She’s got the look

Featuring one of the more muscular bodies to come from Seoul, the Forte continues with the pace started with the Soul. With a pronounced shoulder line over the fenders and across the hood, that extends rearward; the stance is wide and low. Swept-back headlamps combine with the grille area to offer a clean welcoming shape that depending on color and attitude can look downright menacing, given the chance. A more expressive but elegant design than we’ve ever seen on a Kia, we hope the Forte is a harbinger of future designs to come.

Offered in three flavors of trim, (entry-level EX, mid-level LX and high-end SX), we had the opportunity to check out the SX during our sojourn to Seattle.

The Forte SX starts, in typical Kia-style, with a healthy dose of features. Namely power windows and locks, remote key entry, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, premium audio, a telescoping steering wheel and, on our tester, heated leather seats, Bluetooth and a power moonroof. Not bad for a little under $20,500. We found the fit and finish to be top-notch and materials appropriate, if not overwhelming. Though the style is unique to Kia, some elements struck us as a little Mazda-like, especially the instrument binnacles.

The interior featured a nicely trimmed dashboard area with all the normal driver accouterments housed within. We like the red illumination around the speedo, but think the tachometer could stand some “butching” up in the appearance department. The center stack houses a great AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius audio system, which is upgraded from a four- to a six-speaker system with surround sound circuitry. The Bluetooth system quickly found our phone and offered clarity that rivals cars costing twice as much. iPod connectors are included as is a three-month trial subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio.

The driver and passenger seats were optioned with the leather seating areas, and offered good support although they could stand the addition of adjustable lumbar support. “Class-above” safety includes active headrests and a full array of airbags. Two power outlets in the center stack allow for the use of both a radar detector and auxiliary navigation devic.e although Kia says a built-in unit (of the latter) will be available before long.

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