In the battle of compact supremacy, Honda has the history, but little else. Kia’s 2011 Forte bests the Civic in style, performance, standard features and overall value.
The hot-selling Kia Forte arrives for 2011 in LX, mid-level EX and top-of-the-line SX trims. Remarkably well equipped with a number of standard features, Kia’s newest compact sports a starting MSRP of just $14,995. In contrast, the industry stalwart Honda Civic four-door starts at an inflated $15,805, an MSRP attached to the Civic’s stripped-down, entry level DX. As trim levels escalate, so, too, does the difference in price; the top-level Forte SX comes in $5,100 less than its Civic EX-L counterpart.
So, why the discrepancy? Surely somewhere, the Civic can justify thousands in additional cost? In fact, it cannot.
Start outside where the 2011 Forte is longer, taller and wider than the Civic. Kia puts its size advantage to good use with more muscular, more modern styling and lines. Behind its commanding face, Forte features available clear-lens halogen headlamps (with an auto-off feature Honda doesn’t offer), a power sunroof and 17-inch alloys. Mid-level EX Fortes get the option of a power sunroof, and the SX comes standard with foglamps while Civic owners have to pay additional to get them.
Beneath the hood, the differences between the two vehicles grow dramatically. All Civics come standard with Honda’s 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which makes 140 hp and 128 lb/ft of torque through a five-speed manual or available five-speed automatic transmission. The introductory model of the newest Forte comes with an inline four-cylinder engine as well, though Kia’s is a larger, 2.0-liter that generates a superior 156 hp and 144 lb/ft of torque. Through a standard six-speed manual (with overdrive) or an available six-speed electronically-controlled Sportmatic® automatic, the newest Forte not only bests the Civic’s output, it also matches Civic’s efficiency; both vehicles achieve up to 36 highway mpg.
Kia didn’t stop there. Top-level SX trims get Kia’s 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, and hit 173 hp and 168 lb/ft of torque while still managing up to 32 mpg. The Forte also gets standard four-wheel disc brakes while the Civic starts with rear drums and asks extra for the full set of discs.
Inside, the Forte again takes full advantage of its size differential by offering substantially more overall passenger volume than the latest Civic. While both fit five-passengers, head, leg, shoulder and hip space in the front and rear of the Kia far exceed the Civic’s confines. Cargo space also sees a boost in the newest Forte, as the Kia’s 14.7 cubic feet bests the Civic’s 12 cubic feet once again.
Sleek and stylish, the Forte’s cabin offers more standard features than that of the Civic right from the start. Forte LX trims get standard features like an auto-dimming rearview mirror, four-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and satellite radio connectivity, air conditioning and steering wheel-mounted audio controls, all of which are optional or unavailable on the entry level Civic. EX and SX trims continue the trend, offering features like heated power outside mirrors with turn signals, Bluetooth®
wireless communication, a six-speaker stereo and an available navigation system while Honda asks extra.
Kia’s commitment to safety and security is unparalleled, so in addition to six airbags and active headrests, all Forte trims come standard with Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control, two features the Civic offers only on the most expensive EX-L trim. Kia’s comprehensive warranties dwarf Honda’s backing, too; the Forte comes with a five-year/60,000-mile Basic Warranty, as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile Powertrain Warranty. Comparatively, Honda’s three-year/36,000-mile Basic and five-year/60,000-mile Powertrain offerings simply don’t stack up.
With superior style, performance and standard features, as well as a price thousands less than the latest Honda Civic, Kia’s 2011 Forte offers a better overall value in the hotly contested compact four-door segment.