KIA K3 / Forte / Cerato


Debut: 2012
Maker: KIA
Predecessor: Forte (2009)


 Published on 31 Mar 2013
All rights reserved. 


"Change" is not only the slogan of Obama's first presidential campaign but also the practice of KIA. Until 4 years ago, the Korean headquarters used to call its C-segment family car as Cerato, then in 2009 the next generation car was renamed to Forte, and now the latest car is known as K3 in its home market. To confuse motoring journalists, the US market continues to call the car as Forte, whereas the rest of the world reverts to Cerato. Why does it change name just about every generation? Because change is good when the old car did not get a good reputation. By changing the name, you can be relieved from the old image and start it all over again.

The Change philosophy also applies to styling. The outgoing Forte's European look wasn't bad actually – it was one of the first fruits of Peter Schreyer, remember – but it dated more quickly than expected, and it was associated with the mediocre image of the old car, therefore it has to go. The new design comes from KIA's California design center. It looks significantly more radical, with a 4-door-coupe-style profile like sister car Hyundai Elantra / Avante. To my eyes it looks handsomer than the latter, but I think I will get tired of it quickly because it is more about fashion than timeless. So four or five years later we will see another big change of design on the next generation…



The styling similarity with Hyundai Elantra is no coincidence because this car sits on the same platform with 2700 mm wheelbase. 63 percent of its chassis is now constructed in high-strength steel to lift torsional rigidity by 37 percent while cutting kerb weight a little. NVH is considerably improved by adopting more sound insulation, larger bushings on front subframe and better engine mounts, just as you would expect for a new generation. Also inevitable is the switch from hydraulic to electrical power assisted steering. Such hardware is not renowned for steering feel, so KIA fitted a so-called FlexSteer function, which varies the weight of steering by selecting among Comfort, Normal or Sport mode. Oddly, these modes work only on steering, so don't expect any change to throttle, gearshift or stability control. The suspension of K3 consists of MacPherson struts up front and torsion-beam rear axle, or just about the norm of most cheap compact cars, although increasing number of rivals have switched to more sophisticated multi-link setup – and achieved good results.

On the road, the handling and ride neither disappoints nor surprises. Its driving manner is biased towards the comfort side. NVH suppression is pretty good, although the multi-link suspension cars like Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus clearly have an upper hand in suppression of suspension noise and impact harshness on rough surfaces. The handling is competent but without much fun to speak of. It doesn't control its body movement as crisply as the best rivals, neither does it steer with the same sharpness. The electrical power steering feels lifeless. FlexSteer adds only more weight but no more feel. Moreover, its strong self-centering feels artificial.


The engine range is more competitive than the chassis. Korean K3 is available with a sole 140 hp 1.6 GDI engine. It features direct injection, dual-VVT and automatic stop start to ensure good fuel economy. American market Forte skips this engine for a cheaper 148hp 1.8 MPI and a more powerful 2.0 GDI with 173 horsepower. The latter is not as torquey as the old car's 2.4-liter unit, but it revs smoother and quieter, while the mandatory 6-speed automatic transmission does a competent job when left in auto mode. By class standard, the performance it offers is strong. Expect 0-60 mph in less than 8 seconds.

The interior design is not as interesting as the exterior. It looks quite dull compared with Kia's own i30. The materials are not bad, with soft-touch plastics on most touchable surfaces, but it lacks the classy decors of its European cousin. On the plus side, the cabin offers plenty of room front and rear. The latter's knee room is benefited from the unusually long wheelbase – if not because of the swoopy roofline it could have approached the top of the class. The center console is angled slightly towards the driver as in other Kia models. Whether it feels sporty is another matter. However, the color touchscreen on it is a good one, whereas the infotainment system has clear, easy to use menus. Good all-round visibility adds to a comfortable and practical cabin.



Okay, the K5 / Forte / Cerato is a sensible purchase to ordinary motorists. Most of them demand a compact family car to be comfortable, easy to drive, frugal and packed with as many equipment as possible at an affordable price. This car satisfies all these requirements. However, if you demand more than that, especially in driving dynamics and mechanical refinement, or even "character", it might not be the car for you. A Golf will make you feel a lot prouder, if not leaving you as much cash in pocket.
Verdict:
 Published on 9 Dec 2013 All rights reserved. 
K3 / Forte 5-door Turbo


Long story short, the 5-door hatchback version of Kia K3 / Forte is exactly what you would expect: quite stylish, well packaged, well equipped, practical and decent to drive. It doesn't have any special flaws, but neither does it set any new class standards.

The 5-door is called Forte5 in the America or K3 Euro in Korea – ridiculously, the latter is not available in Europe as its space is already occupied by Cee'd. A longer, 2700 mm wheelbase and the use of compact torsion-beam rear suspension should help it to squeeze out more rear seat legroom than Cee'd. This mean it is one of the roomiest in the class. The 5-door's sharper sheet metal and compact shape make it more attractive to my eyes than either the sedan or the coupe (Koup). Unless you need a long trunk, it should be the one to choose among the 3 body styles.

You can have the same engine choices as the sedan version, but what catches our attention is the hot hatch version powered by the very same 1.6 GDI turbo engine as Hyundai Veloster. With a claimed 201 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 195 pound-foot of torque from 1750 to 4500 rpm, it should be a threat to Volkswagen Golf GTI. Unfortunately, road test once again confirmed that the Korean horsepower must be smaller than those of the rest of the world. It took Car and Driver 7.5 seconds to do 0-60 mph and 20.4 seconds to hit the ton. A few months ago, the very same publication timed a Golf Mk7 GTI to finish the same sprints in 5.6 and 14.2 seconds respectively. They are simply not in the same league.

Admittedly, the Kia runs a smaller engine and its price is also a lot easier to swallow. It has no intention to be the sharpest driving hot hatch, so everything is engineered with cost in mind. The front axle has neither limited slip differential nor clever torque vectoring, so it will spin the front wheels if you are hard on gas in tight corners. Its suspension is mildly stiffened. There is no adaptive dampers or multiple driving modes to select. The ride itself is a compromise between comfort and control, with more bias towards the former but ultimately it can't match the suppleness and quietness of the Golf's multi-link arrangement. The 225/40VR18 tires supplied by Korean manufacturer Nexen are not as grippy as their size suggested. Likewise, the barely larger brakes do not stop the car as quick as a hot hatch should. Lastly, the Flexsteer electrical power steering continues to offer little feel, as in the case of lesser K3 / Forte.

All these mean the 5-door 1.6 Turbo will not threaten the establishments in hot hatch field. As a warm hatch, however, it is still worth consideration, especially because it is well built, practical and very reasonably priced.

Verdict:
 Published on 9 Dec 2013 All rights reserved. 
K3 / Forte Koup


As before, Koup is the 2-door coupe version of K3 / Forte. Most of the underpinnings are shared, so its strongest selling point should be styling. Unfortunately, this is also what I found little to cheer about. Perhaps Peter Schreyer has been doing so good in every Kia model, the new Koup is not particularly stylish to my eyes. Its shape is perhaps a tad too soft, and the nose is not different enough. Maybe he wants to avoid offending female buyers (which are important to the sales of affordable coupes these days). Maybe he is restricted by the need to share high-percentage of common parts. Maybe this is simply not a high-priority project among the dozens put on his desk. Either way, the Koup is not going to capture as much praise as other Kia designs created in recent years.

To a coupe based on a mass-production platform, that could be a nightmare, because the car is indistinguishable to drive. Open the door and get on board, you will find the same (slightly boring) dashboard. Nearly all switchgears are the same. The driving position is just as high, so you feel more like driving a hatchback than a real coupe. While the side window looks like a single piece viewing from outside, there is actually a B-pillar hidden behind. Yes, the new Koup offers bags of room to rear passengers (by the standard of coupes), but it can't quite match the Forte 5-door hatchback described above.



Start the motor, you will find either the same 2.0 GDI or 1.6 GDI Turbo engine providing the same 173 or 201 horsepower to the front wheels. The 6-speed manual is not as slick to shift as Honda Civic's, and the clutch operation isn't as smooth. The automatic option is smooth but not particularly responsive. The 1.6 turbo takes you to 60 mph from rest in about 7 seconds, noticeably slower than Civic Si Coupe, which admittedly runs a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine. Even if you can accept that performance gap, you are unlikely to be thrilled with its dull exhaust note.

The ride and handling of Koup is very much like the hot 5-door model. It isn't as sharp and feelsome as the best rivals, but it is hard to fault. A numb steering is perhaps about its weakest link. Otherwise, it offers adequate grip, body control, ride comfort and security for most circumstances. However, since it is not very interesting to drive, to sit in and to look at, there is no strong reason to buy it instead of the more versatile 5-door.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
K3 1.6GDI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4560 / 1780 / 1435 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
VIM
DI
140 hp
123 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1191 kg
123 mph (est)
9.3 (est)
-
Forte 1.8LX
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4560 / 1780 / 1435 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1797 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
VIM
-
148 hp
131 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1241 kg
125 mph (est)
9.0 (est)
-
Forte 2.0EX
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4560 / 1780 / 1435 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1999 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
173 hp
154 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/45R17
1296 kg
133 mph (est)
7.4*
20.6*




Performance tested by: *C&D





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission

Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)

0-100 mph (sec)

Forte 5dr 1.6 turbo
2013 (2016)
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4350 / 1780 / 1450 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
201 hp
195 lbft
6-spd manual or
6-spd auto (7-speed DCT)
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
225/40VR18
1370 kg
140 mph (est)
6M: 6.6*
6A: 6.4* / 7DCT: 6.7*
6M: 17.1*
6A: 17.6* / 7DCT: 17.9*
Forte Koup 1.6 turbo
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4530 / 1780 / 1410 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
201 hp
195 lbft
6-speed manual

F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
225/40VR18
1330 kg
140 mph (est)
6.9*

17.3*































Performance tested by: *C&D




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General models


5-door Turbo


Koup



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