• All-new Forte small sedan offers big value.
  • Available high-end features like cooled seats & voice control.
  • Even base models come standard with Bluetooth & much more.

The 2014 Kia Forte makes its world debut at the 2012 LA Auto Show, but it's more like a homecoming. This all-new generation of Kia's compact sedan was styled at the company's Southern California design studio--another indication of how many cars are multinational efforts these days.

That's not a bad thing if this Forte is anything to go by. Compared with the outgoing model, the new one is wider, longer and lower. Kia claims that  cabin space is comparable to a midsize sedan--the class above the Forte.

The wheelbase--the distance between the front and rear wheels--has increased by two inches. This bodes well for rear passenger space as well as ride quality. Packed into those dimensions are several features that should put the Forte squarely onto many buyers' short lists. A heated and cooled driver's seat is one, and a voice-controlled infotainment system is another. Naturally, these are extra-cost features limited to pricer versions, but it's good to have them on the menu.

Trim levels are LX and EX. Even the entry-level LX has Bluetooth, power windows, heated mirrors and satellite radio as standard. Options include a fuel-saving start/stop function in the Eco package, while the Popular package brings 16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control.

Kia's Uvo infotainment system is available on EX models. Navigation is an extra, but a backup camera joins keyless entry and a cooled glove box as standard equipment. Option bundles for the EX are the Premium package (including leather, sunroof, push-button start and heated steering wheel) and the Technology package (including HID headlights, LED tail lights and 4.2-in LCD display).

Another interesting EX option is the Flex Steer system. Thanks to the use of electrical assistance (as opposed to old-school hydraulic power), this setup offers Comfort, Normal and Sport modes to change steering feel according to the driver's whim.

Engine choices are a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder producing 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque, or a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. There are no fuel economy ratings yet.

The all-new 2014 Forte will go on sale early next year. Pricing will be announced later, but the current 2013 Kia Forte model starts at $15,400 for an LX--and we expect the car to stay in that ballpark. At the LA show, Kia said the new Forte would "offer a very compelling value proposition."

What it means to you: Any budget car stigma attached to Kia has truly disappeared. The compact Forte sedan offers big value for the money, with lots of standard features--and some impressive high-end options.

See more LA Auto Show news.

What do you think of the new Kia Forte? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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