The economic crisis that nearly eviscerated the South Korean economy, a decade ago, cost the independence of most of that country’s carmakers. The lone survivor, Hyundai Motors, snapped up its rival, Kia, and in the years since, the smaller marque has operated as little more than a clone of the bigger brand.
That’s meant an emphasis on small, low-cost but relatively indistinguishable products – even as sibling Hyundai has slowly moved itself up-market and launched some surprisingly distinctive and promising products, such as the new Genesis sedan and coupe. But suddenly, Kia seems intent on carving out a niche of its own, with out-of-the-box products like the new Soul, the boxy crossover backed by a clever ad campaign that’s become a viral hit with the You Tube generation.
Now comes the 2010 Kia Forte. While it’s nowhere near the idiosyncratic design of the Soul, the new Kia Forte is nonetheless destined to stand out in a crowded field of compact sedans.
The new Korean offering doesn’t entirely walk away from its roots. Like the Spectra, the model it replaces, the 2010 Forte puts an emphasis on price – or, as Kia officials prefer to say, price/value – with a base sticker of just $13,695 plus another $695 for prep and delivery. But where Spectra was just another inexpensive sedan, Forte reveals more than a little soul, both with and without the capital “S.” (more…)