PITTSBURGH: Brands and their mystique hold power over consumers, promising a lifestyle benefit even if it’s not entirely true. After all, you can wear Nike sneakers or an Under Armour T-shirt, but they won’t make you any more fit. Similarly, buying a Ralph Lauren outfit that mimics the look of old money won’t make your bank account any fatter, although it fools the unsuspecting.

Which brings us to the 2019 Kia Forte sedan.

During this model’s introduction last week in Pittsburgh, a BMW 5 Series pulled up alongside this new compact four-door. But here’s what’s so surprising: If you didn’t know the price difference between the two cars, you wouldn’t think the Forte started at one-third of the price of the BMW. The 2019 Forte’s styling is so sophisticated, you could mistake it for something spendier.

The fourth-generation Forte owes its exterior elan to Kia’s European styling studio, which endowed the Forte with its sporting look, one that bears some resemblance to the Optima, although Kia is hoping you’ll see Stinger influence in its looks. That’s stretching a point.

Peek inside and you’ll find a modern interior that exchanges the previous model’s dowdiness for a sophisticated minimalism that lends the cabin a spacious feel. A fixed 8-inch screen that controls Kia’s intuitive infotainment system anchors the center of the horizontally oriented instrument panel. A row of buttons underpins the screen, giving you quick access to the radio, navigation or other functions. Below that resides the dual automatic climate control, which is standard, and a rarity in this class.

There’s ample room for four full-size adults. Legroom is generous up front, and above average for a compact in the rear. The seating position in the second row is pleasingly high, although those with long torsos may find headroom tight in the back. Cargo space is generous at 15.3 cubic feet.

It’s not a sports car, but the front-wheel-drive Forte possesses exceptional compliance and composure. Bumps are noticed, but not felt, except for the very worst of them. There are no excess body motions after traversing bumps, no undue rebound. Even body lean is modest. Couple that with its exceptionally quiet ride, engine and exhaust, and you’ll find a car that’s capable yet quiet.

In fact, the Kia Forte almost everything was either pleasing or better than expected. It’s too bad that brands can blind us to the true value of a product.

There’s little doubt that if you’re considering a Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze or Nissan Sentra you’d be better off buying the Kia Forte. But you won’t of course. A Kia? What would the neighbors say?

Don’t let the brand name put you off; the 2019 Kia Forte is one of the best compact sedans you can buy. Look for it when it goes on sale shortly.