The 2012 Kia Forte remains one of the better picks for performance in a rather crowded class of compact sedans, although with a host of other models introduced over the past model year, the competition is a lot tighter. It's near the front of the pack in acceleration, although it lacks the well-rounded performance that would make it an enthusiast pick.
A 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers LX and EX models of the Forte, while sportier SX models get a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across most of the lineup, while a six-speed automatic transmission is available across the model line. Both engines deliver more than adequate acceleration, and they function just fine with the automatics as they're flexible yet happiest in the mid-rev ranges. Clutch-throttle coordination on manual cars can be frustrating, so we tend to recommend the automatic. Meanwhile, gas mileage is competitive for the class, at up to 26 mpg city, 36 highway.
The Forte lineup feels well-tuned for daily driving, compromising ride quality and crisp body control. It's not a sport sedan, and the suspension shows an underlying softness when pushed hard. What's more, the standard hydraulic steering in the 2011 Kia Forte is oddly stiff at lower speeds but lighter at higher speeds.