Hatchback + Turbo = Useful Fun
What is a hatchback if not a low-slung SUV? Both have five doors and, for their respective sizes, can haul pretty much what you need to have carried around. One difference, other than cost, is that when you get a turbocharged hatchback, the fun factor rises to the territory where only the most expensive SUVs live. Thus, the 2016 Kia Forte5 SX is a good example of price, practicality and fun, all for an entry price of as low as $18,000.
Our front-wheel drive 2016 Kia Forte5 SX was powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC engine with gasoline direct injection (GDI), good for a robust 210 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, all while running on regular unleaded. Clean Fleet Report’s Forte5 SX had a six-speed manual while a six-speed automatic is an option. EPA fuel economy numbers are 21 City/29 Highway/24 Combined. In 404 miles of 65-percent highway/35-percent city driving, we averaged 23.7 mpg. We are confident if the Forte5 SX is driven lightly, as in not taking advantage of shifting to keep the revs high, surpassing the EPA numbers would be easy. But then again, why have a turbo and a six-speed manual if the goal is only to get high fuel economy? An indicator for what gear I was in would have been a huge help. Some cars have an upshift light, which is designed to encourage better fuel economy, but a gear indicator acts as a visual driver’s aid to get through the six manual gears efficiently and smoothly.
The Forte5’s EX model features a non-turbo 2.0-liter to deliver 25 mpg City/33 Highway and 28 combined when mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Kia has a rich and successful racing history, including campaigning the Forte Koup, which has the same engine/transmission combination as our Forte5 SX test car, in the Pirelli World Challenge race series where they have many class victories and took the 2014 Manufacturer and Driver titles.
Driving Experience: On the Road
At 3,990 lbs. the Kia Forte5 SX, with electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering, handles firm and flat in slow-to-medium tight cornering, but has some body roll when pushed hard. With a
set-up of 18-inch alloy wheels shod with P225/40R18 tires, front MacPherson struts, a coupled rear Torsion Beam axle and monotube shocks at both ends, the Forte5 SX did not transmit road cracks or bumps through the cabin, but the car could have been much quieter at highway speeds. There is a trade-off for handling and ride comfort, but the set-up on the Forte5 SX didn’t sacrifice the latter at the expense of the former.
Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the 11.8-inch vented front and solid disc rear brakes, that were assisted by the four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) and brake assist.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Kia says the Forte5 sedan has “stunning European-inspired design,” which may be a bit enthusiastic, but not by much. Hatchbacks are some of the coolest looking cars on the road, and I like the Forte SX’s sleek profile, smooth sides and large wheels that gave it a mildly aggressive look.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report was driving a highly optioned 2016 Kia Forte5 SX with the Premium and Technology Package (a $4,200 option) that made for a pleasant 400+ miles behind the wheel. Since we spend so much more time inside a car than outside, treating yourself to these option packages will make the Forte5 SX a pleasure to sit in and drive.
Our Forte5 SX had a power tilt and sliding sunroof, comfortable heated, leather-trimmed seats with the driver’s side being ventilated and power adjustable with two memory settings. The front passenger seat was also heated and manually adjustable. A nice touch and something that is usually reserved for much higher priced cars was a heated steering wheel.
The cockpit layout is simple and clean with soft touch materials on the dash and door panels. Easy to find and read controls include the cruise control, telephone, navigation and audio which are housed on the steering wheel. I was especially pleased to see the radio had knobs for On/Off/Volume and channel selecting, and the climate control wheels were a different size than those of the radio. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark – regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.
The simplicity of the dash layout also made reading the gauges and operating the sound system easy. Clean Fleet Report’s Forte5 SX came with the Technology Package that included a 4.3-inch touch screen with navigation and rear view camera as part of the UVO eServices with Telematics infotainment system. This system came with SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone.
The Forte5 SX can seat three adults in the heated, 60/40 split bench rear seat. For longer trips two adults would be more comfortable where they could take advantage of the fold down arm rest
with cup holders. At 5’ 9” I fit in all cars, including open wheel racers, so a true test was having a 6’ 1” associate sit in the driver’s seat and when positioned, have him climb into the back to check leg, knee and head room. The Forte5 SX accommodated my friend in comfort with room to spare.
Other nice interior features are dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear vents in the center console, power windows and door locks, power outside mirrors with turn indicators, multiple cup holders, carpeted floor mats, front center console with slide-adjustable arm rest, cooling glovebox, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, dual map lights and lighted vanity mirrors, and a 12-volt accessory outlet up front. Having a USB port and a 12-volt outlet for the rear passengers would have gone nicely with the car’s leather-trimmed and heated seats. The metal pedal covers and cargo cover were nice touches.
Safety and Convenience
The 2016 Forte5 SX came with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system, electronic stability control, traction control, vehicle stability management, hill start assist, high-intensity-discharge projector beam headlights with fog and LED positioning lights, front door handle pocket lights, an anti-theft engine immobilizer and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2016 Kia Forte5 was not rated for frontal crashes but did receive 5 Stars for side crashes and 4 Stars for side crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested the 2016 Forte5 SX.
Pricing and Warranties
MSRP for the four 2016 Kia Forte5 trim levels range from $18,090 to $21,990. Options are extra and all prices exclude the $825 freight and handling charge.
The 2016 Kia Forte5 comes with these warranties:
- Basic – Five-year/60,000-mile
- Powertrain – 10-year/100,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance – Five-year/60,000-mile
Observations: 2016 Kia Forte5 SX 5 Door
Confession: I am a fan of hatchbacks, turbocharged engines and manual transmissions. If you are, too, then the 2016 Kia Forte5 SX should be on your shopping list.
If you want a bit more fuel economy, then you could look at the Forte LX and EX models that also offer the same technology features and comfort but a little less hp and torque, which in-turn result in higher fuel economy.
All the way around, Kia has a competitive entry in the hatchback category and is one you should take a long look at if a small car is on your shopping list.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.