Solid Contender: The 2017 Kia Forte EX

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Kia Forte EX
The 2017 Kia Forte EX.
We've been charting the rise of the Kia Forte among subcompact sedans for seven years now.  The 2010 model was the moment you could pinpoint when any doubt about Kia being serious went away. It put the Koreans within striking distance of the then-and-now leaders from the Japanese, the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

With the 2014 model, the Forte closed the gap.  And the new 2017, a mid-cycle refresh,  cements the Forte's position as a solid contender in a competitive segment.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Kia Forte
2017 Kia Forte.
On the outside, it's just some ironing out of the character lines...a smoother, better-integrated grille and slimmer headlamps. And in the top-of-the-line EX, which is what we drove, more standard equipment.  LED taillamps and approach lights, pushbutton start with keyless entry, rear air vents, a dual-zone climate control system, leather and heated seats are all part of the package at no extra cost now.  That accounts for the increase in base price for the EX from $19,400 in 2014 to $21,200 in 2017.

Under the hood?  A 164-horsepower 2.0-liter four, that, with a six-speed automatic transmission, gives competitive performance for the segment and returns an EPA-estimated 25 city/33 highway.

Interior view of 2017 Kia Forte
2017 Kia Forte interior.
Kia left an already-good interior alone this time around, apart from the added availability of Apple Car Play, which, sadly, our tester didn't have.

What it did have was the EX Premium Plus Package,  which adds a supervision meter cluster, navigation, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot detection, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, ventilated front seats, a power driver's seat with memory, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Xenon HID headlights and a power sunroof for $4,490.

Fold in $850 inland freight and handling and the bottom line is $26,540...which is pricey for the segment, which generally sees $25,000 as all the market will bear.  But you get a lot for that money...and simply saying no to the Premium Plus Package gets the price tag back down to $22,050, which puts the Forte back in the position of being competitive with Corolla and Civic, with a bit more horsepower for less money.  It's a winning formula.