So I perhaps never saw myself as a hatchback kind of gal, but then the 2017 Kia Forte5 SX came along. As a standard four-door sporty-sedan lover myself, I didn’t expect to like it, but I did. I spent a week behind the wheel of the top-of-the-line Forte5 SX. While it’s not a “hot” hatch, it zips around with its turbocharged engine, is serious about handling with its sport-tuned suspension and comes with some standout sporty features both inside and out. It offers a lot for a little over my tester’s $28,000 price tag.
Go for the Blue
What really drew my attention upon first glance is the color. Kia got it right with this Deep Sea Blue. It's a gorgeous paint that gets noticed, as I had more than one person comment on it. Design tweaks make the 2017 Forte5 look sleeker and more like the Optima. Designers upped the Forte5's road presence game with a bolder, wider tiger-nose grille and longer, thinner headlights. They sweep around the front fenders with round fog lights below. There are revised taillights in the back. The 18” Alloy wheels on the SX trim are really eye-catching, too. The SX also comes with a red trim below the grille. In the back, the rear light bar gets my thumbs up along with dual chrome exhausts.
My tester comes with standard LED daytime running lights and taillights as well as round fog lights. The SX tester also came with optional Xenon HID headlights. (HID’s are higher intensity lights than LEDs or halogens, burn more brightly and are more energy efficient. The downside is they need to be replaced more often than LEDs because they are more fragile.) Heated outside mirrors are standard across the Forte5 lineup. Power-folding mirrors are standard on the SX.
Kia wasn't messing around with the SX's interior which came, as it were, equipped with all the bells and whistles. I liked pretty much everything that was happening in there. The Black Sport Leather interior with the Orange Color Pack impressed. A few highlights include the leather-wrapped sports steering wheel and gear shifter, along with leather seats with nicely done orange stitching. The upper door panels were soft to the touch.
Everything was user-friendly, the steering wheel easily adjustable. Steering wheel mounted Audio, Bluetooth, Cruise and Smartphone controls were a breeze to operate. The Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatible UVO3 eServices infotainment system available on this trim comes with a 7-inch touchscreen and rear-view camera is easy to see and navigate. It also comes with voice-navigation and SiriusXM Traffic. Below the touchscreen, the USB and power ports are easy to get to and there is plenty of cubby hole storage space for your tech gadgets. A sliding cover hides clutter. I was also a fan of the easy to read color instrument cluster, or what Kia calls the Supervision Meter Cluster with Color LCD. It's part of an add-on Premium Technology Package required with this model. The SX's metal pedals also beg for attention. My tester also added on $125 for the carpeted badged floor mats.
As far as the back seat in the 5-seater goes, it's comfortable, but not what I'd call roomy. But a hatchback is, after all, more about the cargo space than back seat leg room. The trunk area is spacious. If you're into measurements it's 23.2 cu. ft. with the 60/40 split-folding seats up and 56.4 cu. ft. with the seats down. It comes with a tire mending kit in the back.
If there is one thing that really got a reaction from me at first, aside from the great color, it's how loud the turn signal was. I wasn't a fan of it in general. But cranking up the 6-speaker stereo system helped. It’s not the best audio I’ve heard but churns out decent sound. Road noise and vibration - something Kia's worked to improve across the brand's lineup - is ok and pretty standard for this class.
Performance and Handling
The Kia Forte5 SX is not to be confused with a performance hot hatch, but it throws down a surprising amount of power. It comes with a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder under the hood good for 201-horses and 195 pound-feet of torque. (The Forte5 LX and EX trims make 164-horses while the sedan version ranges from 147-164 hps.) The SX's bump in power boosts the fun to drive factor. The SX comes standard with a 6-speed manual but my tester has the optional new 7-speed Dual-Clutch Sportmatic Sports Shifter. It's the only Forte5 trim to offer it. There are three drive modes: Normal, Eco and Sport. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which came on my well-equipped tester, are optional with the 7-speed DCT. The sport-tuned suspension and handling was a pleasant surprise, too. The SX also comes with larger disc brakes in front for better stopping power when driving hard. The one thing that seemed to be glaringly missing to me was an emergency parking brake. By comparison, an Autonomous Emergency Braking system with pedestrian detection is optional on some 2017 Forte sedan trims.
My tester offered a host of extra goodies thanks to the $3,600 Premium Technology Package. Those include Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Lane Change Assist. In the cabin, it included dual-zone auto climate controls, the Supervision Meter Cluster with Color LCD, and a Navigation system. It also came with Sport Leather Seating, Power Adjustable Driver's Seat with Memory, an auto-dimming mirror, power sunroof and Ventilated Front Seats and the HID headlights.
Kia also spices the Forte5 up at night. When you approach with your keyless entry, there is perimeter approach lighting and front door pocket lighting. Puddle lights also illuminate beneath the side mirrors. All of this is standard on the SX trim.
Safety and Convenience Technology
All Forte5 hatch’s come standard with Push Button start, Remote Keyless Entry, Electric Power Steering, Bluetooth, Sirius Radio, USB/Auxilary input jacks, and a 6-speaker sound system. The UVO3 eServices Infotainment System with Voice-command Navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration is standard on the two top trims. My SX tester equipped with the Premium Technology Package came with Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Lane Change Assist. The systems are available as an option on the EX but not the base LX.
All in all, it's no stretch to say that the 2017 Kia Forte5 SX is a hatchback growing into its own and becoming a real contender in the sporty hatchback segment. It surprised the heck out of me and tells me why the Kia brand has now ranked first for a second-year running in J.D. Power's 2017 Initial Quality Survey.
2017 Kia Forte5 SX
- What I liked most: The surprising handling, turbo engine, interior refinements and front door handle pocket lights.
- What I would change: Add an automatic emergency parking brake and get me a quieter turn signal.
- MSRP: Base starting price $23,800. As equipped $28,420
- Fuel Economy: 25 City/30 highway/27 combined.
- Odometer reading when tested: 403 miles.
- Official Color: Deep Sea Blue with Black Sport Leather.
- Weight: 3031 Pounds.
- Length-Width-Height: 171.3 ” long/70.1” wide/’57.1 High.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing Capacity: N/A
- Final Assembly Point: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
- 2017 Kia Forte SX Hatchback: A surprisingly sporty sleeper hatchback that is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the segment.
- Warranty: 5-year/60,000 miles Limited Basic Warranty with roadside assistance and 10-year/100,000 mile Limited Powertrain Warranty.
- Manufacturer’s website: Kia