New & Used Kia Forte: In Depth
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The Kia Forte line of compact sedans and coupe has been in existence only since 2010. But the first generation lasted a short four years, with a new and redesigned version launched in 2014. The Forte replaced Kia's earlier Spectra and Spectra 5 in its lineup, creating a more attractive and competitive contender in the small economy car segment.
For a deeper look at the Kia Forte's range, read our 2015 Kia Forte full review, which includes options, prices, gas-mileage ratings, and specifications. You can also see our drive comparison of the Kia Forte vs. the Mazda 3.
The Forte lineup today includes a compact four-door sedan and the two-door 'Koup'--with new and more flowing lines and even more amenities than its predecessor. Kia is pulling out all the stops an aggressive attempt to offer the freshest and newest car in a segment whose high-volume entries were mostly launched in 2010 through 2012. Competitors include the high-selling Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, along with the Chevy Cruse, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra (closely related to the Forte), Mazda 3, and Subaru Impreza--as well as the slightly pricier Volkswagen Jetta sedan and Golf hatchback. We're expecting a five-door Forte to join the party as well.
The completely redesigned 2014 Kia Forte family made its way to showrooms in the spring of 2013, at least in sedan form. The new Forte compact is longer, lower, and wider, with fully 2 inches more in the wheelbase, expanding interior room. It comes in two basic trim levels: the base LX and the high-end EX, each with its own engine and each sporting electric power steering. The Forte LX is fitted with a 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speed automatic transmission optional; the Forte EX upgrades to a 173-hp, 2.0-liter four that is paired with the six-speed automatic only.
Any of the new Fortes offers not only more fuel-efficient powertrains and much more handsome styling, but also a new generation of infotainment features. All 2014 Forte sedans have air conditioning, satellite radio, heated outside mirrors, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. The Forte EX adds standard remote keyless entry, a cooled glovebox, a rearview camera, and Kia's UVO connectivity and infotainment system.
Kia has also revealed details on a Forte five-door hatchback with a turbocharged engine. And it unveiled a redesigned Soul, looking extremely similar to the outgoing model but all new under the skin, was revealed at the New York Auto Show in April 2013 as well.
The 2010-2013 Forte four-door sedan and Forte Koup two-door coupe, like the similar Civic models, shared little sheetmetal. Both were neatly and handsomely styled, elevating Kia from the bland-box lines it so often offered. The standard engine was a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four, used in the base LX and mid-range EX models, whereas the sportier, top-line SX model got a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four. For the 2010 and 2011 model year, the first two models came standard with a five-speed manual gearbox; a behind-the-times four-speed automatic was optional. The SX with the bigger engine had a six-speed manual standard, and its optional automatic added an extra gear, giving it five speeds.
All Forte models, even for 2010, got Bluetooth pairing, Sirius Satellite Radio, and steering wheel controls with voice activation. The mid-range EX model added air conditioning and various power accessories; the SX model got a sportier suspension and flashy alloy 17-inch wheels. The few options included a power sunroof, leather seats, and a Convenience Package that bundled several upgrades into the base LX.
There was also an uber-efficiency option for the EX trim level: The Fuel Economy Package paired the better five-speed automatic to the 2.0-liter engine, adding electric power steering, a smart alternator system, tires with low rolling resistance, and some aerodynamic tweaks as well. It paid off in fuel economy of 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, the highest of any Forte model. (The Forte was not among those Kia cars affected by a gas-mileage restatement in the 2011-2013 model years.)
The 2012 model year, however, brought some notable improvements. All Forte models were equipped with either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, with fuel economy ratings of 26/36 mpg for much of the model line. There was also a new Technology Package that brought navigation with SiriusXM Traffic, plus automatic climate control and push-button start.
Forte5 hatchbacks and Forte Koup models shared the same set of powertrain options as the sedan, but they skipped the base LX trim level. Their base EX trims included air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a six-speaker USB/aux-in AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite audio system.
The Forte lineup carried over to 2013 with few changes in advance of a complete makeover. The Kia Forte initially was priced under $14,000 and received good initial reviews; and over the past several years, the Forte has gone a long way toward putting Kia on level playing ground with the big boys of the compact-car world.