Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Under the cloudless sky
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KIAs are not known to be exciting in this aspect – just do a Google – and the Forte K3 is no different. Don’t expect blistering performance when you put the floor-mounted accelerator pedal to the metal. Just don’t, cause you will be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. The K3 isn’t slow; it’s just not as torque-y as the Jetta, Altis or even the Avante. Expect a more gradual pick-up – think comfortable.
Speed aside, the gearbox is actually tuned for ‘performance. The auto transmission tends to hold the lower gears for a longer period of time during acceleration. This is contrasted with the Avante’s cogs that want to shift upwards as quickly as possible.
But the engine growl sure sounds good for a 1.6-litre car. Vroom.
A tip for K3 drivers: To accelerate smoothly and overcome the gear-dragging tendency, depress the accelerator pedal by about 25% from standstill and keep it there till you reach cruising city speeds, say 60km/h. Actually, the percentage doesn’t matter. The trick is to keep the pedal at constant pressure every time you accelerate till the car learns your driving style. If you move the pedal up and down during initial acceleration, surely you will get up to speed, but for me, the drive would get a little jerky as the gearbox needed to hunt for the right gear.
Engine braking is not just for cars with manual transmission. Auto car drivers, like me, are used to decelerating without any engine/ gearbox assistance. I was pleasantly surprised that the K3 gearbox is smart enough to downshift as I slow the car down. For the K3, you can feel the downshifts as you slow down. One, I think this feature gives the driver some braking confidence. Two, the brake pads will wear less quickly with the engine kicking in to help slow the car down.
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See the steering wheel icon in the picture on the right? You have three steering weight choices – comfort, normal and sports. Leave it on comfort, I say. The other two modes add steering resistance so artificially that it changes steering dynamics. The normal and sports mode left me disconnected from the road. Try it for yourself.
On normal, the steering is light at city speeds (you can even do a u-turn with your pinky), and tightens up the faster you go (moving the steering wheel at higher speeds requires more strength).
Driving on expressways is satisfying. The K3 is pretty stable at highway speeds and tracks corners well. Suspension absorbs most road imperfections, but as the springs are apparently tuned for a harder ride as compared to its Korean cousin, expect cabin peace to be interrupted by bigger bumps, for example, deeper portholes along trunk roads up North or big road imperfections such as the bump at Pan Island Expressway (Westbound) exit to Kallang Paya Lebar Expressway.
The K3’s ventilated driver seat, which pumps cool air (or hot) around your butt, is great motivation to go for long rides.
A little known feature on the K3 is the hill-stop/start assist. This just means that on a slope greater than a certain degree, the K3 will hold its position after it comes to a stop. Depress the brake pedal and bring the car to a complete stop. Lift off the pedal and the car will hold its position. So far, this feature works on multi-storey carpark ramps but doesn’t kick in on the gentle inclines of our expressways.
A saying from my friend’s dad: If you get so obsessed with the minor stuff like saving on parking (and cheating) and driving like a tortoise to hopefully save some fuel, you might as well don’t drive. Quite true, I think. Seeing the fuel consumption meter fluctuate and move from 7.9l/100km to 8.9l/100km can sometimes be depressing. Again, KIAs are not known for their economy. On the Avante, we could easily hit 14km/l in the first few years. On the K3, we are hitting 12km/l (a mixed of city and highway driving), and got close to 13km/l for close to 100% highway driving. Note that we accelerate freely in line with traffic conditions. We do not keep RPMs below 2k most of the time during acceleration: 1) the car feels heavy, and 2) the engine sounds better at higher RPMs.
If the K3 were to come with a set of better tyres instead of the factory installed Nexens, I’m quite sure there will be less cabin intrusion. Road bumps are just soft thuds from inside the car. Wind noise is present, but muted. It’s on par, if not better than the Avante. Sadly, the Nexens are quite a noisemaker.
What’s next in this series?