Packed Cabin

But what the Forte five-door lacks in dynamic refinement is perhaps made up for with creature comforts. Starting at $19,090, the five-door Forte SX has everything from the $17,590 EX—including power windows and locks, keyless entry, a six-speaker stereo, and cruise control—while piling on SX-specific gauges, a telescoping steering wheel, “metal finish” interior accents, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. On our car, the automatic transmission added $1000 to the tab, as did the optional Leather package, which extends cowhide to the seating surfaces and adds front seat heaters. The $1800 Tech package encompasses a reasonably intuitive, voice-activated touchscreen navigation/infotainment system, as well as automatic headlamps, keyless start, and chrome door handles. Our car’s final option was a $750 sunroof, bringing the grand total to a semireasonable $23,640. It must be said, though, that one can get into any number of decently equipped mid-size family sedans for the same money.

But against its main competitor, the Kia lives up to its reputation for value: a comparably equipped Mazda 3 hatch runs $26,440. Is the Mazda’s masterfully tuned chassis worth almost three grand? Likely not for your everyday compact-hatchback customer, especially if his or her shopping comparisons are limited to equipment rundowns. Factor in Kia’s superstar warranty, and the Forte hatch’s on-paper advantage grows, which should make life for Kia salesmen a little easier. Still, if you’re someone who loves to drive, the 3 is the way to go. In that department, this Kia is close, but not quite there.

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