It is launching the fifth-generation Forte compact car and although the Sorento CUV is just being “refreshed,” even the platform is redesigned. The word relentless comes to mind.
According to Michael Sprague, Kia Motors America executive vp for Marketing and Communications, the Forte is targeted at people—it skews male—who are in their late 20s and early 30s earning from $50,000 to $70,000 per year.
Note the use of lighting on this compact car. While front LEDs had been the battleground, it is now being fought on the back as well.
For the EX trim (there is an entry LX, too) there is an all-aluminum in-line four with gasoline direct injection (GDI). It produces 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. of torque.
The first Forte was launched in 2009 (autofieldguide.com/articles/the-kia-forte-designed-to-be-surprising) as a model year 2010 car. The 2014 model is all-new. So the replacement rate is approximately 3.5 years between the outgoing and the new models. This is the fifth generation of the concept sedan that had been known as the Spectra prior to the launch of the 2010 Forte.
The Forte is positioned in the Kia lineup between the Rio (autofieldguide.com/articles/kias-latest-rio-) on one side and the Optima (autofieldguide.com/blog/post/2013-kia-optima-sx) on the other.
And geographically speaking, the Forte is manufactured at the Kia Hwasung Plant in South Korea.
Ralph Tjoa, Kia Motor America national manager, Product Planning, says, “When consumers shop for a small car, the rational side of the brain dominates.” That is, they’re looking for value, economy, quality/durability/reliability, and safety. They want to be perceived as having made a “smart” choice.
“Forte is for both sides of the brain,” Tjoa says.
The Kia design studio in Irvine, California, had the lead on the design of the 2014 Forte. As designers are wont to do, there were some non-automotive things used as inspiration. Like an archer. Tight, taut, potential energy. And a cheetah. Lithe. Quick.
The car is more aerodynamic: it has a coefficient of drag of 0.27. The one it replaces comes in at 0.29.
There are strong shoulders fore and aft. The headlamps cut into the fender forms. There are LED lamps used. The sides have an inward taper of the sheet metal. Toward the back there is a rising fender line. The decklid is short (functionally, the opening for the trunk has been increased by 2 in.). Each of the taillights have 81 LEDs.
The 2014 is bigger than its predecessor. It is longer (179.5 in. vs. 178.3 in.), wider (70.1 in. vs. 69.9 in.), higher (61.1 in. vs. 57.5 in.). What is notable is the way that the wheelbase has been stretched: 106.3 in. vs. 104.3 in. This puts the wheels way out toward the end, reducing the front and rear overhangs.
Inside there is the near-obligatory stuff. Like chrome accents, and an available 4.2-in. color LCD that is located between the tach and speedometer. What is an interesting design cue is a series of ripples arcing across the IP in front of the passenger, appearing like a ripple from a pebble tossed in a pond. The ripple motif is also used on the door trim panels.
Tjoa says they made “aggressive NVH countermeasures.” Part of this goes to the bones of the car: 63% of the body structure is high-strength steel. They’ve increased the torsional rigidity by 37%. Part of this is sound handling, ranging from a dash isolation pad to the use of engine mounts that provide frequency control. There is an aluminum plate below the engine block to reduce engine NVH (and to increase block rigidity by 30%).
Two by two
There are two trim levels: LX and EX. There are two new engines. The LX comes with a 1.8-liter four that is rated at 148 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. It is offered with two transmissions: a six-speed manual (standard) and a six-speed automatic.
The EX comes with a standard 2.0-liter in-line four with gasoline direct injection. It is rated at 173 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 154-lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm. It is available with the six-speed automatic.
The Forte is manufactured at the Kia Hwasung Plant in South Korea.
One of Kia’s great successes is its West Point, Georgia, manufacturing facility. Another of the great successes is the Sorento crossover, which is produced in the plant. According to Autodata, Kia sold 119,597 Sorentos in the U.S. in 2012. The current generation model appeared in at the start of 2010, so as Steve Hirashiki, senior product Strategy Manager, Kia Motors America, puts it, “From a lifecycle perspective, this is a face lift.” But he goes on to note that from an execution perspective, “80% of the parts are new or significantly changed.” This includes a platform redesign. Key cross members were reinforced. They’re using 25% ultrahigh tensile strength steel for the ’14 Sorento. Because of the platform redesign, they were able to redesign the suspension: whole it is still Macpherson in the front and a multilink in the rear, the components, bushing size and mounting points have all been changed to provide better ride and handling and straight-line stability. The strut towers have been strengthened to provide more rigidity. There is a stiffer H-shaped subcradle. Overall, there is an 18% increase in torsional rigidity.
Outside, the designers at the Kia design center in Irvine, California, redesigned the front and rear fascias, working to provide a more-horizontal, more-planted appearance. As is now typical for Kia products, LEDs are used for the positioning lamps in the front and the combination lamps in the rear. The CUV has three trim levels. The LX rides on 17-in. wheels, the EX on 18-in. wheels, and the SX on 19-in. wheels; this is the first time 19-in. wheels have been available on the Sorento.
There are two engines. The standard engine on the entry LX trim is an all-aluminum 2.4-liter four that provides 191 hp @ 6,300 rpm and 181 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm. The rest of the models get an all-aluminum 3.3-liter V6 that produces 290 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 252 lb-ft. of torque @ 5,200 rpm. Both models feature gasoline direct injection.
As has been the case with the Sorento, they’re using a Magna Powertrain-developed (magna.com) Dynamax all-wheel-drive system that provides enhanced torque on demand. The system can provide torque to the front wheels, all four wheels, or to whatever wheel has traction. In addition to which, the system has been enhanced to provide “Torque Vector Cornering Control,” which provides stability when going through tight turns by modifying the wheel torque as required.