Compact sedans, not all that long ago, were called – for good reason – econoboxes.
Didn’t really matter the manufacturer, they were all inexpensive, lacking in creature comforts and safety equipment and shared an uninspired, boxy design.
That stereotype has changed, and the refreshed 2017 Kia Forte EX would be my “Exhibit A” as evidence.
The 2017 model year adds a new base engine and updated six-speed transmission, engineered for improve fuel economy and performance. The exterior has been freshened, and a host of advanced convenience and safety-related, driver assistance features have been added.
My EX tester is the top trim level with an entry-level LX and mid-level S that pumps up Forte’s sport factor with exclusive interior and features. The four-door sedan seats four adults with room to spare, plus a large trunk at the ready.
Forte is powered by a standard 2.0-liter, gas-direct, Atkinson I-4 that generates 147 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 132 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. The newly engineered six-speed automatic transmission delivers improved fuel economy and smoother shifting. The on-board computer said I averaged 32 miles per gallon in my week’s worth of city/highway driving.
A new front bumper and tiger-nose grille, which has been extended to connect with Xenon HID headlights, give the Forte a more fluid, sophisticated personality. Other goodies include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, Smart Key with perimeter-approach lighting, and front-door pocket lighting.
The EX interior is chock-full of amenities that are surprising to find in a compact. EX now comes standard with leather, heated front seats, dual-zone, full-automatic temperature control, rear vents and push-button start. Other appointments include steering wheel controls, cruise control, AM/FM/XM radio, USB port and Bluetooth.
Smartphone connectivity has been improved with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both platforms allow drivers to conveniently use the touchscreen for smartphone functions like sending text messages, streaming music and looking up driving directions.
Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, hill-start assist and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
My tester came equipped with a Premium Plus optional package ($4,490) and added a boatload of safety features highlighted by autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and rear cross traffic alert. A navigation system and power sunroof are thrown in for good measure.
That, my friends, is a lot of technology.
The econobox is a thing of the past, and we’re all the better for its demise.
The Forte sedan is produced at Kia’s new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico, making it the first vehicle to be built at the South Korean automaker’s second North American plant.
Base Price: $21,200
Price As Driven: $26,835
Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.