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The Big Idea: Little touches that matter

In the last few weeks, I’ve driven the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and the 2014 Kia Forte5 (which I wrote about here). Both are small hatchbacks aimed at buyers in the market for a good-looking and practical compact car.

Both also have this neat feature:

2015 Volkswagen Golf

That’s one of the rear outboard seatbelts in the Golf. Notice that little raised edge between the belt and the seatback? That’s there for one reason: to keep the seatbelt from getting caught behind the seat when you flip it upright from its folded position.

Here’s the same detail in the Kia Forte5:

2014 kia forte5 010

It’s the kind of thing that most buyers (and, in fact, most car reviewers) won’t notice, and that’s because it works so well. Some cars have a little clip to hold the belt out of the way, but a) that’s not as effective, and b) you have to remember to slide the belt into it. This barely-noticeable design element works all by itself, simply because it’s there. I want to find the engineer who came up with this idea and take him or her out for a beer, that’s how much I appreciate this kind of detail. You can bet I’ll be looking for this in every vehicle I test, from now on.

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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Kia, The Big Idea, Volkswagen

 

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Straight Eight: 2014 Kia Forte5

2014 kia forte5 003

1. Five alive
This is the Kia Forte5. It’s the hatchback variant of the brand’s compact car, a competitor to the likes of the Honda Civic and Mazda3. Those 18-inch wheels fill out the fenders nicely, don’t they?

2014 kia forte5 002

2. Flower power
Wait, the wheels look like flowers. When did this turn into a review of a 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle?

2014 kia forte5 1001

3. It wants to be sporty
The car looks good, especially from the rear. The black lower bumper insert and dual exhaust tips are pretty sharp.

2014 kia forte5 001

4. It tries to be sporty
Kia says the Forte5, in my tester’s SX Luxury trim, has a sport-tuned suspension, but the soft ride doesn’t feel like it. Also, the suspension has a hard time keeping those big, heavy wheels planted on the road over rough pavement. The resulting unsettled ride really doesn’t work for me.

2014 kia forte5 2001

5. But it’s not all that sporty
Power-assisted steering is nothing new, but adjustable power-assist is. Press a button on the wheel and choose from “comfort,” “normal,” and “sport” modes. None of these settings does anything to improve the Forte’s vague steering feel.

2014 kia forte5 011

6. Turbocharged torque
All that said, the turbocharged engine is a fun little thing, even when hitched to the automatic transmission. Despite its small 1.6-litre displacement, it makes lots of torque at low revs. It deserves a better-sorted chassis than this.

2014 kia forte5 006

7. Stick to your strengths
Rear seat space approaches that of mid-size cars, and the trunk is nearly as large as that of many small crossovers. The front seats are comfortable, but the cushions are quite firm. This car’s interior is very well put together.

2014 kia forte5 008

8. The price of luxury
If you had $29,000, would you spend it on this car? Because that’s what Kia asks for the SX Luxury model I drove. It comes with a lot of nice stuff – heated steering wheel, heated rear(!) seats, HID headlights, proximity key, automatic air conditioning and a backup camera – but the Forte5 is a better deal closer to its $20,000 starting price. At that point, you don’t get the flowery wheels, but that’s okay with me.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Kia, Straight Eight

 

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