2012 Kia Forte Hatchback Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Kia Forte Hatchback

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Kia Forte Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.0 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 156 hp @ 6200 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 26/36 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2012 Kia Forte

  • The 2012 Kia Forte is a bit outclassed by newer competitors, but it still has a lot to offer in terms of value and style.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Wide variety of body styles; affordable pricing; long warranty; excellent handling in SX trim.

  • Cons

    Tepid handling except for SX; intrusive road noise; lackluster interior; rear seat short on legroom.

  • What's New for 2012

    For 2012, the Kia Forte lineup returns largely unchanged save for the midrange EX model, which gets a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Revised gauges have also been added to the EX Technology package.

Full 2012 Kia Forte Review

What's New for 2012

For 2012, the Kia Forte lineup returns largely unchanged save for the midrange EX model, which gets a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Revised gauges have also been added to the EX Technology package.


When the Kia Forte debuted a few years ago, we were pretty impressed with this new small car, finding it offered levels of style, engineering and overall quality that were on par with more well-known Japanese competitors. For the 2012 Kia Forte, the game has changed, as other manufacturers have rallied and made notable improvements. But overall the Forte still holds appeal.

Of particular merit, the 2012 Forte is offered in coupe, sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, one of the few small cars to offer such a selection. If you're interested in something sporty, the Forte coupe (the "Koup") will likely satisfy thanks to its sharp styling and firmer suspension tuning. If it's practicality you desire, Kia's got you covered with the roomy Forte hatchback. The Forte has other positive qualities as well, including long warranty coverage, plenty of standard features and high fuel economy when equipped with the optional Fuel Economy package.

That said, we consider some newer small cars to be more appealing overall. The Hyundai Elantra, for instance, has a nicer interior and better fuel economy no matter how you equip the car. The new Ford Focus is another well-regarded choice, as are the revitalized Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf hatchback. But if you're looking for something sporty, practical or just high on value, the 2012 Kia Forte is worth a look.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Kia Forte is available in sedan, four-door hatchback and coupe (or "Koup" in Kia-speak) body styles. The sedan is offered in three trim levels including the entry-level LX, midrange EX and sporty SX trim levels, while the hatchback and coupe are available in EX and SX trims only.

Standard equipment on the LX base model includes 15-inch steel wheels, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt steering column, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

Step up to one of the EX models and you get keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, illuminated vanity mirrors, full power accessories and a six-speaker sound system. The EX coupe adds 16-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, front sport seats and a more robust exhaust note.

The SX comes equipped with a more powerful 2.4-liter engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, unique cloth upholstery and metallic interior trim, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The SX coupe also gets 17-inch alloy wheels, a sportier version of the SX sedan's suspension, and illuminated red speaker surrounds that can blink in time to the beat.

Options on LX models are limited to air-conditioning. The EX has a longer list of available extras, including 16-inch alloy wheels (sedan only) and a sunroof. A Fuel Economy package for the EX sedan and hatchback adds electric power steering, low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic enhancements. SX options include a sunroof and leather upholstery with heated front seats. A Technology package that bundles keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, a navigation system and chrome exterior door handles is also available on the EX and SX.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 Kia Forte LX and EX are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The sportier SX gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that puts out 173 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on LX models and the Koup, while EX and SX models come equipped with a six-speed automatic that's also offered as an option on the LX. In Edmunds performance testing, an SX hatchback with an automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is on par with similarly powered cars. The Koup is a bit quicker. With the manual it hits 60 in 7.6 seconds.

The EPA fuel economy estimates for the LX and EX with the manual transmission are 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. Those numbers edge up to a respectable 26/36/29 with the automatic. Opting for the EX Fuel Economy package ups those numbers to 27/37/30. The more powerful Forte SX isn't too shabby either, with EPA estimates of 22/32/26 with the manual and 23/32/26 with the automatic. The two-door Koup returns estimates within 1 or 2 mpg (some higher, some lower) of the sedan and four-door hatchback numbers noted above.


The 2012 Kia Forte's list of standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags that cover both rows of seats, and active front head restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, a Forte Koup SX came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 118 feet. An SX hatchback stopped in a still above-average 122 feet.

In government crash tests, the Kia Forte earned four stars (out of a possible five) in overall safety, with four stars for overall frontal-impact safety and four stars for overall side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Forte sedan the top score of "Good" in that agency's frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Kia Forte's interior is a fairly comfortable place, with good room up front and backseats with legroom that, while not great, is about par for the category. One notable exception is the coupe's rear seat, which is a tight squeeze by anyone's standards. The quality of the interior is certainly acceptable, but it's a noticeable step down from what you'll find in a Focus, Elantra or Volkswagen Golf. Some Forte test cars we've sampled have also suffered from haphazard construction.

Both the coupe and sedan have a good amount of cargo room, with 12.6 cubic feet and 14.7 cubic feet, respectively. The hatchback version is even better, with 19.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats that expands to 44.2 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down to make a flat load floor.

Driving Impressions

When it comes to the fun-to-drive factor, the 2012 Kia Forte is a mixed bag. The softer suspension underpinning LX and EX models allows for a little too much body roll in spirited driving, and the relatively numb steering feel doesn't help matters any. Both are perfectly passable in everyday motoring, although folks who put a premium on solid handling will want the firmer sport-tuned suspension that's standard on SX models. With it, these are legitimately fun little cars.

Ride comfort is generally good either way you go. Similarly, the smaller engine under the hood of LX and EX models will suit most folks just fine, but the larger 2.4-liter engine powering SX models feels noticeably stronger. We highly recommend the automatic transmission, as the manual is both unpleasant and difficult to use.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Amazing car for the price

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Kia Forte EX 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 6A)

I purchased the Kia Forte Hatchback (really a wagon) with 16,000 miles for $12,400. I drive short distances to work and weekly long highway trips to family. Recently got 43.7 mpg on a flat highway for a 100 mile drive. Normally average 25 mpg in the city. Easy to hit 36 mpg on the highway at 70-75 mph. Absolutely no problems at current miles of 27K miles on the odometer-only oil changes so far.

20k miles in... great car

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Kia Forte EX 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 6A)

I got this car because of the fold down seats and the great interest rate. I do a lot of camping and traveling so the fold down seats were critical since I sometimes car camp. I am able to comfortably lay down in the back area for a cat nap during a long trip or to get a good nights sleep. I am trading it in only because I want the four wheel drive but this car performed pretty decent on forest roads for what it is. It rides very nice too. I borrowed some chevy car of the same size for a week and when I got my Forte back, it felt like driving butter! It is reliable too. 20k miles and not a single engine problem at all!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Work commuter

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Vehicle: 2012 Kia Forte EX 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 6A)

Needed a new car for my daily commute, and have wanted a hatchback for a while too, so came across the Kia Forte, and found that while its not the top of the line model, it offers everything that I needed in a functional and stylish package.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

Love, love, love my kia

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Kia Forte SX 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

It's a fun car to drive. Even with being one of the bigger hatchbacks on the market, (I call it a mini-SUV) it's got great handling and fun engine. My previous car was a suped up Ford Focus, and I actually like driving this Kia more. The back seat provides a ton of room for passengers. Seats are comfortable to sit in, and I drive 40 minutes to and from work most mornings and never have problems with my knees or back - which was a problem with my focus and sometimes my boyfriends civic. The price is a little high for the SX version - but see if you can find rebate deals. I got mine on a lease fully loaded for $250 a month. If I choose to buy it out I'll only pay $20,000 total.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Perfect so far

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Vehicle: 2012 Kia Forte SX 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

I've owned this car for 3 weeks and absolutely love it. I traded in my 2010 Nissan Sentra SR. I have a dog that is close to 100lbs and he fits in the hatch area no problem. It came with leather, a sunroof, bluetooth, all cargo accessories, heated seats, great radio, and Ipod plugin. It has some serious getup and go even transferring from Nissan's CVT which I wasn't sure about. My nissan was fully loaded, but didn't have all the features of this Kia for the same drive out price 21K. I have gone on 3 long distance trips already getting 29+ mpg hwy/city without even being broken in. If you live in Houston area go to the dealership in Conroe, they'll treat you right. Couldn't be more pleased.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

Great value at a very

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Kia Forte EX 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 6A)

The Kia Forte is a well engineered vehicle that I believe is best in class for the price. I paid $17,713.00 out the door for a EX 5-door in Titanium with stone interior. My car was equipped with auto-dimming mirror w/compass, wheel locks, rear bumper applique, cargo net, cargo tray, spashguards and an i-pod cable. I had no trade-in and the price included 6% sales tax and all dealer fees. I did get $2,000.00 in rebates. This car is fun to drive around town and on the interstate. I'm very impressed with the design, quality and functionality of this car. I don't think you will find a better car under $21K.

Talk About The 2012 Forte

Read more about the 2012 Kia Forte

Gas Mileage


  • 26
  • cty
  • 36
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs

Identifix Reliability Ratings

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