Predecessor: Cerato / Spectra
|The valuable experience of Peter
Schreyer brought KIA a rare sense of design maturity...
Not many manufacturers can
afford to build two cars for the C-segment. The fast-rising KIA is one
of them. For European market, it has C'eed. For America, Asia and rest
of the world, it has Forte (although Australia and New Zealand call it
Cerato instead). Both cars have a lot of commonalities, such as the
same 2650 mm wheelbase, but also quite a lot of differences. While
C'eed is a hatchback, Forte is a conventional 3-box sedan. C'eed has a
sophisticated multi-link rear suspension to please the demanding
European drivers, while Forte can be equipped with larger engines to
please the torque-hungry American. They even differ in the place of
manufacture: C'eed is built in Czech Republic while Forte is produced
back in South Korea. Nevertheless, both cars guarantee the same
excellent value for money.
Forte is a good looking car. It was designed in the company's
California studio under the guidance of Peter Schreyer, who left Audi
and Volkswagen to head the design activity of KIA. Asian car design
usually falls into one of these two camps - boring or flamboyant.
Examples are Toyota Corolla / Auris, Nissan Bluebird Sylphy / Tiida /
Sentra for the former and Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Mitsubishi Lancer
for the latter. The valuable experience of Peter Schreyer brought KIA a
rare sense of design maturity. It might not be as striking as some
European designs from Ford, Citroen or SEAT, it is undeniably a
balanced, high-quality and inoffending design. I particularly like its
wedge shape, its headlamps and front fenders, which are very original.
Its drag coefficient at 0.29 is also excellent for the class.
|Although most plastic surfaces are
grained, none of them are soft-touch.
to the exterior, the interior design is rather ordinary. While it is
far better looking and touching than the outgoing Cerato, it does not
raise your interest like most European family hatches do. Although most
plastic surfaces are grained, none of them are soft-touch. The hard
steering wheel and gearstick feel cheap, as is the faux alloy trim on
the center console of top model. The door panels simply look low rent.
That said, to sit and travel this cabin is hard to fault. Its long
wheelbase guarantees plenty of room front and rear, especially because
the floor is flat. Seat comfort and driving position adjustment are
faultless. Besides, in the tradition of Korean cars it provides plenty
of standard equipments that normally reserved as options in rivals. At
the back, you get a decent boot space at 415 liters.
The chassis of Forte is fairly conventional. 63 percent of its
monocoque is made of high-strength steel in order to improve rigidity
and crash worthiness without adding weight. NVH engineering follows the
modern route to employ a subframe for mounting the front MacPherson
strut suspensions. The rear is suspended by a torsion-beam axle.
Electrical power steering, all-wheel disc brakes, ABS and stability
control complete the picture.
||The chassis of Forte is fairly
conventional... with a torsion-beam axle.
There are four engines on
offer. 128hp 1.6-liter common-rail turbo diesel, 124hp 1.6-liter VVT
petrol, 156hp 2.0-liter VVT petrol and 173hp 2.4-liter dual-VVT petrol.
The last two come from the "World Engine" family developed jointly with
Mitsubishi and Chrysler. The large 2.4-liter engine is offered only for
the North American market because elsewhere few people could afford its
extra thirst. In the rest of the world, most sales are likely to
concentrate on the two 1.6-liter engines, which are not offered in
North America. Among them, the common-rail turbo diesel is more lovely
for its strong performance, refinement and frugality. The 1.6 petrol is
not short of power, but it needs rev to realize that, and it is noisy
to do so. The 2.0-liter petrol is more refined, if not feeling
particularly gusty. If you want instant torque, the long-stroke
2.4-liter will be a must. It is also the only engine here pairs with a
6-speed manual gearbox or 5-speed automatic. Other engines are provided
with either 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto. A 2.4-liter Forte with
6-speed manual can take you from standstill to 60 mph under 8 seconds.
That is the territory of warm hatches.
|Up the pace on back roads, the initial
feeling of nice body control fades out quickly...
Nevertheless, it lacks a chassis tuning to match. While the Forte
steers and rides well enough for a family car, it is by no means
entertaining. At first you may be pleased with its firm yet absorbent
ride, which simulates European cars. However, rides over really broken
surfaces and it instantly shows why a torsion-beam suspension can never
replace an independent multi-link. Admittedly, its poorly sorted
damping is also a major reason for its poor low-speed ride. Up the pace
on back roads, the initial feeling of nice body control fades out
quickly. You will beg for less body roll, more grip, sharper throttle
response and a steering that really communicates with the black top. If
you are keen drivers, you will be far better catered in a Mazda 3, Ford
Focus or Volkswagen Golf, or even another KIA called C'eed.
above report was last updated on 11 Jul 2009. All Rights Reserved.
|Stylish Korean coupe sets to attack a
territory until now dominated by Japnese coupes...
is not easy to make a
4-seater coupe stylish. However, Peter Schreyer and KIA's California
design studio managed to do so in Koup. There is a lot of tension in
its body, as shown in the pronounced wheelarches, crisp shoulder lines,
slim lights, bold bumpers and blacked-out 5-spoke alloy wheels. Compare
with the equivalent Japanese offerings, it looks far more desirable.
This is unquestionably the best effort by Schreyer since he joined KIA
Under the sheet metal, however, this car is more or less the same as
Forte sedan. Power comes from the same 156hp 2.0-liter or 173hp
2.4-liter four-cylinder engines, mated to 5 or 6-speed manual gearbox
respectively, or alternatively 4 or 5-speed automatic. In 2.4-liter
manual form, it should be capable of doing 0-60 mph sprint in 7.7
seconds. Just don't expect it to be quicker than the sedan, as their
kerb weight are within a few kilograms. Despite of twin-continuous
variable valve timing and 2-stage intake manifolds, the 2.4-liter
engine is rather reluctant to rev to its 6500 rpm redline. The smaller
engine doesn't feel as powerful as its figures suggested either.
The ECU calibration in the coupe is different from the sedan. At low
rpm it has
sharper throttle response in the attempt to thrill its driver.
Unfortunately, this actually makes a smooth driving in traffic
difficult. At higher rpm, the throttle response is rather slow, failing
to respond to throttle blip during downshift. More tweaks have to be
done. Transmission is not much better. The 6-speed manual gearbox is
notchy compared with Japanese counterparts. The 5-speed automatic is
programmed to enhance fuel consumption. Both fail to deliver
|This is unquestionably the best effort
by Schreyer since he joined KIA.
Predictably, the coupe hasn't altered the torsion-beam rear suspensions
of the sedan except making it stiffer, as are the MacPherson struts up
front. The stiff setup and 10 mm reduced ground clearance result in
pretty good body control, but ride quality suffers on poor surfaces.
Rivals on multi-link suspensions cope much better with the same roads.
The electrical power steering of Koup gets heftier and quicker, though
it still feels somewhat artificial. Overall, its handling is decent
rather than outstanding.
With a lower roof line, the Koup sacrifices 33 mm and 64 mm front and
rear headroom respectively. Its rear seats can accommodate people up to
5ft 10in, not bad for a small coupe. On the downside, the same gray
hard plastic dashboard as the Forte is hardly desirable. It has yet to
meet the quality standards of the class.
The Koup is primarily destined to the US market, where competition is
rather loose. Its main rivals are only Honda Civic Coupe and the aging
Toyota Scion tC. We don't expect it to be exported to Europe, as
Proceed is already taking this role to rival countless of European hot
hatches. Life seems far easier for the Koup.
above report was last updated on 19 Jul 2009. All Rights Reserved.