It has often been published that the Koreans are in a - vastly improved - league of their own with their newer generation automobiles for this new decade. Cheap (in relative terms, of course) doesn't mean nasty and low rent anymore. While some may loath at the very sight of a Korean automotive badge, there is no denying that the prime example that you see above has a lot more to offer under its sleeve. Especially in its upgraded form which has been available in our Malaysian market since early this year (2011).
I could still vividly remember how much likeable the Forte 1.6 EX/SX was in 2010 when I reviewed these lesser versions. Even the larger capacity 2.0SX paled quite miserably with its lifeless steering with a bubble-gummy feel just off-centre, being an electric-powered assisted rack. In the meantime, the 4-speed A/T was not geared to appreciably harness the added flexibility of a 2.0L lump.
Fast forward to the 2011 Forte 2.0 - with 6A/T - these bugbears are gone, especially the synthetic-feel steering. In fact, it's well weighted and tied down now, though a tad "artificially coloured" it may seem but heck, it's a vast improvement. It even hints you of that "Zoom Zoom" feedback or that premium "The Power of Dreams" feel.
At highway speed, tracking corners seem more brilliant with the suspension just nicely damped with incisive suspension rebound i.e. taut body control. No wallow, no pitching. Acceptable body roll should you gun it into bends. High speed stability around its tested Vmax of 200km/h was let's say, comforting, cosseting and confident. Wind noise and road noise level remained impressive for its class at that 'lofty' velocity as well.
Tractability going about in town or suburb traffic is much improved with the new 6-speeder while the implanted rear-view camera display proved more than just a gimmick. Though the display image was a wee bit constrained by the height of the central rear-view mirror dimension, it worked perfectly well for all the reversed parking I managed to execute.
However, all isn't rosy from this Korean camp C-segment offspring. For one, I fail to understand why there is the lack of external boot release handle/rubber-strip switch at the rear - usually recessed in the rear number plate upper frame/garnish. You simply must press the button on the remote fob, how so inconvenient for a key/fob-less entry enabled car! Or you must tug the boot release lever on the floor carpet below and to the right of the driver's seat. The other sore (eye) point is why their generic-looking engine cover(s) do not seem to greet you "Annyeonghaseyo" as friendly the others say "Konichiwa" or "Guten Tag", just to name a couple of established examples.
I do have to apologise for not observing its fuel economy (trip computer was displaying 12.0l to 13.0l/100km mostly!). In the new Forte 2.0, most of the time I was having fun stretching its legs on almost every trip out in this "budget" 2.0-litre sedan, which is convincingly far from looking, feeling or driving budget-y in nature.