Kia has revealed its new Forte small sedan, which may eventually replace the ageing Cerato here in Australia.
While the current Cerato's 105kW 2.0-litre inline four is the envy of, well, nobody, the Forte's even more crippled in the engine department thanks to its 92kW 1.6-litre petrol four and 95kW 1.6-litre turbodiesel four-banger. Of course, with petrol prices soaring higher than Amy Winehouse, the increased frugality offered by the smaller engines will no doubt be welcomed by budget-conscious Kia customers (which, let's face it, are the only type of Kia customer).
In terms of styling and luxury appointments, the sharply presented Forte wins over the dumpy Cerato hands down. While many will be quick to draw parallels between the Forte's headlights and those of the US-market Honda Civic, the whole package is more blunt-edged and businesslike than the smooth, playful form of the Civic.
When looking at the Forte in these images, it's easy to forget that it's actually quite a small car. It's quite smartly dressed too, and the Forte's bodywork is a world away from that of the rental-fleet-spec Cerato.
On the inside it's a similar story. The Korean market Forte can be optioned with a full leather interior, while the black-on-black trim and Mazda-esque instrument cluster makes the cabin appear a lot more sophisticated than Kia's of old. Heck, there's even a push-button starter and keyless entry on the upper-spec models, although it's unclear whether export models will receive those goodies.
Korean manufacturers have really come of age, and with cars like the Hyundai i30, Hyundai Genesis and now the Kia Forte, it's clear that they're ready to step away from their budget-car roots and challenge the world's more established automakers. The Forte's still unashamedly low-cost (at a base price of around $12,700 AUD, it's a bargain), but it's plain to see that there's some upper-crust aspirations in its design.
The Forte should go on sale in world markets by mid 2009, with Kia anticipating global sales of over 220,000 per year.