I recently attended the launch of the new Kia Forte in Pittsburgh. As I was born and raised in the Steel City, I was able to spend some time with family and visit my old stomping grounds, and I’m pretty sure I was the only person attending the launch who was dropped off at the hotel by their parents.
Anyway, you’ll be able to read my review of the Forte here on Autotrader — it’s highly competent (both the car and the review, I swear!) — but in the meantime, I wanted to address one of Kia’s most compelling features, something that the nature of automotive press events tends to de-emphasize.
Typically at these events, a third party company is there to facilitate the handling of the vehicles at the start and end of the event and at every stop along the way. To help smooth things along, they ask that you just leave the keys in the vehicle any time you get out. Coupled with the fact that almost all new vehicles use push-button start today, very seldom do the media representatives in attendance have to handle the keys. In the case of the Kia drive, the keys stayed in the Forte’s center console box for nearly the entire time that we were in the vehicle. This was actually a disservice to the brand, as one of its best features went un-highlighted throughout the day: the key fob itself.
Kia’s key fob takes the traditional rectangular key fob design and turns it 90 degrees, positioning the buttons on what would logically be referred to as the side of the unit. This makes it easier to hold and more intuitive to use. The lock button is even positioned at an angle, the exact angle at which your thumb comes down to depress the button. The whole thing makes locking your vehicle feel like pushing the button on the detonator for some explosives.
Given that the insides of most key fobs throughout the industry probably share major components, and all use flat, disc-shaped lithium batteries, there isn’t a lot of room for innovation when it comes to key fob designs — and this is evident in the fact that Kia’s fob still follows the traditional rectangular shape. So when a company like Kia makes lemonade out of lemons like they have with their key fobs, it’s worth taking note.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.