In recent years, some of the most improved players on the automotive playing field have been entry-level compact sedans. Many of these so-called economy cars now offer levels of style and equipment that rival larger and more expensive cars. A good example is the Kia Forte. While it's not quite the MVP in this segment, the Forte is nonetheless an appealing small car.
Amid the growing crowd of compacts, this affordable Kia holds its own. We consider the Forte a legitimate alternative to traditional segment leaders due to its choice of three body styles, eye-catching style, competitive feature content and good value. Should you be interested in a fun little car at a low price, the Forte is worth a look.
Current Kia Forte
The Kia Forte is a compact car available as a four-door sedan, four-door hatchback or two-door coupe that Kia calls the Koup. In reviews, our editors have praised the Kia Forte's tidy styling, noting that its Civic-like face and Lexus IS-style taillights are derivative but nonetheless sure to grab their share of attention. We've also praised this Kia's clean and pleasant cabin layout.
The sedan is available in LX, EX and SX trims, while the hatchback and coupe are EX and SX only. The LX and EX come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes a healthy 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all but the hatchback, which comes with a six-speed automatic. The latter is an option on all models. The SX comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 173 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque, paired to either a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.
The Forte comes standard with stability control, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a CD stereo with auxiliary/USB audio jacks. Upgrading to the EX model adds alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The Forte coupe features a firmer suspension, a retuned exhaust and sport seats, while the EX sedan and hatch are eligible for a Fuel Economy package that adds low-rolling-resistance tires, aerodynamic enhancements and electric power steering.
The sportier SX trim features the larger engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning (sedan) and various interior upgrades. The SX coupe gets a further suspension retune and blinking lights in its speakers. Leather upholstery, heated seats and a sunroof are optional on the SX.
The driving experience largely depends on which Forte version you're in. The LX and EX are standard economy car fare -- lots of body roll, numb steering and a comfortable ride. The SX -- the coupe in particular -- is a completely different story. It's still not as sporting as a Honda Civic Si, but the SX's overall driving dynamics put it at the head of the sub-$20,000 class.
Used Kia Forte Models
The Forte was introduced for 2010. That year, only the sedan and Koup were available. Also of note for first-year Fortes: The standard transmission was a five-speed manual, and the main automatic transmission was only a four-speed, while a five-speed automatic was optional with the EX Fuel Economy package and the SX. The following year, a four-door hatchback body style joined the lineup and a six-speed automatic transmission replaced both of the previous automatic choices.
Previous to the Forte, Kia's small car offering was the underwhelming Spectra.
Read the most recent 2014 Kia Forte review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Kia Forte page.