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With the ongoing Chicago Auto Show and Geneva Motor Show on the horizon, you’ll be seeing the word ‘debut’ here a lot. Like a whole lot. To start the ball rolling, the all-new Kia Forte 5-door hatchback has just made its world debut in the Windy City today, with plenty of surprises under its glitzy new sheet metal.

The first of which is its performance. Obviously more performance oriented than before, the Forte 5-door is offered with two powerful engine choices – a 2.0 litre GDI motor with 173 hp and 209 Nm of torque in the base EX model and a smaller but stronger 1.6 litre turbocharged GDI engine (the same one powering the upcoming cee’d/pro_cee’d GT and Hyundai Veloster Turbo) pushing out a full fat 201 hp and 264 Nm between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm in the range topping SX variant.

Both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available, the latter with steering-mounted shift paddles. The engine drives the front wheels (18-inchers on the SX shown here) while sports-tuned MacPherson struts up front and independent multi-link rear suspension put all that power to good use.

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Sharing very little with its sedan counterpart, the new hatchback gets a more European-influenced design featuring Kia President and global chief of design Peter Schreyer’s smallest and tidiest Tiger grille yet. Edgier from nose to tail, it proudly shows its sporty intentions with glee.

A prerequisite for the powerful engines is the deep air intake positioned below the front grille. The rear gets chiselled dual exhaust pipes and fancy LED lamps. It manages to look more athletic than the car it replaces despite growing in size – it’s lower, longer and wider than before. Interior space gets a big boost too of course, with 657 litres of usable cargo room with the rear seats folded down.

Inside, the Forte 5-door features premium materials and soft touch points to compliment its raft of interior comforts. Chrome accents, carbonfibre-like textures and leather trims all make an appearance.

The outgoing Kia Forte Hatchback never did make it to our shores so don’t hold your breath over the new one coming here. But when it looks this good while packing so much promise, one can’t help but wish that it does.