Used 2014 Kia Forte Hatchback
- Spacious interior for both sedan and coupe
- many upscale features available
- strong engines on EX and SX trims
- easy-to-use controls
- lengthy warranty coverage.
- Fuel economy isn't as high as some other top rivals
- unrefined ride quality at times
- middling frontal-impact safety scores.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Quality and value are high points on the 2014 Kia Forte, and its sharp new look pushes it toward the head of the compact-car class.
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 Forte 5) 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 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 2014 Ford Focus and 2014 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 engine lineup and sharp styling, the 2014 Kia Forte is an excellent choice for an affordable sedan, coupe or hatchback.
trim levels & features
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 (still a manual-adjustment seat on the Koup) 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.
performance & mpg
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. 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 (25 mpg city/37 mpg highway).
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. Forte EX sedans with the 2.0-liter engine rate 28 mpg combined (24 mpg city/36 mpg highway). 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 28 mpg combined (24 mpg city/35 mpg highway).
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. Kia Forte SX hatchbacks rate 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city/29 mpg highway) with either transmission. For the Koup, fuel mileage estimates stand at 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/29 mpg highway) with the manual and 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/30 mpg highway) with the automatic.
In Edmunds testing, a Kia Forte EX sedan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, while a Forte SX Koup with a manual transmission did the sprint in 7.0 seconds. Both times are very quick for the compact car 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 sedan came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, while a Forte SX Koup turned in a 118-foot effort. Both are slightly better 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."
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 a somewhat busier and stiffer ride, unlike rivals like the Focus or Mazda 3, both of which have a more sophisticated ride over broken pavement.
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. Even 6-foot adults should be comfortable sitting in back. The Forte sedan is also very generous when it comes to cargo capacity, boasting a trunk capacity of 14.9 cubic feet. The Forte 5 hatchback boasts 23.2 cubic feet.
Even the two-door Koup is surprisingly practical, boasting a 13.3-cubic-foot trunk that rivals many compact sedans. Its backseat is also spacious enough for adults, and reasonably easy to reach. Unfortunately, the driver seat is mounted a bit high, and as a result some of our taller editors found it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
We were just starting to mosey our way out of Scottsdale, Arizona, in the 2014 Kia Forte EX when we noticed that something was missing.
Prodding the right pedal from a stoplight, we were greeted with a supple wave of power that delivered a smooth getaway. And as we hopped onto a highway on-ramp, the hearty 173-horsepower direct-injected four-cylinder thrust the compact sedan forward with plenty of scoot to merge safely.
Our passenger continued his casual conversation without raising his voice as we reached an easy 70 mph. It seemed great, yet we knew something was missing from the previous Forte.
We sidestepped onto a Saguaro cactus-lined two-lane and took off through the hills of the Tonto National Forest. The suspension easily soaked up bumps, and wind and road noise were nearly nonexistent.
And that's when it hit us. This Kia Forte is missing plenty of things, like the noise, the crudeness and the harsh suspension of its predecessor. And the annoyingly abrupt throttle tip-in the Forte was plagued with? It's gone, too. They're all gone, and the 2014 Kia Forte feels like a completely different car because of it.
All-New. All Over Again
Just three and a half years ago the then-new Kia Forte was launched, replacing the Spectra as Kia's compact economy car. But since then the competition in the category has heated up considerably. So much so that Kia quickly came up with an all-new car. It utilizes the platform of the new 2013 Hyundai Elantra and was sculpted by Kia's design chief, Peter Schreyer.
Kia executives affectionately call Schreyer "our not-so-secret weapon." And why not? Good design sells cars. Kia's California Design Center in Irvine did the bulk of the work on the Forte's new lines. The aggressive face, rising beltline, massively sloping roof and short deck aren't just pretty, they're slippery, too. The Forte has a drag coefficient of 0.27, which is very low and great for mileage.
Despite the major redesign, the new Forte takes up pretty much the same footprint as before. The wheelbase is 2 inches longer while overall length grows by just 1.2 inches. Roof height is down an inch, and width is increased by 0.2 inch.
Overall interior room has decreased ever so slightly. But unless you're some kind of a deformed giant, you'll fit in this car. The real shocker is that, in spite of that style-centric roof line, there's actually decent rear headroom. The trunk has a nice wide opening and total volume is up from 14.7 cubic feet to 14.9. That's better than the Ford Focus (13.2 cubic feet) and about even with the Chevy Cruze (15).
Six-Speeds for Everybody
Kia said we could drive any Forte we wanted, as long as it was an EX model in blue. Maybe it didn't want us to be underwhelmed by the base LX's 1.8-liter four-cylinder and its 148 hp and 131 pound-feet of torque. The LX can also be mated to a six-speed manual unlike the EX, which is available only with a six-speed automatic.
The 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder is new to the Forte EX. It's basically the same engine found in the uplevel 2013 Kia Soul, but with the addition of direct injection. As such, the 2.0 GDI isn't shared with any other Kia or Hyundai product, for now at least.
Its 173 hp at 6,500 rpm and 154 lb-ft at 4,700 rpm put it on the high side for eco-minded compacts. The Focus only musters 160 hp, the Honda Civic 140 and the Cruze just 138 hp.
Even with the extra sauce under the hood, you won't become giddy with speed when you press on the 2,857-pound Forte's accelerator. What is impressive, though, is the smooth and quiet way it delivers the power to the front wheels. You can barely make out more than a minor hum at freeway speeds. The foam-filled pillars and special sound-deadening for the dash pad do their job. Spin the tachometer toward redline and the four-banger does get loud, but never thrashy or unrefined.
Part of the reason the Forte never feels fast is the smooth-shifting transmission. It's so seamless that you need to watch the tach to notice a shift, they're that imperceptible. On the downside, it heads for 6th gear as soon as possible to boost mileage, but it reacts intuitively with a downshift when you give the throttle an extra prod.
The EPA has yet to give fuel mileage ratings, and Kia refused to provide any estimates.
The Forte's MacPherson strut front and twist-beam rear axle, as well as its electric-assist steering are the same units used in the Hyundai Elantra, but the tuning is unique to Kia.
The 2014 Forte EX also adds what Kia calls Flex Steer. It lets you adjust the assist level among Comfort, Normal and Sport via a button on the steering wheel. In truth, we didn't notice huge differences in effort, and deemed Sport the best feel for all driving.
Bend the new Forte into a curve and you'll find it strikes a good mix between ride and handling. It doesn't have the steering precision or suspension communication the Ford Focus boasts, and midcorner bumps can upset the rear a bit, but overall it does a nice job of soaking up harsh hits with at least some back-road playfulness on tap for more enthusiastic drivers. Go any harder and the optional 17-inch tires find their limits quickly and significant body roll sets in.
Simple and Honest
Press your finger against any button in the Forte's cabin and you're greeted with soft-feel plastic like the keys on a laptop. Turn a knob and the detents are perfect. Overall, the Forte's cabin nearly matches the quality of the class-leading Focus, but with honest functionality and none of the Ford's overstyled messiness.
Kia was proud to point out that the Forte's center stack is canted 10 degrees toward the driver, just like its bigger brother, the Optima. Or a 1980s-era Volvo 760.
Notable features include a cooled driver seat that's available in the optional Premium package, and Kia's UVO hands-free infotainment system, which comes standard on the EX. A new eServices aspect of UVO features 911 Connect in case of an accident, roadside assistance and real-time maintenance notifications as well as connection with Twitter, Siri and Pandora. The contract is free for the first 10 years/100,000 miles, and Kia says no additional data plan for your smartphone is required.
We paired our iPhone in near record time.
Doing the Numbers
The 2014 Kia Forte will start arriving in U.S. dealers in mid-March. Kia has yet to announce official pricing, but says a Forte LX with manual transmission, Bluetooth, satellite radio, air-conditioning, power windows and power/heated mirrors will start under $16,000. A "well-equipped" LX with the Popular package (16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and keyless entry) will start in the mid-$18s.
The EX 2.0 GDI standard features list is even longer, including the UVO eServices, back-up camera, a sliding center armrest and a cooled glovebox (cold enough for candy bars but not drinks). A starting point of $18,600-$19,000 is a safe bet.
Compact car shoppers used to have to be satisfied simply with good fuel economy and a low entry price. That's no longer enough. Gas prices, heated competition and customer demands have forced manufacturers to build compacts that are as stylish, quiet and feature-filled as midsize sedans. The first-generation Kia Forte proved how quickly expectations can change. The second-generation 2014 Kia Forte proves how quickly Kia can rally back and produce one of the best compact cars on the road.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2014 Kia Forte Hatchback Overview
The Used 2014 Kia Forte Hatchback is offered in the following styles: Forte5 EX 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 6A), Forte5 SX 4dr Hatchback (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6A), and Forte5 SX 4dr Hatchback (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M).
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