In contrast, the Forte debuted some five years ago as a replacement for Kia's ho-hum Spectra car. Consumer Reports does not list a reliability rating for the newly revamped 2014 Forte.
The test Forte impressed with its handsome exterior, which looked expensive and had a family resemblance to the Optima, Kia's larger mid-size sedan that has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $22,300.
And just like a luxury car, the test Forte EX with two option packages had perimeter approach lighting that illuminated the door handles and activated light-emitting diode puddle lights under the outside mirrors. This kind of feature is rare in mainstream sedans, even among competitors that, like the tester, have a $25,600 sticker price.
Inside the test Forte, the dashboard arrangement of controls and buttons was well done and easy to understand. But the black, plastic-dominated environment didn't convey richness as much as function. Still, the knobs and buttons were large enough to use without fuss.
Plus, the optional, leather-trimmed and heated seats were a nice touch, easing passenger comfort on cold mornings and not leaving out the two passengers riding in the outboard rear seats.
The heated steering wheel was a good idea, too, during this season's wintry weather, and neither the heated rear seats nor heated steering is offered in the Civic. These extra "heated" features, however, require buyers move up to the pricier Forte EX trim level that starts at $20,300 and then add a $2,300 option package.
The Forte EX had the uplevel, 173-horsepower, 2-liter, gasoline direct injection four cylinder. It's revised from before and really gave the test car an eager and responsive personality that made highway merges comfortable and maintained good speed on mountain roads. Torque peaks at 154 foot-pounds at 4,700 rpm.
The new-for-2014 six-speed automatic also performed well, delivering power smoothly.