Even as the
digital world alleviates our need for paper, there was a time when
offices were overwhelmed by it and needed to hold sheets of it
together. In the 19th century, this meant using straight pins, which
jabbed the fingers of office workers while puncturing precious
documents with holes.
came in the form of a late 19th century invention: the paper clip.
Thereís some argument as to who invented it, but the one that youíre
thinking of is known as the Gem, named for the British Company that
popularized it, Gem Manufacturing Limited.
are many variations of the paper clip, itís the Gem thatís the
essence of great design: simple, functional, and defying
in automobiles is very much the same thing. Consider, for example, a
classic two-seat sports car.
have been many stunning ones produced over the years, you pay a
heavy price for its prowess. Usually, there are only two seats,
which means leaving your children or mother-in-law at home. For some
this is a relief; for others itís out of the question.
Furthermore, the carís lack of cargo space renders them utterly
useless for anything other than a toothbrush and a box of condoms.
This is what
made the hot hatch the perfect solution.
By taking an
everyday four-door hatchback and enhancing its speed and agility,
you get a car that has saved many a relationship. One gets the
performance of a great sports car while the other can use it for a
trip to Costco.
Volkswagen Golf GTI established its form, and itís a model still
envied and copied. Todayís example: the 2018 Kia Forte5 SX.
hatchback is offered as the base LX for $18,200, mid-level EX at
$22,100, and top-of-the-line SX for $23,800. But the differences
among models are more than meets the eye.
LX and EX
models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a
six-speed automatic transmission generating 164 horsepower. The
better option is to opt for the pricier SX. It provides an
additional 37 horsepower from a turbocharged 1.6-liter four matched
to a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with
paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Now you may
wonder how the competition stacks up; and thatís a good question.
six-speed automatics and approximately 200 horsepower, but there are
differences. The Honda Civic Si sedan costs $300 more and has 205
horsepower, but if youíd rather not shift for yourself, you must
settle for a continuously variable automatic transmission Ė and
thereís nothing sporting about that. The Mazda3ís larger
2.5-liter engine makes do with a mere 184 horsepower, while the Ford
Focus ST has 252 horsepower, but doesnít offer an automatic
transmission option for the shiftless. The original hot hatch, the
Volkswagen Golf GTI, costs $1,795 more, has 210 horsepower, a
six-speed dual-clutch transmission, but requires premium fuel. But
the GTI performance abilities maintains its title as the king of the
hill, with the sort of options that only make a great car
outstanding. By comparison, the Forte5 SX is at best an enthusiastic
understudy. Itís good, but not as convincing as the star of the
turbo lag is evident, particularly when operating in the comfort
driving mode. Switching to the sport mode makes it much less
noticeable, as does shifting the transmission manually, but itís
ever present. Transmission behavior is exceptional. Thereís plenty
of power, especially given that it returned 26 mpg in mixed driving.
All Forte5s use regular unleaded fuel.
comfort is impressive for a compact, yet itís firm enough to make
the proceedings fun. The steering could be sharper, and its feel
robs the Forte5 of some its fun factor. Body lean is fairly well
controlled, although the suspension set up reveals the tiresí
limitations as understeer begins to set in. Most likely you wonít
notice unless pushing the car to extremes. Road noise is minimal.
Opting for the
SX nets some exterior upgrades, including unique front and rear
fascias, and dual chrome exhaust tips. Unlike some hot hatches, the
SX doesnít overdress for the occasion, with a visual flair thatís
sporty, yet tasteful and decidedly European in outlook.
That sense of
sporting restraint can be found inside, where red accents enliven
the black trimmed cabin. Better yet, despite the many features this
car offers, the controls are simply designed, proving easy to
The test car
had the $3,600 SX Premium Technology package, which transformed this
mainstream hatchback into a premium commodity by adding 10-way power
adjustable driverís seat with two memory presets, auto-dimming
rearview mirror with HomeLink, blind spot detection, lane change
assist, rear cross traffic alert, dual-zone automatic temperature
control with rear vents, power sunroof, UVO infotainment system,
SiriusXM Traffic, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration and
ventilated front seats. That said, carpeted floor mats cost an extra
$125. Standard goodies include leather seats, heated front seats,
push-button start with Smart Key, and perimeter approach lighting,
LED taillights, UVO infotainment system with 7-inch color
not forget that the car is covered by a 5 year/60,000 mile basic
warranty and roadside assistance, while the powertrain is covered
for 10 years/100,000 miles.
But the Forte5ís
basic design is so good you might find it hard to improve upon, much
like a paper clip. You might even be tempted to nickname it Gem.