A souped-up hatchback: the 2017 Kia Forte5 SX

Four-door hatchbacks are still the same. Yet they’ve come a long way. Sure, they’re utilitarian runabouts that are economical to run. And yet they often look better than ever, drive like they don’t need modifications and offer the creature comforts formerly limited to higher-end models.

You can expect all this, and more, in the 2017 Kia Forte5 SX.

First impressions

Kia tacks the “5” on the end of the model name to differentiate the hatchback (four passenger doors plus the rear hatch) from its sedan and “Koup” models. The SX is the top trim in the lineup, the one with all the fixins’.

This four-door hatchback holds its own in the looks department. My Azure Blue tester sported body-coloured side view mirrors and door handles. Last updated at the end of last September, the Forte5 features a new front end, alloy wheels and various internal enhancements. A dual exhaust and rear spoiler complete the sporty look.

Interior

There’s lots to like about the Forte5 from the driver’s seat.

image courtesy Kia

The seat itself is solid, comfortable, and roomy enough for my miserly 6’5” frame to not rule this car out for myself. That’s even with the de rigueur moonroof.

The front seats in the SX are both heated AND cooled. The heated steering wheel is flat-bottomed. That creates more legroom and adds a slightly sporty touch.

Just ahead of the shift lever, a cubby containing USB ports and enough room for today’s monster smartphones resides under a roll-top privacy cover.

In an engineering feat for a compact, the rear seats offer almost enough headroom for me, An armrest comes down between the outside seats for extra back-seat comfort.

Hockey bag test

The 5 packs a surprisingly cavernous hatch in its compact frame.

In-cabin technology

The 7” screen enables a full-fledged multimedia interface: satellite radio, other audio, rearview camera, navigation, settings and so forth.

Kia offers its own smartphone connectivity. It also – wisely – enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I’m looking forward to the day when Apple ups its game and CarPlay enables the inclusion of auto-appropriate apps like Overdrive, which I use for audiobooks downloaded from the public library. That doesn’t look like it’s happening in 2017.

Driving

A 1.6L turbocharged gasoline direct injection engine produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque that the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission sends to the front wheels.

image courtesy Kia

The automatic tranny seemed mildly hesitant on the few occasions when I mashed the pedal. I would enjoy using a proper stickshift in this Forte5, even if it means losing a gear. (Six gears ought to suffice with this little engine that can.) It would also let me approach the 6,000 RPM point when all the horses kick in. Switching to the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters helped with acceleration, as does using the Sport driving mode. (The greens among us will appreciate Eco mode.)

Other models in the Forte lineup offer a 2.0L GDI 4-cylinder, good for 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque.

Kia offers active safety systems (and a surprising number of other options)  at lesser trim levels. Electronic stability control ought to keep unsuspecting lead-footed drivers out of trouble as they get used to the car. Blind-spot detection and a lane-keeping assist system should keep issues to the side of the car from making your drive go sideways.

Fuel Economy

9.4 L/100km in the city is a little high for a compact hatchback, but then again this hatch can move. 7.9 9.4 L/100km on the highway and 8.7 9.4 L/100km combined round out the fuel economy numbers.

Pricing

The Forte5 SX I drove rings in at $31,755.00 MSRP plus freight, a colour charge (a highly complimented colour in my week with the car) and taxes.
The base Forte5 will set you back $19,695 MSRP plus additional charges.

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