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2016 Kia Forte 5 Review: Just Short of a Hot Hatch

The 2016 Kia Forte 5 SX isn’t marketed as a performance model, but this compact 5-door handles well and it has enough power to make it a fun daily driver – falling just short of the “hot hatch” designation without even trying while preserving all of the comforts needed to be driven through the daily grind.

When most people talk about a “hot hatch” in the US, they are talking about vehicles like the Ford Focus ST or RS, the Ford Fiesta ST, the VW Golf R or the Hyundai Veloster Turbo – all of which are active in the world of motorsports. The “problem” with these high performance hatchbacks is that they are less efficient, they often have a harsher ride and they are generally far more expensive than the non-performance variants of the same models. The desire for a roomy hatchback that balances performance, efficiency and ride quality has led to another sub-segment of cars that are fun to drive, but they achieve that quality without compromising ride quality or efficiency – or without lifting the purchase price too high.

The 2016 Kia Forte 5 SX is one of those cars, with a spirited turbocharged engine that balances performance and efficiency, a sport tuned suspension, a standard manual transmission, a roomy cabin and a sporty, aggressive exterior design. This isn’t a hot hatch, but rather a great compact 5-door that is far more fun to drive than your average C Segment econobox.

Features and Prices
My test vehicle for this review was a 2016 Kia Forte 5 SX, which is the premium package in the 5-door compact’s lineup with a base price of $20,890. Options included the $2,300 SX Premium Package and the $1,900 Technology Package. The Premium Page adds the sunroof, cooled (driver’s side only) and heated leather front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel and an auto dimming rear view mirror. The Technology Package adds HID headlights, dual zone automatic climate control, HD radio with navigation and a 4.2” color LCD information screen in the gauge cluster.

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My test car also had the $120 carpet floomats so when you add in the Premium Package, the Technology Package, the floormats and the destination charge, the price as tested came to $26,035. For that price, you get every option that you can order in the Forte 5 SX shy of the automatic transmission, including the turbocharged engine, the sport suspension system and the 18 inch aluminum wheels so this package is as much a luxury package as it is a sport package.

The Exterior
On the outside, the Kia Forte 5 SX has a fairly aggressive design with the familiar headlight and grille design that is shared across most of the brand’s vehicles, with LED trim in the HID headlight housings and a chiseled lower front fascia that plays the biggest role in the sporty face. Since the Forte 5 SX is marketed as more of a premium package than a sport package, the Korean automaker added a splash of chrome on the upper grille, around the fog lights and on the dual exhaust tips for just a touch of sparkle while the big, bright LED taillights add style and a more premium look out back.

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The exterior design of the Kia Forte 5 SX feels like a hot hatch with sharp lines on the front fascia and hood, a slight nose-down angle created by the long roofline and subtle rear spoiler, a diffuser style lower rear fascia around the dual exhaust tips and black-and-machined 18 inch wheels – and this naturally sporty form makes this Forte my favorite of the model’s lineup. As much as I like the Forte Koup and as much as I’m not one of the new car reviewers who fawns over every single hatchback, there is just something about the 5-door model that has grown to appeal to me more than the 2-door models. Also, the Forte 5 shares a great many of the exterior styling features with the 4-door sedan, but once again, the 5-door just appeals to me more.

The Interior
While the exterior of the 2016 Kia Forte 5 SX has a splash of luxury with great emphasis on sportiness, the inside of my loaded test vehicle is more appropriately compared to a luxury car. When the Premium Package and the Technology Package are added to the Forte 5 SX, there is really very little that you can ask for in even far more expensive vehicles.

You get a big, bright touchscreen infotainment system with satellite radio, HD radio, USB media input, a CD slot, navigation and hands-free phone compatibility. You get a dual zone automatic climate control system. You get the tilt/slide sunroof. You get elaborate steering wheel controls that offer access to the paired phone, the sound system, the navigation voice control, the cruise control system, the driver information center in the gauge cluster and the adjustable steering modes. You get a power, heated, cooled leather driver’s seat with contrasting stitching along with a matching front passenger’s seat and rear outboard seats that are heated but not cooled. A cooled passenger’s seat is one of the very few things that I would like to see, but again, we are talking about a car with all of the features above with a price of just over $26,000.

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