Even though many of the entries in the compact-sedan class have been redesigned or refreshed just over the past year or so, the 2013 Kia Forte remains one of the better picks in this class from a performance standpoint. The Forte—whether looking at the sedan, 5-door, or Koup—remains near the front of the pack in acceleration, provided you're comparing it with comparably priced bargain and mid-range models. There's no model in the lineup that quite matches up with the likes of the Honda Civic Si, Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, or Volkswagen GTI, however.
Most of the 2013 Forte models (LX and EX models) get a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder; sportier SX models, on the other hand, get a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four. Across the entire line, a six-speed manual gearbox is standard while a six-speed automatic transmission is available. Both engines deliver more than adequate acceleration, and these are both flexible engines that produce plenty of power in the middle of the rev range, so they work well with an automatic transmission. We've wished for better clutch-and-throttle coordination in manual-transmission cars, so the automatic is probably the best pick for all but those who really must shift for themselves. Gas mileage is about the same between transmissions, at up to 26 mpg city, 36 highway with the smaller engine.
There's also a lot to like about the way that the Forte is tuned—overall, a good compromise between ride quality and crisp body control. SX models tend to offer more handling ability while sacrificing ride comfort somewhat, although LX and EX models feel sportier in quick maneuvers than many other compact models. The hydraulic steering system that comes in most Forte models is somewhat stiff at lower speeds and lightens up at higher speeds, counterintuitively, and the electric power steering that's included as part of the Eco package is precise and well-weighted.