Kia pulls the wraps off two next-generation models, the ’14 Forte compact sedan and ’14 Sorento cross/utility vehicle, today at the Los Angeles auto show.

The Forte, whose look is heavily influenced by its larger stable mate, the Optima midsize sedan, rides on an all-new chassis that is longer, wider and lower than the outgoing model that debuted in mid-2009 in the U.S.

Going on sale in first-quarter 2013, the Forte 4-door will offer a choice of two engines. The LX grade comes standard with a 148-hp 1.8L inline 4-cyl. that currently is used in the Hyundai Elantra compact. The EX model gets a 173-hp 2.0L inline 4-cyl. with gasoline direct injection.

The current-generation Forte LX and EX sedans are powered by a 156-hp, 2.0L 4-cyl., while the sporty SX grade gets a 173-hp 2.4L 4-cyl.

Details on the Forte SX sedan and next-generation Forte Koup 2-door and Forte 5-door models will come at a later date, Kia spokesman Michael Ofiara says.

Both the 1.8L and 2.0L ’14 Forte engines have dual continuously variable valve timing and an aluminum intake manifold that is 30% lighter than a cast unit.

Further, Kia says an aluminum bed plate under the cylinder block boosts rigidity 30% while lowering engine noise, vibration and harshness levels.

The LX’s 1.8L can be mated with either a 6-speed manual or automatic, while the EX gets the automatic as standard.

Kia has switched the Forte’s steering to electric power from hydraulic. Similar to that in the Hyundai Elantra GT and upcoming Santa Fe 3-row CUV, the Optional Flex Steer system includes push-button comfort, normal and sport settings that allow the driver to vary the amount of steering assist.

Steering-wheel mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, power windows and heated outside mirrors are standard on the LX. Cruise control and keyless entry are available as part of an option package.

An eco-focused package for the LX includes the auto maker’s Idle Stop and Go stop/start system, joining the Rio subcompact as one of two U.S. Kia models to offer the technology.

The EX has Kia’s UVO infotainment system standard, which for the first time in a U.S. model can be mated with the optional navigation system.

Remote keyless entry is standard on the EX, as is a rear camera and cooling glove box. A premium package offers heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated steering wheel and push-button start.

The Forte EX’s technology package adds high-intensity-discharge headlights, light-emitting-diode taillights, a 4.2-in. (11-cm) liquid-crystal display screen, and rear-seat ventilation.

Kia gave American media a sneak peak at the new Forte in August 2011 at an event at Hyundai-Kia’s research and development center in Namyang, South Korea. Officials said the slower-than-expected sales of the first-gen Forte caused Kia to speed up development of the second-generation model.

WardsAuto data shows the Forte reached its pinnacle last year, selling 76,295 units in the U.S.

While that’s an improvement from the Forte’s predecessor, the Spectra, the tally falls behind competing models such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, which sell more than 200,000 units per year, and Hyundai’s Elantra, which tallies more than 100,000 units annually.

Also on Kia’s L.A. show stand is the all-new ’14 Sorento CUV.

The Sorento launched Kia’s first U.S. plant, in West Point, GA, in fall 2009.

Four years later, Kia says it has replaced or “significantly redesigned” more than 80% of the CUV’s parts.

The biggest change for the CUV is the addition of the new 290-hp 3.3L GDI V-6, which already is available on the Hyundai Azera and will be offered in the Hyundai Santa Fe 3-row variant also debuting in L.A.

A new trim level is added for ’14, the SX Limited, as is Kia’s first blind-spot detection system.

The Sorento’s 2.4L 4-cyl. with GDI is standard on LX and EX trims, replacing the current generation’s multiport injected 2.4L 4-cyl.

The 3.3L will be optional on the LX and EX Sorento.

Many of the features of the new Santa Fe carry over to the Sorento, including a torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, which directs power to the tire with the most traction; a torque-vectoring cornering control system; and the driver-selectable steering system.

Standard on the ’14 Sorento is a 6-speed automatic. Electric power steering replaces the ’13 model’s hydraulic steering.

The CUV’s chassis sees an 18% improvement in torsional rigidity, improving ride and handling, Kia says.

The Sorento gets new front and rear fascias, which give the vehicle a lower, broader front appearance and wider rear stance.

Front LEDs are positioned to act as eyebrows for Kia’s brand-defining tiger-nose grille. Fog lights are pushed to the far corners of the front bumper.

Inside is a redesigned instrument panel with a 7-in. (18-cm) LCD screen in the gauge cluster on EX and higher-level trims. A modernized center stack with buttons located for optimal ergonomics also is new for ’14.

A new 8-in. (20-cm) touchscreen integrates SiriusXM satellite radio and NavTraffic, as well as Bluetooth, an Infinity premium audio system and UVO.

Available features include Kia’s first programmable power liftgate, integrated second-row sliding sunshades and illuminated door handle pockets.

The SX Limited grade, coming to market in second-quarter 2013, is the top-of-the-line Sorento, with self-leveling Xenon HID headlights, 19-in. chrome wheels and red brake calipers. Nappa leather-trimmed seats, a wood-trimmed heated steering wheel, and soft-touch headliner and pillar accents decorate the grade’s interior.

The Sorento has been a big success for Kia, becoming its first 100,000-unit annual seller in the U.S. in 2010. Sales through October were down 11.0% vs. year-ago to 97,779, WardsAuto data shows.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com