Four New Cars From The Foreign 4 Knocking at the Door

Acura Hyundai Kia Mazda Press and News

2010 Kia Forte

Kia unveiled the 2010 Forte, a compact sedan that will replace the Spectra, which has been Kia’s compact car since the company entered the U.S. market in 1994.

2010 Kia Forte2010 Kia Forte

The front-drive Forte is slightly larger than the Spectra, and Kia says it will have one of the roomiest interiors in its class. The Forte denotes a new design philosophy for the brand. It features a trapezoidal mesh grille, swept-back headlights and a prominent beltline that rises from front to rear. With available low-profile 17-inch wheels, the Forte has a more athletic profile than the Spectra and its hatchback sister, the Spectra5.

The Forte will be offered in LX, EX and sporty SX trim levels. LX and EX models will be powered by a 156-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. The SX will get a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic.

The SX will also have sport cloth seats with red stitching, a rear spoiler, a sport suspension, larger front brakes and 17-inch alloy wheels.

A fuel economy package will be available for the base engine. With a five-speed automatic transmission, electric power steering and low-rolling resistance tires, Kia says this package will give the Forte a class-leading fuel-economy rating of 36 mpg on the highway.

The 2010 Kia Forte sedan will go on sale in late spring or early summer. Expect a hatchback to follow.

2009 Mazda MX-5

At the 2009 Chicago Auto Show, Mazda celebrated the 20th anniversary of its popular two-seat roadster by unveiling a freshened 2009 Mazda MX-5.

2009 Mazda MX-5 2009 Mazda MX-5

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 gets exterior changes that Mazda says make it more dynamic and aerodynamic. The front bumper and fascia are more aggressive and the grille has a new five-point shape inspired by the Mazda RX-8. The side sills and rear bumper are new, and the taillights and rearview mirrors recall the elliptical shape of the first-generation MX-5. The headlights and front fog lamp bezels are also reshaped.

2009 mazda mx-5 seatsInside, the seats have been sculpted for better lower body comfort, and the cup holders in the doors have been incorporated into the armrests. The door armrests and center console are now padded. Mazda says the meter graphics have been revised for better readability and the trip meter has a new LCD display backlit in red.

Under the hood, internal engine modifications increase horsepower by just one (to 167), but also allow the redline to increase by 500 to 7,200 rpm in cars equipped with the five- or six-speed manual transmission. The six-speed manual has been revised to give it a quicker, lighter and more direct shift feel. Engine and aerodynamic tweaks improve highway fuel economy slightly.

The 2010 MX-5 also has a few suspension tweaks that Mazda says make it handle even better. The front roll center has been lowered about one inch, the damping on the base and sport suspensions also have been retuned, and the traction control and electronic stability control systems have been programmed to be less intrusive.

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 is on sale now with a starting price of $21,750.

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