DETROIT — The Kia Forte5 SX was a sharp-looking five-door hatchback. It was a head-turner; more than once did I notice people taking a second look at it.

It had a wider version of Kia’s tiger nose grille. The headlights were swept back around the front fender. The daytime running lights as well as the redesigned taillights were LEDs.

I had the SX trim line. It came with 18-inch alloy wheels, sport front and rear fascia with red accents and dual exhausts tips. Inside there was a two-tone seat motif featuring orange. Fear not, it was not as loud as it sounds and in fact the subdued interior color matched nicely with what Kia called the phantom gray exterior paint.

The car was powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection four cylinder engine that generated 201 horsepower and a hefty 195 pound-feet of torque at from 1,500 to 4,500 RPMs. The engine was mated to a six-speed gearbox.

The combo got 23 mpg in city driving, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined. I had to go to the western side of the state, about 300 miles round trip, and found the Forte5’s highway manners acceptable.

The car was steady on the road, gas mileage was good, it was quiet and it was comfortable. The steering ratio could have been tighter but the Forte was not a sports car even though it had the look of a sporty hatch.

That’s my lone complaint. I thought the manual transmission was a little spongy. Although the car had a sport tuned suspension, it didn’t strike me as particularly firm and the car’s handling should have been just a little sharper. In other words, the car wasn’t as tight as it appeared.

I would have loved to have had the 7-speed dual clutch transmission to see if it was a better fit for the Kia Forte5 SX. But don’t get it twisted — despite my gripes, this was a very competent and well-equipped car.

It had heated and cooled front seats, Xenon headlights, satellite radio, a moonroof, Bluetooth, voice controls, a smart key with push button start and stop, a rearview camera with cross traffic alert, what Kia called front handle pocket lights and a navigation system.

The Kia Forte5 SX looked like it cost $10K more than its $27,020 sticker.

Frank S. Washington is editor of

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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