New Car Review: 2011 Kia Forte SX 5 Door

Front 3/4 view of 2011 Kia Forte SX 5-door
The 2011 Kia Forte SX 5-Door.
Hatchbacks never went out of favor in Europe, but somehow, in the early-mid 80s, Americans rejected them as too low-rent. Shortsighted, because hatches offer enormous versatility, combining the best attributes of sedans and wagons without having to permanently commit to either.

There have been signs recently that the US ice is breaking when it comes to hatches, and the Kia Forte 5-Door should go a long way toward the thaw. Every bit as good as the Forte sedan we loved so much two years ago, with the enhanced utility of that fifth door in back.

Rear 3/4 view of 2011 Kia Forte 5-door
Rear view of the 2011 Kia Forte 5-Door.

The Forte 5-door starts at $18,100 in EX trim, but step up to the SX, like our tester and for an additional $1,295, you get a 173 horsepower 2.4 liter four cylinder engine to replace the EX's 156 horsepower 2.0, 17 inch tires, a sport tuned suspension, automatic headlights and front fog lights, paddle shifters, sport cloth seat trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, metal finish interior accents and pedals, and the availability of optional leather and tech packages.

The 2011 Kia Forte 5-Door interior.

And our tester took advantage of both those option packages ($1,000 for the leather including leather seat trim, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, $1,800 for the tech, which brings nav, pushbutton start, automatic temperature control and chrome finish door handles) as well as a power sunroof ($750). Add the $695 freight and handling charge, and the bottom line is $23,640.

A bit pricey? Yes. Nicely done if you spend the money? Yes again. I'd probably pop for the leather package, and pass on the tech and sunroof, which would get me into one for $21,090. And for that money, I'd have a car in which there is literally nothing not to like. The SX engine makes it fun and responsive, the 6-speed automatic transmission helps deliver a respectable EPA estimate of 23 miles per gallon in the city and 32 in the highway, and the car looks really good inside and out. Photos don't do it justice.

We've said it before, we'll say it again...if it's true that Honda has lost its mojo, Kia may very well have found it.