The competitive Kia Forte compact car has been tweaked for the 2017 model year, with a new base engine, updated styling, and more advanced safety equipment.

A 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard for the new model year. It can be paired to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. According to the EPA, the new 2.0-liter and automatic transmission combination returns 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. You can also opt for the direct-injection 164-hp, 2.0-liter that is rated at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

We recently rented a top-of-the-line EX model from Kia and found that the Forte is still a nice all-around package that feels surprisingly substantial.

Even with its 17-inch wheels, the ride is decent but not as refined as that of the Chevrolet Cruze or Subaru Impreza. The Kia’s suspension is a bit of a weak link; it struggles to absorb sharp impacts, letting the body bob a bit too much.

Handling is also somewhat unremarkable and not to the standards of the class leaders Ford Focus and Mazda3. The Forte feels sound but mundane. It may not be the most fun to drive sedan in the segment, but it makes for a satisfying commuter.

The 164-hp, 2.0-liter engine gets the job done, working well with the six-speed automatic transmission. Combined, this drama-free powertrain has noise levels that are decent for the class.

2017 Kia Forte front

The EX’s seats are quite comfortable and have good lumbar support including a power adjustment—a rarity in this class. The cabin is also filled with convenient bins and cubbies. There are ample easy-to-reach 12-volt outlets, as well as auxiliary and USB ports. Thankfully, Kia kept the controls simple; the setup takes about 5 minutes to pair your phone and assign your favorite radio presets.

Visibility to the front is clear, with small, triangular windows at the front pillar base aiding sight lines.

The Forte is available in three trim variations: the entry-level LX, pseudo-sporty S trim, and top-shelf EX.

The S trim gets a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED lights, a rear spoiler, and a chrome exhaust tip.

The EX model is distinguished by standard LED taillights, keyless start with approach lighting, heated leather seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Xenon headlights and vented front seats are optional, rather unusual for this class.

The S and EX trims come standard with a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

2017 Kia Forte interior

Available safety gear on the S and EX versions includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward-collision warning as part of the $1,490 Technology package. We found that the lane-keeping assist feature is one of the better ones because it isn’t overly intrusive.

Pricing starts at $17,340 for the LX model with the manual transmission. Adding the automatic transmission bumps it up about $1,000. The EX tops out at $23,345. But sizable discounts are already available, so don’t be fooled by the sticker price.

All in all, the Forte still looks to be a solid competitor in the compact car segment. And with better-than-average predicted reliability being icing on the cake, you might consider adding the Forte to your shopping list.

2017 Kia Forte rear