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The Kia Forte provides a well-isolated ride, benefitting from its longer wheelbase, revised suspension, and stiff body. Torsional rigidity is up by 37 percent, according to Kia. Careful control of noise and vibration has produced a car with refinement that seems well above its spot on the pricelist. Ride motions, too, were well controlled on the mainly smooth roads around Phoenix, Arizona, where we sampled the car's delights.
We have only driven Forte EX models to date, and the more powerful 2.0-liter engine certainly helped impress journalists at the press introduction with its flexible nature and lusty performance.
The 6-speed automatic also made a good impression with its fast responses and smooth shifts. Shift-shock is all but absent in the Forte, and it's difficult even to confuse the transmission with sudden throttle movements. There's a manual override shift system in the new Forte, and it surprised us by holding the gear selected even when the throttle was quickly floored. While we prefer manumatics that will resist upshifting on their own, even at the redline, a rapidly deployed wide-open throttle suggests that maximum acceleration is being called for, and a downshift is in order.
The Forte EX model features Flexsteer (perhaps not the best name for something related to car control), which offers comfort, normal and sport levels of steering assist, and this duly altered the steering's weighting, though it did little to improve the so-called motor-driven power steering's inert character.
In truth, this is not that unusual among the proliferating electric power-steering systems hitting the market, and it is offset in the Forte in large part by the car's accurate responses to the wheel. You simply abandon tactile feedback in favor of visual confirmation of path control. You soon get used to it, particularly when the wheel is also pretty well isolated from kickback shock.
Anyway, the Forte is not a fine-honed sport sedan. It is a competent, comfortable, roomy and well-equipped compact sedan. If it has been tuned to a sweet spot in the marketplace that prefers a composed and convenient car rather than a taut, close-focused attack tool, more power to Kia. This is exactly the kind of car more people should drive.