Houston Lifestyles & Homes March 2010
new autos
Toyota 4Runner

Toyota’s 4Runner has always been a midsize truck-based SUV that was ready, willing and able to play in the mud. The fact that it proved to be an ultra reliable and comfortably-sized urban vehicle also endeared it to the city dwellers.
The new 4Runner now shows improvement in both of those arenas. One might think that with attention being paid to smaller classes of vehicles in today ’s market, that the 4Runner might not warrant an upgrade. Credit goes to Toyota for giving this model its full attention and providing a redesign to the truck.
The 4Runner is still a midsize SUV, but it has been enlarged where it counts. The interior, especially the head room, has noticeably grown in dimension. The cargo area is cavernous and the cabin seems larger. Both the front and rear seat accommodations are comfortable. The 4Runner has three rows of seats with both the front and second row reclinable. The seating position is elevated and visibility is excellent. The seats are well formed and the dials and gauges are attractive and functional.
The styling is still purposeful and masculine, but not flashy. Though this truck blends in with the crowd, it has understated elegance.
This year, the V-8 option has been dropped in favor of a large displacement 2.7 liter 4 cylinder engine and a new 4.0 liter V-6. Though the smaller engine has only a slight fuel economy advantage, it ’s adequate and costs less. The V-6 has dual, independently variable adjusting overhead camshafts, meaning that it can fine tune both the intake and the exhaust valves independently of each other on the fly. That results in a very flexible and powerful engine. This 4,500-pound truck has either a 2,000 pound towing capacity with the 4 or a 5,000 pound rating with the V-6.
True to its roots, the 4Runner has multiple traction options ranging from an automatic limited slip differential, to a part-time 4-wheel drive system, to a full-time 4-wheel drive system, locking center and rear differential choices, skip plates and even a KDSS (kinetic dynamic suspension system).  
The 4Runner is a joy to drive. The ride is excellent, the steering is light and accurate, and the truck is quiet. It is large enough to be protective yet it ’s not an unwieldy beast that you’d dread taking to the mall. It’s a superb town-and-country vehicle.

Kia Forte

Overcoming the sales leadership of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla is about as close to impossible as anything in the automotive world. What Kia hopes to do is carve out a profitable piece of the big pie, be competitive with the lesser lights and increase sales over its previous compact. The Forte is better in just about every way including styling, which, arguably, is among the best in class.
A family needing relatively inexpensive transportation, a second car or a comfortable commuter car, will find that the newest Kia will fit their needs. It comes with two energetic, but frugal, engine choices, an impressive list of standard equipment starting at $14,390, and long-term piece-of-mind warranties that include a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and a 10-year/ 100,000-mile drivetrain. Roadside assistance is also included.
If you don’t want to shift for yourself, add $1,000 to any of the three trim lines—LX, EX and SX—to get an automatic transmission.
The standard Forte comes with a very acceptable engine that we found was up to the task of moving the car through all facets of daily driving. We never felt overwhelmed by traffic and never had a problem easily reaching merging speeds on the freeway.
EX trim level edition is available with a very worthwhile $600 Fuel Economy Package option that includes a 5-speed automatic in place of the standard 4-speed automatic and motor-driven power steering.
That surely adds at least slightly to performance and it allows the Kia to achieve 27 mpg in city driving and a commendable 36 mpg on the highway. Gas mileage with the base automatic is 25/34.
For those who desire a little more punch and don’t mind paying a bit more, the top-line SX comes with a 2.4-liter 4 cylinder making 173 horsepower. An SX we tested came with a really nice 6-speed manual, a leather seat package and a power sunroof plus all the extras for a total of $19,490 including destination charges.
What the Forte will do is carve up parking lots. Its extremely tight 33.8 turning circle makes easy work of gaining access to small openings in the mall lot and for a quick turn-around on side streets.
Inside, the driver will find clear, easy-to-read gauges. We like the satellite radio readout, which, with the push of a button, dispensed song title and artist. Kia will pick up the first three-months of the subscription. Trunk space is generous for a compact car measuring 14.7 cubic feet.
While the Forte breaks no dramatic new ground, it acquits itself quite well in all areas including impressive styling, making it competitive with segment leaders.
The relatively low price, a laundry list of standard equipment including Bluetooth, a USB and auxiliary port and the long-term warranties make it even more attractive.
Visit www.MyCarData.com for more information on these models.
By Kelly Foss; www.car-data.com
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