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Larry Printz: The 2018 Kia Forte SX is the enthusiastic understudy of hot hatches

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

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.

The solution came in the form of a late 19th century invention: the paper clip. There's some argument as to who invented it, but the one that you're thinking of is known as the Gem, named for the British Company that popularized it, Gem Manufacturing Limited.

While there are many variations of the paper clip, it's the Gem that's the essence of great design: simple, functional, and defying improvement.

Great design in automobiles is very much the same thing. Consider, for example, a classic two-seat sports car.

While there 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 it's out of the question. Furthermore, the car's 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.

The 1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI established its form, and it's a model still envied and copied. Today's example: the 2018 Kia Forte5 SX.

This five-door 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.

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