The Car Connection Kia Forte Overview
The Kia Forte is a family of compact vehicles that includes a sedan, a hatchback, and previously, a coupe (playfully branded the Koup).
On sale since 2010, the Forte took the place of Kia's Spectra and Spectra 5 models. The Forte immediately gave Kia a bigger presence in the economy car segment, thanks to the Forte's more attractive shape and competitive hardware.
The current Forte, launched as a 2014 model, received a mechanical update for the 2017 model year, with a new direct-injection inline-4 for some models in the lineup. It also received mildly updated front styling, a new active-safety option package, and some other feature improvements.
MORE: Read our 2017 Kia Forte review
The new Kia Forte
The Forte lineup today includes a compact four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, with new and more flowing lines and even more amenities than its predecessor. Competitors include the high-selling Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, along with the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra (which is closely related to the Forte), Mazda 3, and Subaru Impreza—as well as the slightly pricier Volkswagen Jetta sedan and Golf hatchback.
The completely redesigned 2014 Kia Forte sedan made its way to showrooms in the spring of 2013, while the Koup two-door and five-door followed shortly after. That Forte is longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor, with fully 2 inches more in the wheelbase, expanding interior room. It came in two basic trim levels: the base LX and the high-end EX, each with its own engine. A mid-level S model was added for 2017. The 148-hp, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine used in the Forte LX for 2014-2016 was replaced with a 147-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 for the 2017 model year. A 6-speed manual is standard on the LX, with a 6-speed automatic optional. The Forte EX upgrades to a 173-hp, 2.0-liter 4 that is paired with the 6-speed automatic only. All models use electric power steering.
Today's Fortes offer better fuel efficiency and much more handsome styling than their predecessors. The models, and Kia in general, have made big strides in the infotainment realm as well, with the best system included with navigation. All Forte sedans have air conditioning, satellite radio, heated outside mirrors, and steering-wheel audio controls. The Forte EX adds standard keyless entry, a cooled glovebox, a rearview camera, and Kia's UVO connectivity and infotainment system.
Kia made few changes to the Forte for 2015, and gave it a slightly updated nose for 2017 along with the revised base engine. Fuel-economy ratings have varied over the years, with the latest models ranging from 28 to 32 mpg combined, hardly at the top of the efficiency heap among compact sedans. The 2016 model year brought a new base audio system, and 2017 an added option package of active-safety features.
For 2017, Kia slightly restyled the Forte, and fitted a new 4-cylinder engine to the lineup—one shared with the new Hyundai Elantra.
Kia Forte history
The first generation lasted a short 4 years, with a new and redesigned version launched in 2014. The 2010-2013 Forte 4-door sedan and two-door Forte Koup shared little sheet metal. Both were neatly and handsomely styled, elevating Kia from the bland-box lines it had been known for. The standard engine was a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4 used in the base LX and mid-range EX models, whereas the sportier, top-line SX model got a 173-hp, 2.4-liter inline-4. For the 2010 and 2011 model years, LX and EX Fortes came standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox; a behind-the-times 4-speed automatic was optional. The SX had a 6-speed manual standard, with a 5-speed auto available as an upgrade. In this generation, the Forte started with a base price below $14,000 and was well-received. Solid performance over the next several years helped put Kia back into the small-car conversation with the segment's big players.
All of those original Forte models featured 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 tune and flashy 17-inch alloy 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 a high-efficiency option for the EX trim level: The Fuel Economy Package paired the better 5-speed automatic to the 2.0-liter inline-4, 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 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 brought some notable improvements to the Forte. All models were equipped with either 6-speed manual or 6-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.
The Forte Koup and Forte5 hatchback were offered with the same powertrain options as their sedan sibling, although they did without the base-level LX trim. Starting with the EX trim, the coupe and hatch came with standard A/C; power windows and locks; and a 6-speaker stereo with AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite capabilities as well as USB and aux-in ports.
With a new model around the corner, the 2013 Forte lineup brought relatively few changes.