Shopping for a new Kia Forte? MSRP: $15,900 - $19,400
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Choose One of the Styles Below
LX 4-Door Sedan ManRegular Unleaded I-4, 1.8
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 15,590||$ 15,900|
LX 4-Door Sedan AutoRegular Unleaded I-4, 1.8
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 16,670||$ 17,400|
EX 4-Door Sedan AutoRegular Unleaded I-4, 2.0
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 18,400||$ 19,400|
The Kia Forte doesn't have the perennial best-seller badge of a Civic or a Focus, but with a new model year comes a new mission--to find its light, which it does with great styling and better road manners.
The Forte's grown in most ways except height, and that plays out handsomely in its shape. The outlines have more in common that ever now with the Hyundai Elantra, but the partnership's a loose one--think Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, and you'll gauge the distance between the Forte's confident stance, distinct cockpit framing, and smart detailing, and the Elantra's more adventurous passages. The Forte's reworked cabin works better than ever, too--it's bracing simplicity if you've compared it back to back with some of the button-happy, screen-driven competition, and the finishes applied are universally better than before.
A pair of drivetrains gives Forte shoppers a choice between a 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower four and a 2.0-liter, 173-hp four. We've just driven the stronger Forte EX, which comes only with a six-speed automatic, and not the five-speed manual alternative offered on the lower-output LX. If nothing else, the Forte's drivetrain reminds us of the better 1990s-era compacts, with a high-winding, mostly vibration-free four delivering moderate acceleration to the front wheels with an easy-shifting transmission interpreting the results. Not quick, the Forte's doesn't lag too far behind the faster Focuses, at least until you factor in the high-performance models.
Ride and handling strike a balance between the cushy responses of a Corolla and the firm resolve of the Focus. The Forte's gotten better at absorbing roads gone wrong, an effect of a longer wheelbase that lingers even when bigger 17-inch wheels and tires are chosen. The electric steering's lifted from the Hyundai Elantra GT, and comes up with three driver-selectable modes; normally we think of these setups as frills, but the sport setting helps the Forte track better on highways, though we'd leave it in lighter modes for everyday work.
Since it's longer, with a lower roofline, the Forte has a little less user space than before. It's not noticeable in front, where the Forte has good passenger space. The seats could use more bottom bolstering, though. In back, the tallest passengers won't be happy, but the majority of adults and everyone smaller will find enough room in the outboard seats, and the doors are cut in a more passenger-friendly way. The cockpit's finished with higher-grade plastics, and the details are nicely underplayed throughout, from the round climate control knobs to the tambour-covered console storage.
No official safety scores are in, but every Forte comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; satellite radio (with three months' free trial service); and steering-wheel audio controls. The EX gets a rearview camera and a new version of UVO that ditches Microsoft's software for smartphone-connected links to Google maps--a light, forward-thinking solution we hope becomes the norm.
On the Forte EX, you'll even find options for leather trim, a ventilated driver seat, pushbutton start, and LED taillamps. It's a new layer of refinement to a car that has made steady progress against our best-rated compact sedans. It doesn't have the sharp handling of the Focus or its lavish list of options, but now the Kia Forte has more well-rounded performance, as well as proof--proof that good looks do run in families.
- One of the best-looking compact cars
- A well-finished, smartly laid out interior
- Better road manners
- Smoother drivetrain (2.0)
- New UVO points to the future
- Front seats need more support
- Back seat head room is slim
- Three-mode steering is more for show
- Acceleration is moderate
- No official gas mileage or safety ratings