Spending a week behind the wheel of the all-new, third-gen Kia Forte5 had me thinking about Adam Sandler. Like the Korean automaker, when you think of the comedian-turned-actor you’re not really thinking of him as one of the greats. Yet if you’ve seen Sandler’s most recent movie, Uncut Gems, you witnessed a career defining, critically acclaimed performance that rightfully vaulted the actor into more rarefied air. This is the same guy from Little Nicky?
Likewise, Kia has produced a number of models recently that make it more than deserving to be considered on equal, if not higher, footing than some of the traditional heavyweights. For proof, look no further than the 2020 Kia Forte5 GT Limited.
With a sticker price less than $30,000, a list of onboard technology rivalling a luxury model and a sense of driving élan eclipsing twice-the-cost performance models, this vehicle is the motoring world’s version of a box office smash.
The Forte5 made its debut in Canada a decade ago, and like every Kia model back then it was, how shall we say, somewhat uninspired. Granted it was a competent economy car, but certainly never conjured up words such as “performer” or “desirable.” Likewise, the second-gen model, arriving in 2014, didn’t really stir the soul. Kia changed that bland design narrative in a big way three years later, when the very stylish and sexy Kia Stinger stormed onto the scene, and the third-gen Forte sedan borrowed many of the award-winning coupe’s styling cues upon its coming out party in 2018. The all-new Forte5 has that Stinger DNA from tip to tail too, and yes, designer guru Peter Schreyer is the sharp eye behind the flowing lines.
The GT Limited trim takes that a step further both inside and out, from dual stainless steel exhaust tips to black gloss/red accents giving the exterior a performance look, and sport seats and steering wheel with black/red colouring throughout the cabin underscoring the Grand Touring nature of this vehicle.
And tour I did during my week with the press car, making three trips between Toronto and London, Ont., on family business (and yes, before the dreaded C-word became part of our daily lexicon). What I discovered during these highway drives surprised me. Namely, while the Forte5 hatchback screams urban commuter, its open road prowess is remarkable. The ride and handling are exceptional; the wee 1.6-litre turbo proved peppy and unwavering at highway speeds and the continuously variable transmission is smooth yet responsive when it was time to get moving; and the onboard tech provides not just the creature comforts required on such wintertime trips (heated seats, interactive navigation system, satellite radio booming through the Harman Kardon system, wireless smartphone charging) but also a seamless integration of the standard smart cruise control features that take the stress level down a few notches, and the fuel economy up a few. Engaging the easy-to-use system via steering-wheel mounted controls—featuring the basics like setting your speed and the not-so-basics as radar-controlled distance braking and lane keeping assist—I managed to beat the advertised highway fuel economy figure of 6.9 L/100km by .4.
The seats (heated and cooled up front, heated in the rear) never approach the dreaded ‘numb bum’ territory, while the beefy D-cut steering wheel, 4.2-inch LCD instrument cluster, alloy pedal and ambient mood lighting provide a sense of serenity those who love to drive would appreciate.
In terms of cabin capacity, one of the trips from London to Toronto was a Pearson Airport run that saw a full car with luggage for three stuffed in the rear hatch. No problem. Though there were some issues with which Sirius station to listen to.
As mentioned, those with a sense of frugality will also be entranced by this hot-ish hatch. And as it turns out, not just this top-of-the-line version. All trim levels of the new Forte5—base EX, GT and GT Limited—offer standard equipment that are options on the competition. Things like automatic front headlights, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a rear trunk light, dual-zone automatic temperature controls, rear seat heat ducts, 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, steering wheel-mounted audio system controls, Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist.
The week I spent with the 2020 Kia Forte5 GT Limited didn’t exactly change my mind about the path the Korean automaker is currently on—the Stinger and Kia’s first-rate EV offerings have already done that—but the five-door hatch certainly gave me new-found appreciation for this nicely polished gem.
Copyright PostMedia Network, 2020