Boy, selling compact cars has become a brutally tough way to make a living.

Not because nobody's buying. The compact segment is awash with activity. But each new compact that hits the market seems to raise the bar quite a bit, leaving rivals agape about how fast their latest hot-dang models got upstaged.

Honda discovered that the hard way, having to overhaul its latest Civic only 18 months after it was launched. Honda said competition moved faster than expected, and it had to keep Civic competitive.

Kia's redone 2014 Forte, going on sale next quarter, is a good example.

Derived from the same parts bin used by corporate affiliate Hyundai for the Elantra sedan, Forte has enough differences to stand out. The high-end version is good enough to make you wonder why people spend $40,000 and more on luxury cars.

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Can You Really Buy A Competent Luxury Car For Under $40K?

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