the country’s top-selling vehicles. But hatchback’s roominess is the bonus. It has 23.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seat up and vastly more with the seatbacks folded down.

Kia’s improvement is recent year extends the instrumentation and infotainment features. It’s refreshing to usual buttons instead of fickle touchscreen option. The navigation system is intuitive and features what would be considered antiquated in some current technology-heavy vehicles. It has buttons for the climate control and other functions.

Fuel economy on manual-equipped models is 26 miles per gallon combined (23 city/30 highway). The seven-speed dual-clutch models are rated at a combined 27 miles per gallon (25 city/32 highway).

Honda, Toyota and Ford remain industry leaders for good reasons, not the least of which is resale value. Kia can’t match currently match quality and maybe it never will. But further worthy of consideration is Kia’s industry-leading 10-year, 100,000 powertrain warranty as well its 5-year, 60,000-mile roadside assistance warranty. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $26,125.00.

The Kia Forte sedan and Forte5 remain underdogs. But the hatchback trim conjures memories of the simplicity and simpler times during the former VW compact cargo holder’s era. Maybe 45 years from now the Kia Forte5 will be remembered similarly.

Quiet ride.
Overall comfort.
Superior trunk space.
Smooth short shift.

Should achieve better gas mileage.

Facts & Figures: 2017 Kia Forte5
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.9 seconds.
Airbags (6): Dual front, front side and side curtain.
Fuel economy: 23 mpg (city), 29 mpg (highway), 25 mpg (combined), six-speed manual transmission.
Horsepower: 201.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $26,125.00.
Manufacturer’s Website: kia.com.
Price As Tested: $27,020.00.
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

What Others Say:
“Even with the relatively high price tag, the Kia Forte5 SX is worth considering if you’re in the warm hatch market. It packs plenty of driving fun in a practical, attractive package, but unlike the Civic, it also lets you indulge your manual shifting needs along with your comfort and convenience desires. That’s a rare thing today, and we’re glad Kia offers it.” — autoblog.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“The still-unheralded Kia Forte lineup deserves to be more recognized among segment top-sellers from Ford, Honda and Toyota. The Forte5 helps that cause.”


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