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Business

May 19, 2013

New Kia Forte boldly leapfrogs forward

Here we go again. A Korea-based car company is making another high leap. This time the company is Kia Motors America, the California-based arm of Kia Motors Corp., headquartered in Seoul, South Korea – with American manufacturing operations in Georgia.

The model making this latest leap is the 2014 Kia Forte. The compact-to-medium-sized four-door sedan just arrived as a completely remade, third-generation version of a car that typically appeals to practical, frugal-minded people who want solid transportation at an approachable price. Starting at a list price of $16,700 and running into the low $20,000s, the 2014 Forte certainly is approachable.

But the new Forte also adds higher style and greater luster to the equation. It aims to leap to the level of popularity and owner commitment enjoyed by the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla, two of the most successful models in America. This is going to get interesting, because the new 2014 Kia Forte has abilities that could make it succeed.

“The Corolla and the Civic have had so many years of success that it’s a tough market to break into,” observed Charles Daher Jr., manager at Commonwealth Motors, Lawrence, which sells Kia vehicles as well as the Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen brands. “The Forte has a shot at breaking into it. It could be just a matter of time before it’s bumping heads with them.”

We’ve been here before, with other striking new models from Korea-based companies suddenly emerging to mount credible challenges to well-established rivals. In addition to Kia, Hyundai Motor America has been repeating that pattern of late.

Kia and Hyundai are the two outfits with Korean roots that sell autos in America, although General Motors sells some Korean cars as Buick and Chevrolet models. Both Kia and Hyundai operate in the second tier of the U.S. auto market, beneath Detroit-based Chrysler Group, Ford and General Motors, and Honda, Nissan and Toyota of Japan. But over the last five years especially, Kia and Hyundai have experienced faster, more impressive growth than any other car company in America. Both brands have advanced remarkably in status, becoming commonplace on American roads and building solid reputations among U.S. drivers.

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