Who says inexpensive compact sedans can't be stylish? The current third-generation Kia Forte was introduced for the 2019 model year, bringing quality, performance, and technology improvements over the previous model. The Forte is the second-smallest car in Kia's lineup, above the subcompact Rio but below the midsize K5 in size. Even as Kia expands its crossover lineup with vehicles like the Seltos, the Forte remains one of the brand's best-sellers. The 2021 Forte carries over from 2020 with no updates or changes.
Although the second-generation Forte set a low bar, the current third-generation model is a big improvement. To our eyes it's a good-looking little car, taking a sporty look without going overboard on details.
At our 2018 Car of the Year evaluations, the 2019 Forte's attractive and well-thought-out interior earned comparisons to much higher-end vehicles. The large and user-friendly infotainment touchscreen included on all models is another plus.
The Forte isn't very quick, although its acceleration is about average in the compact sedan segment. Less forgivable is the CVT automatic that most models are equipped with, which is noisy and poorly calibrated. Also, ride quality is rough on all but the smoothest roads. The Forte GT, introduced last year, will likely liven things up with its 201-hp turbocharged engine.
Drivers seeking a low-cost compact sedan might simply default to the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, but the Forte is worth consideration against those. It's not a total segment standout, but attractive styling and a long warranty give it appeal, even if it suffers some refinement issues.
The Forte's standard engine is a 2.0-liter I-4 producing 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. It powers the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission or CVT automatic on the entry-level FE trim; the CVT is standard on all other trims with that engine. EPA-rated fuel economy is 31/41 mpg on the FE trim with the automatic and 27/37 with the manual. Other 2.0-liter trims get 29/40 mpg with the CVT. In MotorTrend testing, an automatic-equipped Forte needed 8.2 seconds to reach 60 mph.
More performance is offered by the Forte GT's 1.6-liter turbo-four engine, which makes 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic drives the front wheels. Fuel economy measures 25/32 mpg with the manual, or 27/35 mpg with the automatic. We estimate 0-60 mph acceleration at about 6.8 seconds.
In the NHTSA's overall safety rating, the Forte earns four out of a possible five stars. When the Forte was last evaluated by the IIHS it earned a 2020 Top Safety Pick designation when equipped with the LED headlights and front-crash prevention system included on the GT trim. As part of that rating, the Forte earned the top score of Good in all six IIHS crashworthiness tests.
Driver-assist and active safety features come standard on every trim. The tech includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and lane-departure warning. The EX and GT-Line trims add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control is available as an option on the GT trim.
The Forte's trunk is among the more capacious in the segment, offering 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space. On the LXS trim and higher 60/40 split-folding rear seats are included, which let larger items fit inside.
Front-row headroom measures 38.8 inches in the Forte, which compares to 40.6 inches in the Hyundai Elantra. Second-row headroom is 37.5 inches in the Forte, just more than the Elantra's 37.3 inches. Front-row legroom is 42.2 inches in the Kia, about the same as the Hyundai's 42.3 inches. Second-row legroom measures 35.7 inches in the Forte, less than the 38.0 inches found in the Elantra.
An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard on all Forte trim levels. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity are included; built-in navigation is added on the EX and higher trims. A standard black-and-white 3.5-inch gauge cluster display is swapped for a color 4.2-inch unit on an option package of the GT. Entry-level trims have one front-row USB ports while higher-end trims have two; a wireless charging pad is available. Moving up the range changes the four-speaker audio system of the FE and LXS for a six-speaker setup (on GT Line and above), and an eight-speaker premium system is optional.
|$0||2.9% Financing available for varying term lengths : 75, 84 Months - Kia announces special APR Financing on select models.||11-30-2020|
|$0||0% Financing available for varying term lengths : 36, 48, 60 Months - Kia announces special APR Financing on select models.||11-30-2020|
|$0||0.9% Financing for a maximum term of 66 Months - Kia announces special APR Financing on select models.||11-30-2020|
|$0||1.9% Financing for a maximum term of 72 Months - Kia announces special APR Financing on select models.||11-30-2020|
|$400||Kia announces a Bonus Cash on select models for eligible military personnel.||11-30-2020|
|$500||Kia announces Lease Loyalty Cash on select models.||11-30-2020|
|$1500||Kia announces Customer Cash on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||11-30-2020|