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May 19, 2013

New Kia Forte boldly leapfrogs forward

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Starting at a list price of $20,200 the Forte EX uses a larger four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower, linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. It adds such features as chrome trim strips, larger, alloy wheels, back-up camera, fog lights, adjustable steering levels, leather cabin accents, remote locking and additional audio speakers.

While Forte’s equipment list is generous, Daher noted that Kia no longer stands high above other car makers in its willingness to give more for less, making its models better values by packing in more equipment even at lower-priced trim levels. Other car brands have caught on to the practice and now load more features into their more basic versions too, he said.

Instead, the Forte’s success more likely could come from the durability and reliability reflected in the rising used-car values of Kia vehicles, Daher explained. A model’s resale price is high when buyers in the used car market know that the car is still sturdy and strong even after a few years of use. With Kia, Daher has witnessed an encouraging rise in the prices people pay for used models.

Kia, together with Hyundai, has already forced other companies in the car biz to take notice. The two Koreans fostered the impulse to offer more value by packing more features in low-level cars, as Daher noted. Other commentators have pointed out that stylish, high-visibility body design gets more emphasis today in segments like the mid-size sedan class, after the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata made waves.

The new Kia Forte is still so new that it’s impossible to say how well it will fare.

“The first one that came in was sold the same day,” said Daher. “But it’s too early to tell. It’s so new that we can’t say we have people crossing over from other models yet.”

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