Last Saturday, two days before Hurricane Igor devastated Newfoundland and the day after the final leg of Targa Newfoundland, I was in St John’s. Team Kia’s drivers no longer needed their only somewhat modified Forte Koup SX, so they let me take it out for a few hours.
Largely left with its OEM parts, this car is going to catch the attention of gearheads. Only the brakes, tires, seats, roll cage and a couple of spoilers weren’t stock. Everything else I experienced was, from the 4-cylinder engine, to the severely punished suspension, to the well-tested 6-gear transmission.
St John’s is hilly and curvaceous, making it a thrill to whip through but difficult to get beyond 3rd. (Out on the Trans Canada Highway, I quickly had it past 100kph and but barely felt the need to put it into 6th.) Still, we could easily have stayed in 2nd nearly the whole time without sacrificing any speed.
Accelerating required little more than a gentle thought, rather a heavy tap. The front-wheel drive dragged me around unending upward corners, which the Forte lapped up like a St John’s sailor on shore leave. Extremely steep hills demanded a shift to first but the balancing of the feet to keep from hurtling backwards into the ubiquitous gawkers was easy. Kudos to Kia’s engineers and Team Kia’s techs, Richard Vanderhaeghe and Dan Coss, who tightened everything the night before each leg of the race.
Back to speed. It has an exceptionally long power band in 2nd gear, a feature both Kia drivers, Adam Hill and Mark Kostick, gushed over throughout the week. I once experienced a similarly long power band in second, on a course set up to test the 2009 Turbo Saab 9-3. But that course was set up at a private airport on a dry day. Mine included hills, pre-hurricane weather, traffic, pedestrians and construction detritus. Big bumpy fun!
Try this car: MSRP from $20,300