Full 2014 Kia Forte Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Kia Forte is fully redesigned.
Lately, Kia has been fielding strong entries in virtually every segment it enters. Now the 2014 Kia Forte has joined the roster in the compact car class. Previously, we had considered the Forte a decent pick thanks to its low price, respectable performance and generous standard features, but ultimately relegated it to mid-pack status for its lackluster cabin materials and elevated road noise. With this year's redesign, Kia has addressed those gripes in a big way.
Once again, the Forte will come in three body styles: sedan, four-door hatchback (known as the Forte5) and two-door coupe (Forte Koup). No matter the body style, one of the biggest draws to the new car is the way it looks. We usually don't talk about styling, given its subjective nature. But we doubt we'll find much argument when we say the Forte is one of the sharpest-looking cars in its segment.
Even better, the redesigned Forte isn't an example of form over function. It's longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, and you'll notice this on the inside, as the car is quite roomy. Rear seat legroom is especially good. You'll find plenty of features here, too, as even the base LX trim level offers Bluetooth and an iPod interface as standard, while high-end amenities like xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a voice command system (for the audio system and your smartphone) and even heated rear seats are available. Overall interior quality is much better this time around as well.
There are three different engines for the 2014 Kia Forte, and all make more than competitive power. The upgraded 2.0-liter four-cylinder on EX models makes the new Forte one of the quickest cars in the segment, while an even stronger, turbocharged 1.6-liter engine is available on SX versions of the Forte coupe and Forte5 hatchback. The downside, though, is that none of these engines excels in the fuel economy department.
As you likely know, there are many good choices in this class. The Ford Focus and Mazda 3 are a little more fun to pilot and tend to get better fuel economy in real-world driving, while the Honda Civic and 2014 Volkswagen Jetta are well-rounded sedans with lots of refinement and comfort. And of course you might also consider the Kia's cousin, the Hyundai Elantra. But with its roomy interior, upscale features, strong engines and sharp looks, the 2014 Kia Forte is an excellent choice for an affordable sedan, coupe or hatchback.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Kia Forte is available as a sedan in LX and EX trim levels. The four-door hatchback (Forte5) and two-door coupe (Koup) are available in EX and SX trims.
Standard features on the LX sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and USB/iPod/auxiliary input jacks.
Optional for the LX is the Popular package that includes 16-inch alloy wheels, mirror-mounted turn signal repeaters, keyless entry, upgraded interior trim, two additional audio speakers, cruise control, a sliding console armrest, a fold-down rear center armrest and dual lighted vanity mirrors.
Spring for the EX and you get all the above plus a more powerful engine, adjustable steering effort, foglights, LED running lights, chrome accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Kia's Uvo voice-activated infotainment system with Bluetooth audio connectivity, a rearview camera, a sliding console armrest and a fold-down rear center armrest.
Options for the EX include 17-inch wheels and two option packages. The Premium package features a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a ventilated eight-way power driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Technology package includes xenon headlights, LED taillights, dual-zone air-conditioning with rear seat vents and a navigation system.
The EX hatchback and coupe echo the sedan, while the SX versions include those features but takes a sportier tack, with a turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels, unique front and rear fascia styling, chrome exhaust tips and metal-trimmed pedals. Option packages for the coupe and hatchback essentially mirror those for the EX sedan.
Powertrains and Performance
The LX is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. Power runs to the front wheels through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The EX gets a 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. On the sedan and hatchback, this engine only comes with the six-speed automatic, but on the coupe, you can also get it with the manual transmission. The SX versions of the Forte Koup and Forte5 have a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. On both body styles, you have a choice of the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy estimates for the Forte LX sedan are 29 mpg combined (25 mpg city/36 mpg highway) for the 1.8 with the automatic. The manual transmission is also rated at 29 mpg combined. Forte EX sedans with the 2.0-liter engine rate 28 mpg combined (24/36). EX hatchbacks and automatic-equipped EX coupes also rate 28 mpg combined but have lower highway figures. Manual-shift Forte EX coupes come in at 27 combined (24/33).
Kia Forte SX hatchbacks rate 24 mpg combined (21/29) with either transmission. In the Koup, the 1.6-liter engine returns an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined (22/29) with the manual and 25 mpg combined (22/30) with the automatic.
In Edmunds testing, a Kia Forte EX sedan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, making it one of the quickest cars in its segment.
Every 2014 Kia Forte comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Forte EX came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, slightly shorter than average for this segment.
In government crash tests, the Forte sedan and hatchback both earned an overall score of four stars (out of five), with three stars for overall frontal impact protection and five stars for overall side impact protection. Within that three-star frontal rating, the Forte earned five stars for driver protection, but just two stars for the front passenger.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Forte its highest score of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In that agency's relatively new small-overlap frontal offset test, however, the Forte scored the lowest rating of "Poor." In fairness, of the relatively few vehicles that have been subjected to this new test, most have posted similarly low ratings.
Interior Design and Special Features
Far from being an economy car stuffed with gadgets, the new Kia Forte boasts a handsome cabin furnished with quality materials that, in the higher trim levels, would give premium-brand compacts a run for their money. What's more, the Forte's high-tech features are well designed and easy to use. The touchscreen interface, with its large, logically positioned "buttons," is one of the best examples of this technology, regardless of market segment or price range.
Seat comfort front and rear is very good thanks to thick, well-bolstered seats. With this year's growth spurt, there's plenty of room in back, too. Even 6-foot adults should be comfortable seated in the rear. The Forte sedan is also very generous when it comes to cargo capacity, boasting a trunk capacity of 14.9 cubic feet. The Forte Koup's trunk is slightly smaller at 13.3 cubic feet, while the Forte5 hatchback is the most spacious with 23.2 cubic feet available behind its rear seat.
The 173-hp four-cylinder in the 2014 Kia Forte EX is one of the stronger engines you'll find in this class. This output doesn't translate to blazing acceleration, but in general, the EX feels quicker than the norm. The automatic transmission provides smooth gearchanges, and it's surprisingly responsive with downshifts during typical passing and merging situations. The only downside is that the 2.0-liter sounds and feels a bit buzzy during hard acceleration. The available 1.6-liter turbocharged engine makes for a livelier experience in both the hatchback and coupe. Although both transmissions are well matched to this motor, the slick-shifting six-speed manual is quite a bit of fun if you're so inclined.
The Forte has precise steering, and handling around turns is steady. On upper trim levels, you can even adjust the steering effort via a three-mode (Comfort/Normal/Sport) button on the wheel. Most shoppers in this segment will likely be satisfied with the Forte's overall ride quality. But the Forte's suspension can occasionally seem a bit unrefined. Rougher roads can produce subtle vibrations and undulations that aren't present in rivals like the Focus or Mazda 3, both of which have a more sophisticated ride.