2018 Kia Forte

2018 Kia Forte Review

Lots of available features and long warranty coverage are just the start of the Forte's appeal.
8.1 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Will Kaufman
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Last year's refresh has helped keep the 2018 Kia Forte competitive in a class with much newer rivals. Kia made updates to the Forte's interior quality, infotainment system, active safety features and horsepower. All complemented the Forte's existing strengths: spacious seating and cargo space and tons of value.

It's true that newer compact cars have made gains in acceleration, fuel efficiency, interior space, handling and technology features. That means the Forte isn't the standout it once was. But the Forte's long list of available features, competitive price and outstanding warranty coverage continue to make it a compelling choice for a compact sedan or hatchback. It even offers a sporty SX hatchback trim level with an engine making more than 200 horsepower, putting it in a league with only a few other compacts.

If the Forte isn't quite for you, you might want to check out the Honda Civic. It offers an excellent driving experience and rivals the Forte for passenger space and technology features. There's also the snazzy Mazda 3 and the capable Subaru Impreza to consider. But even with such strong competition, we think the Forte is worth a test drive if you're in the market for a well-equipped compact car



What's new for 2018

The Forte enters 2018 with only minor changes to trim level packages.

We recommend

Kia offers several Forte variants, so picking one largely depends on what you're looking for. But for a practical and well-equipped car, we'd simply opt for the LX. It's the Forte's base model yet delivers strong value. Ideally, get it with the Popular package, which adds the Uvo infotainment system (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration) and some interior upgrades.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Kia Forte is available as a sedan in LX, S and EX trim levels, while the hatchback (the Forte5) is offered in LX, EX and SX trims. The base LX trim is reasonably equipped, while the EX has a more extensive list of equipment. The S sedan and EX and SX hatchback offer some sporty touches, and the SX even comes with a powerful turbocharged engine.

The Forte LX and S sedans are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. For most trims, power runs to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The base LX comes standard with a six-speed manual, with the automatic available as an optional upgrade.

Standard features on the LX sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air conditioning, full power accessories, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack.

Optional for the LX (but only with the automatic transmission) is the Popular package, which includes automatic headlights, cruise control, upgraded interior upholstery and trim, a sliding front armrest, a rear seat armrest, a rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Kia's Uvo telematics service and a six-speaker stereo. There's also the Popular Plus package, which adds LED taillights, special alloy wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The S sedan starts with most of those items and upgrades to a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a rear spoiler, a chrome exhaust outlet, adjustable drive modes (including steering effort), unique black cloth upholstery with white contrast stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and the 7-inch touchscreen system.

The S sedan's Technology package adds foglights, a sunroof, LED taillights, and keyless entry and ignition plus a few safety technologies (lane departure warning and prevention, blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking).

The EX sedan drops the sport-themed extras but adds a 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, a six-speed automatic, foglights, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED turn signal indicators on the mirror housings (and puddle lamps underneath), LED taillights, keyless entry and ignition, ambient interior lighting, leather upholstery, heated front seats and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear vents. For 2018 the EX also receives some active safety features as standard equipment, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

For the EX, there's an optional Premium Plus package that adds a sunroof, a power-adjustable driver seat, adaptive xenon headlights, a navigation system, ventilated front seats and driver-seat memory settings. Forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking are also part of this package.

From a features standpoint, the hatchback's LX and EX trims largely mirror the sedan's, with minor differences.

The SX hatchback adds a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated at 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, dual exhaust tips, and sporty front and rear styling.



Edmunds Scorecard

Overall8.1 / 10

Driving

8.5 / 10

Acceleration9.0 / 10
Braking8.0 / 10
Steering7.5 / 10
Handling8.0 / 10
Drivability9.0 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort7.0 / 10
Ride comfort8.0 / 10
Noise & vibration8.0 / 10
Climate control8.5 / 10

Interior

7.5 / 10

Ease of use8.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out8.5 / 10
Driving position6.0 / 10
Roominess8.0 / 10
Visibility7.5 / 10
Quality8.0 / 10

Utility

8.5 / 10

Small-item storage8.5 / 10
Cargo space8.5 / 10

Technology

7.5 / 10

Audio & navigation7.5 / 10
Smartphone integration8.0 / 10
Driver aids7.5 / 10
Voice control6.5 / 10

Driving8.5

Whether it's the strong acceleration, satisfying brake pedal feel or ability to transition from open road to city traffic, the Forte5 is a genuine surprise. Real development went into this car, and Kia should be applauded for no half-measures. And it comes with a great manual transmission.

Acceleration9.0

Equal measures of potency and tractability make this 1.6-liter engine a pleasant surprise. It possesses enough power that a full-throttle launch causes wheel hop and spin all the way through first gear. A slick six-speed manual makes the most of the 200 horsepower and helped the Forte5 hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds.

Braking8.0

The short, firm brake pedal action makes it feel like it belongs in a sports car. It's just as easy to modulate braking force in stop-and-go traffic as it is on a canyon road. The 125-foot stopping distance from 60 mph reflects more on the all-season tires than the Forte5's brakes.

Steering7.5

There's not much to say about the steering in the Forte5, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's not a lot of feel, but it's far from lifeless. The effort is well-judged, being slightly heavier than in other cars in the class, and overall accuracy is good. The wheel itself is a bit slippery.

Handling8.0

The dull tires are definitely the weak link because the chassis feels good. The stability control system is well-sorted, and while the steering doesn't give you much feedback, it's easy enough to determine your level of grip through the seat. The car is not heavy, so it doesn't mask its dynamics. It's easy fun.

Drivability9.0

This engine isn't the least bit finicky, and the Kia is both livable and forgiving in town or on the highway. Credit goes to the peppy and smooth engine, predictable clutch, short gearing and quick shifter. It makes you wonder why more people don't drive stick.

Comfort8.0

Compact cars generally scrimp on something, be it seating surfaces, seat construction or even adequate climate control. Yet the Forte5 leaves very little to be desired, even for the rear passengers. It's hard to ask for more from a car in the class.

Seat comfort7.0

The front seatbacks are a bit on the narrow side and lack proper bolstering. The rear seat is surprisingly spacious for two 6-foot-tall adults. The SX's leather-upholstered seats look and feel good to the touch.

Ride comfort8.0

The Forte5 exhibits good body composure around corners. It also handles rough city roads fairly well despite its low-profile tires. Excessive bouncing on big freeway bumps suggests a lack of rear damping, but the suspension seems well-tuned overall for the real world.

Noise & vibration8.0

Wind noise is commendably low, and the engine is well-isolated at idle. Tire noise can dominate the cabin at freeway speeds, but it's not so loud that it can't be overpowered by the stereo. An open sunroof can be a bit loud at higher speeds, but it's not excessive.

Climate control8.5

The dual-zone climate control is a simple combination of large knobs, easy-to-push buttons and a readable digital display. The vents, which rear passengers also get, have a nice range of adjustment. Heated and powerfully ventilated seats supplement the climate control well.

Interior7.5

The Forte5's simple and straightforward cabin is a virtue because it means there are no tricks to figuring out its controls or all of its technology. It's hard to beat the traditional gauges in the instrument panel, too.

Ease of use8.0

The Forte5's cabin controls are intuitive and well-placed. It's refreshing to see a manufacturer not overthink an interior. Only the audio control knobs could use improvement, as they're on the small side. But all the buttons are clearly labeled and easy to press — even the virtual ones.

Getting in/getting out8.5

The front doors open wide and expose seats that are easy to slide across and into. The backseat passengers will have little to no trouble getting in or out, either, as there's not much wheelwell intrusion and the doors open generously.

Driving position6.0

Most drivers found the seating position to be much too high and wished the seat would drop another 2 inches, but not for a lack of headroom. The flat-bottom steering wheel is slick to the touch, and some found the spokes a bit low and uncomfortable. The 10-way power-adjustable seats were easy to dial in.

Roominess8.0

There's ample room all around for both front-seat occupants, and the sunroof doesn't eat into usable headroom. Rear passengers enjoy a decent amount of legroom and shoulder room, but adding a third passenger could make things a bit tight.

Visibility7.5

Since this is a five-door hatchback, there's plenty of glass and good visibility in all directions. A backup camera only adds to the ease of parking. The windshield pillars dominate the line of sight on twisty roads.

Quality8.0

The Forte5 seemed to be pretty well screwed together with tight panel gaps inside and out and no squeaks or rattles anywhere throughout the cabin. The doors and rear hatch all closed with a solid thunk.

Utility8.5

A hatchback should be practical, and this little Kia checks all the boxes. It makes good use of space, not only for the passengers but their stuff as well. It's practical enough with the seats up, and with the seats down there's plenty of room for larger objects. But we wish the seats folded flat.

Small-item storage8.5

With a center console between the seats and a bin beneath the HVAC controls, there's plenty of room up front for small items. The door pockets are decently sized, too. Rear passengers have less door storage but get a fold-down center armrest with cupholders.

Cargo space8.5

Cargo room is rated at 23.2 cubic feet, which is more than you get from the Mazda 3 hatchback, Mini Hardtop 4 Door and Volkswagen Golf. The liftover height is low, and the load floor is fairly wide without any rear intrusions. The rear seatbacks fold easily but don't go completely flat.

Child safety seat accommodation7.5

LATCH anchors are supplied, well marked and easy to reach, located just under the surface of the seatbacks. There's also enough room behind the front seats for larger child seats.

Technology7.5

There's a lot of equipment in the Forte5, and at the SX trim level, much of it is standard. Kia has embraced Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it's refreshing to see when cars costing twice this much still go without. Only the lackluster audio system hurts it here.

Audio & navigation7.5

The Kia's infotainment interface is well-thought-out and easy to use, but you still have the option of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7-inch screen is clear and easy to read, but the sound quality was a bit of a disappointment, lacking power and clarity.

Smartphone integration8.0

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto supplement Kia's already easy-to-use native system. Connecting a phone via Bluetooth was straightforward, and we never experienced any drops in connection. USB and power ports are concealed in a bin below a sliding shield, making it possible to conceal a device.

Driver aids7.5

Along with the standard stability control and antilock braking, our test car had blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist. A clear rearview camera was helpful in tight spots, too.

Voice control6.5

The Kia's voice controls are quick to respond but had a problem with numbers, especially when used in a street name, such as "190th Street." Otherwise, they weren't much of a hassle to use.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.