Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

Kia Motors America’s new ’10 Forte, unveiled at the Chicago auto show today, will fill the compact-car slot currently held by the Spectra.

Unlike the Spectra, which is offered with a single powerplant, the Forte boasts two engine choices and three trim levels, each with a variety of features.

“The new Forte is such a departure from Spectra with regards to design, features and content that we decided to change the name,” KMA spokesman Alex Fedorak tells Ward’s.

Forte is the name used for the car in overseas markets, including South Korea.

The ’10 Forte, going on sale in the U.S. in late spring or early summer, will be available in one body style, a 4-door sedan, available with a base 2.0L DOHC 4-cyl. making 156 hp and 144 lb.-ft. (195 Nm) of torque or more powerful 2.4L 4-cyl.

The 2.0L 4-cyl. in the ’09 Spectra generates 138 hp and 136 lb.-ft. (184 Nm) of torque.

Buyers choosing the SX trim get the 2.4L, which churns out 173 hp and has a torque rating of 168 lb.-ft. (228 Nm). The 2.0L is the standard engine for the LX and EX trim levels.

Both engines are all-aluminum with continuously variable valve timing, Kia says.

A 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic are the primary transmission choices for the LX and EX Fortes, while the SX trim offers either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic with a manual-shift feature.

With the 2.0L engine, buyers can select an optional fuel-economy package that includes the 5-speed automatic as standard, as well as Kia’s Motor Drive power steering and “low-rolling resistance tires with aero enhancements.”

Kia claims class-leading fuel economy for the Forte, at 36 mpg (6.5 L/100 km) highway when equipped with the option package.

Forte’s wheelbase is 104.3 ins. (265 cm), up from 102.8 ins. (261 cm) in the current Spectra sedan. All other exterior dimensions have increased barring height, which is 0.4 ins. (1 cm) lower in the new Forte.

Kia says Forte’s 96.8 cu.-ft. (2.7 cu.-m) interior volume also is best in class, although the figure is slightly below that of the outgoing Spectra 4-door.

Forte’s 14.7-cu.-ft. (0.4-cu.-m) trunk is one of the largest in the segment, Kia claims.

The sporty SX model features 17-in. aluminum-alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, sport-tuned suspension, larger front brakes, telescoping steering column and “sport cloth seats with red stitching.”

EX and SX models also have standard cruise control, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, map lamps and steering-wheel mounted audio controls, Kia says.

Options for the EX and SX trims include a sunroof and leather-trimmed seats.

All Fortes come standard with a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, tilt steering column, rear defroster and 12V power outlets in the center console.

Audio offerings include a standard 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with standard auxiliary jack, Sirius satellite radio (free service for three months) and Bluetooth hands-free technology. A 6-speaker audio system is available in EX and SX models.

Standard safety features include active front headrests, side curtain airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring system.

As already reported by Ward’s, Kia will not offer a Forte hatchback to replace the Spectra5, believing the new Soul cross/utility vehicle fits the bill for buyers wanting a 5-door.

However, a 2-door Forte, based on the Koup concept car, is expected for the U.S., though timing is unclear.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com