2015 Kia Forte Review

Consumer Reviews
4 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 8, 2015

Reasonably well-rounded performance and attractive looks inside and out give the Forte lots of curb appeal, but disappointing safety scores and a lack of comfort mean that it isn't quite the high achiever that the larger Optima has been.

The 2015 Kia Forte doesn't emulate larger sedans; with its swoopy profile and sharp styling elements, it delivers a different look than the larger Optima, as well as a choice of three body styles, plenty of design finesse inside and out, decent performance, and an excellent feature set.

It impresses as the right formula to battle best-in-class offerings from Ford and Mazda. Yet with disappointing crash-test scores, and interior comfort that just isn't as good as it looks, we don't recommend the Forte.

The Forte sprawled out into its new look this past year, gaining a little bit of width and length, but not height; and that works especially well in the handsome, elongated roofline and profile of the sedan. A two-door Kia Forte Koup and pert five-door Forte hatchback have also joined the lineup; but credit where credit is due, it's tough to get the proportions right for compact sedans, and the Forte has a class advantage. Likewise, the reworked cockpit of the Forte takes a step in a sportier direction, with simple, straightforward displays that look modeled after sport sedans, with a clean layout and effective infotainment systems. 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.

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Forte shoppers have a choice between a 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower four and a 2.0-liter, 173-hp four, and we're probably go with the larger of the two, simply for its more relaxed tuning. In EX form, with only a six-speed automatic, the Forte's drivetrain manages to remind us of some of the better 1990s-era compact cars, with its four-cylinder engine quite rev-happy and mostly vibration-free, yet quite noisy at times. The Forte isn't all that quick, but it handles reasonably well, with some models getting three modes of steering boost, selectable via a button on the steering wheel.

Ride and handling in the 2015 Forte strike lack the firm resolve of the Focus or Mazda3, yet we're not completely convinced that the Forte serves up any more comfort in return. The Forte's gotten better at soaking up roughness from choppy pavement, although pavement irregularities still ring into the cabin, and the tuning of the EX model -- the one we've spent the most time in -- tends to ride an unsettling line between feeling firm in light maneuvers yet allowing a lot of body motion in more extreme ones.

With the longer, lower roofline, there's more passenger space than before, and that's especially noticeable in front. What's also noticeable after just an hour or two, however, is that the front seats could use more bolstering, especially in their lower cushions. Taller passengers won't be all that happy in front, and in back there's simply no headroom fro them, where the low roofline is a limiting factor. However, the doors are cut in a more passenger-friendly way that allows decent entry and exit.

Despite its redesign for this past year, the Forte doesn't meet the ever-tougher standards that savvy shoppers are going to expect for occupant protection. The Forte's previous federal three-star frontal impact score has improved to four stars for 2015, and its IIHS small overlap rating up from 'poor' to 'marginal.' But we're still not going to point safety-conscious families to this one.

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. 

For 2015, Kia Forte models with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission improve by several miles per gallon, to 26 mpg city, 39 highway (and an EPA 31 mpg Combined).

8

2015 Kia Forte

Styling

The 2015 Kia Forte wears its daring new lines well, while it inherits more of the larger Optima's sporty flavor inside.

With a redesign this past year, the Forte sprawled out, gaining a little bit of width and length, but not height; and that works especially well in the handsome, elongated roofline and profile of the sedan. There's a two-door Forte Koup, as well as a five-door Forte hatchback; but credit where credit is due, it's tough to get the proportions right for compact sedans, and the Forte has a class advantage.

From the side and quarters, the Forte's a budget knockout. The rake of the front end is almost sports-car-like, and through a roofline that arcs slowly and gracefully, the stubby, near-vertical trim piece at the back of the side glass visually brackets the passenger space. While that's going on, the side glass dips ahead of the sideview mirrors, and the tail thins out enough to balance pretty chamfers on the taillamps. The rear end narrows like a Focus, and we're not as completely convinced by the thin lip liner of chrome around the complex shape of the grille.

The reworked cockpit of the Forte takes a step in a sportier direction, with simple, straightforward displays that look modeled after sport sedans, with a clean layout and effective infotainment systems. 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.

From the inside, the Forte caps a few years of advances in Kia design with a simple but sculptural dash, one with a split console design that cuts down on what could be a bulky center stack. That bank of controls emerges smoothly from a dash surface finished in better plastics than we've seen in the Forte before, and the very light touch of metallic trim and very friendly presentation of big, round, climate-control knobs couldn't be easier to understand or operate. When it's fitted with the available LCD screen, the Forte's dash wouldn't look out of place in a more expensive Optima--and actually knits itself together a bit better visually than the larger model.

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7

2015 Kia Forte

Performance

Performance for the 2015 Forte lineup is good overall but not stellar -- although steering settings now help you set your level of assist.

The 2015 Kia Forte offers up solid economy-car performance, with an extra spin of customization, thanks to an electric power-steering system that offers three different modes of boost.

Forte shoppers have a choice between a 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower four and a 2.0-liter, 173-hp four, and we're probably go with the larger of the two, simply for its more relaxed tuning. In EX form, with only a six-speed automatic, the Forte's drivetrain manages to remind us of some of the better 1990s-era compact cars, with its four-cylinder engine quite rev-happy and mostly vibration-free, yet quite noisy at times. The Forte isn't all that quick, but it handles reasonably well, with some models getting three modes of steering boost, selectable via a button on the steering wheel.

The EX model isn't quick, but it's not at all sluggish, and some added reinforcements to the engine and mounting keep it revving smoothly up to its 6500-rpm redline, while the transmission doesn't get into the way of extracting estimated sub-9-second 0-60 mph times.

Base LX versions -- which we still haven't driven -- come standard with a 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a choice of a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

Ride and handling in the 2015 Forte strike lack the firm resolve of the Focus or Mazda3, yet we're not completely convinced that the Forte serves up any more comfort in return. The Forte's gotten better at soaking up roughness from choppy pavement, although pavement irregularities still ring into the cabin, and the tuning of the EX model -- the one we've spent the most time in -- tends to ride an unsettling line between feeling firm in light maneuvers yet allowing a lot of body motion in more extreme ones.

The power steering has a system like the one on the Hyundai Elantra GT, with user-selectable modes for sport, normal, and comfort levels of assist. It doesn't change the reasonably quick responsiveness, but it does add some weight as you crank the wheel through its motions. To us, a car like the Forte usually feels at home in the base two modes, but sport mode is useful to help it track cleanly on the highway--tracking has been a weakness of both Kia and Hyundai electric power-steering systems, but this time it's not a liability.

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8

2015 Kia Forte

Comfort & Quality

A spacious trunk and pleasant cabin finishes work with a traditional compact-car space.

With the longer, lower roofline introduced last year, there's more passenger space than before in the Kia Forte. And that's especially noticeable in front.

What's also noticeable after just an hour or two, however, is that the front seats could use more bolstering, especially in their lower cushions. Taller passengers won't be all that happy in front, and in back there's simply no headroom fro them, where the low roofline is a limiting factor. However, the doors are cut in a more passenger-friendly way that allows decent entry and exit.

The 2015 Forte offers a straightforward layout without a major flaw -- and it's much better presented than even the last Forte. There's an elevated sense of quality in this compact car, from the soft touch of the plastic and the mix of materials chosen, to the added sound deadening that tamps down powertrain noise -- although road noise remains quite high.

Storage space is very good, with a 14.9-cubic-foot trunk larger than almost all the competition, save for the Honda Civic. The trunk lid's cut wide, for easy loading, and the rear seats fold down almost flat for the rare occasion when the trunk is taxed. There's a useful bin hiding under a sliding screen in front of the shift lever, and a fair-sized glovebox and center console bin.

By the numbers, the Forte is 179.5 inches long, up a little more than an inch, and rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, up 2.0 inches. It's lower by an inch, to 56.5 inches, and in practice the subtle reshaping of the passenger cabin makes more of an impact on its handsome styling than it does on its usable room. Front passengers won't come up short in any way: the front seats have a good range of adjustment, and give even very tall drivers enough headroom. The extra width and a gently curved center console fall out of the way of knee space. The driver-side power and seat ventilation that come on the Forte EX are useful and eye-catching at order time, but we'd like a little more bolstering on the bottom cushions for better long-distance support.

The back seat is typical for compact cars, with not quite enough head room for six-foot passengers, but plenty of others. The front seats leave plenty of foot room, and the door openings make entry and exit easier than in some of the more sporty compacts we've driven this year.

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6

2015 Kia Forte

Safety

Safety ratings for the 2015 Kia Forte are less disappointing than last year's model -- but safety equipment still isn't generous, and the rearview camera has limited availability.

Kia has claimed that it will bring all of its cars up to five-star standard, and they've finally pulled that off for the 2015 Forte. Barely. 

With a retest for 2015, the Forte's previous worrisome three-star frontal impact score has improved to four stars, which brings its overall score up to five stars. Kia has also brought the Forte's 'poor' rating in the IIHS small overlap frontal test up to 'marginal,' but we're still not going to point safety-conscious families to this one.

All Forte sedans come with six airbags and stability control, as well as Bluetooth, a feature we connect to safety because of the talk-and-drive habits of the vast majority of drivers. Outward visibility isn't all that great compared to other compact sedans -- another consequence of the stylish design -- and you can get a rearview camera system on the EX.

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9

2015 Kia Forte

Features

With things like available heated rear seats, and a new smartphone-driven nav system, Kia delivers exceeds expectations with respect to the feature list.

Among compact sedans, the 2015 Kia Forte remains one of the most value-packed; with more standard features and long warranties, this generation of the Forte manages to pack in even more features, without much of a price hike, or a premium over models with more modest feature lists.

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. 

Adding the Popular Package to the LX brings 16-inch wheels; keyless entry; and cruise control; the Eco package tops it off with ISG stop/start control. And the Premium Package on the EX includes a 10-way power driver seat; heated seats--all of them; driver-seat ventilation; leather upholstery; a power sunroof; pushbutton start; and 17-inch wheels. A Technology package gains LED taillights; a color LCD readout tucked between the gauges; and automatic climate control.

Navigation is also an option on this version, which comes standard with Kia's new version of UVO. Initial versions of UVO have been based on an early version of the Microsoft autos software that governs Ford's SYNC system. The new Kia system is a lighter and more effective system that leverages the driver's smartphone for live information access, tapping Google for mapping information and the data stream for streaming audio. It also offers nice touches like service scheduling and a parking reminder--and it's free.

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8

2015 Kia Forte

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Kia Forte has EPA ratings that are slightly below the Forte's corporate cousins; and the Eco isn't all that compelling.

EPA numbers for the 2015 Kia Forte range from 24 miles per gallon city to 37 miles per gallon highway, depending on the engine and transmission specified.

For 2015, Kia Forte models with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission improve by several miles per gallon, to 26 mpg city, 39 highway (and an EPA 31 mpg Combined).

That's not all that impressive, given that many of today's compact cars offer ad-friendly 40-mile-per-gallon fuel-economy ratings; and whether in real-world mileage we've seen or in ratings, the Forte isn't quite there.

The Eco model, which was supposed to bring Kia's ISG (Idle Stop & Go) stop-start system to last year's model, is no longer offered.

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June 29, 2016
2015 Kia Forte 4-Door Sedan Automatic EX

Cabin noise

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Great car for the money. 2 things would greatly improve car. One is the cabin is quite noisy and two, it does not come stock with daytime running lights, this should be standard on cars today. otherwise I love... + More »
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August 15, 2015
2015 Kia Forte 5-Door HB Automatic EX

Handles poorly in snow

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This car handles poorly in snow/ice and gets a "1." It shimmy & shakes at lower speeds and fishtails at higher speeds in a straight line. After ruling out misalignment or some other problem that could cause... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2015 Kia Forte 4-Door Sedan Manual LX

very good for its price

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Very reliable car it handels good mpg are good.lots of space it had lots of space in the trunk
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April 20, 2015
For 2015 Kia Forte

Excellent value and performance at a reasonable price, and it looks great.

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We have just leased this forte 5 and will have it for 4 years. It has a 2 liter direct injected engine and 6 speed automatic transmission. Power seems more than adequate, although I am not pushing it hard yet... + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 7
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Features 9
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