Overview & Reviews
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.
Although the first Forte was generally a good car that also boasted strong crash test scores, the more refined second-generation version propelled this Kia to high honors in a very competitive class. Specifically, the newer Forte more than holds its own against the old segment standbys in terms of style, features, driving dynamics, fuel economy and value. Thanks to its choice of three body styles versus the more typical one or two, the Forte is able to appeal to several types of buyers whether they prefer a traditional sedan, a dynamic coupe or a practical hatchback.
Current Kia Forte
Redesigned for 2014, the current Forte is available as a sedan in LX (1.8L) and EX (2.0L) trim levels. The four-door hatchback (Forte 5) and two-door coupe (Koup) are available in EX and turbocharged SX trims.
There are three four-cylinder engines: a 1.8-liter with 148 horsepower, a 2.0-liter with 173 hp and a turbocharged 1.6-liter packing 201 hp. Power runs to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA combined fuel economy estimates range from 24-29 mpg, depending on engine and transmission.
Standard feature highlights include air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and USB/iPod/auxiliary inputs. Midlevel trims add a more powerful engine, alloy wheels, foglights, keyless entry, a voice-activated infotainment system with Bluetooth audio connectivity and a rearview camera. The SX trims also include sporty styling tweaks, xenon headlights, LED taillights, dual-zone air-conditioning and a navigation system. Options (depending on trim) include a sunroof, keyless ignition and 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.
In reviews we've found the EX's substantial equipment level more than compensates for its slightly lower fuel economy. Furthermore, the 2.0 is one of the peppier four-cylinders out there so it never feels like an economy car. 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. Of course, if sporty is what you're after in a compact car, we'd recommend the turbocharged engine with the manual transmission for maximum performance and fun.
Overall, the Forte has precise steering, and handling 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. That said, broken pavement can produce a somewhat rougher ride than what you'll find in the Forte's well-established European or Japanese rivals.
Used Kia Forte Models
The first-generation Kia Forte was available from 2010-'13 as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe (Koup). The four-door hatchback (Forte 5) joined the lineup in 2011. The sedan was available in LX, EX and SX trims, while the hatchback and coupe were EX and SX only. The LX and EX came with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that made 156 hp. The SX came with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 173 hp.
For the LX and EX, the initial transmission choices included a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, while the SX offered a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic. The latter came standard on the EX with the available Fuel Economy package. For 2011, transmissions choices were simplified, as the six-speed manual transmission was standard on all but the hatchbacks, which came with a six-speed automatic. The latter was an option on the others.
The base Forte came standard with air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection, satellite radio and a CD stereo with auxiliary/USB audio jacks. Upgrading to the EX model added alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control and, on 2012-'13 models a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The Forte coupe featured a firmer suspension, a retuned exhaust and sport seats. The EX sedan and hatch were available with that Fuel Economy package, which added low-rolling-resistance tires, aerodynamic enhancements and electric (rather than hydraulic) power steering. The sportier SX trim featured the larger engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning (sedan) and various interior upgrades. The SX coupe further received suspension retuning. Leather upholstery, heated seats and a sunroof were optional on the SX.
The driving experience largely depends on which version and from which year Forte you're in. We feel the first year (2010), while not to be avoided, isn't the year to look for due to the somewhat dated automatic transmissions. As such, we'd suggest going with a 2011 or later Forte, which in addition to featuring six-speed transmissions across the board, also had better standard and optional equipment including navigation. Taller drivers should note that a telescoping steering column was available on SX models only in 2010 and '11, then also on the EX in 2012 and '13.
In reviews, our editors praised the Kia Forte's relatively generous front and rear seating, tidy styling and clean and pleasant cabin layout. The LX and EX handled like typical economy cars, meaning distant steering, noticeable body roll when pushed and a comfortable, though sometimes noisy ride. The SX -- the coupe in particular -- was a completely different story with its sportier handling and notably firmer ride. Although it still wasn't quite as much fun as the sprightly Honda Civic Si, the SX provided enough entertainment behind the wheel to make it a good choice for driving enthusiasts.
Previous to the Forte, Kia's small car offering was the underwhelming Spectra.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 294.00
Love my new Forte - 2016 Kia Forte
By Theresa Erkila - December 22 - 3:09 am
If you are looking for a great affordable car go and check out Cowboy Kia in Conroe Texas! They made sure I got the vehicle I wanted in the color I wanted and the price I wanted. The sales team and finance department were fantastic and made sure I was comfortable during the entire process. Everyone was very nice. As I have only had my Forte for a little over a week I can't comment on service because I haven't needed any. I love the interior and it handles nicely! Everything about it is great! I would recommend getting a Kia to all. Very affordable and plenty of extras for the price. Great on gas too. I am really looking forward to my trip to Louisville Kentucky next week. Derby Time!!
Love my Forte! - 2012 Kia Forte
By double77s - December 6 - 5:04 am
I decided to purchase the Forte Sedan because of all the features I got for the best price. Kia also has the best warranty in the business and that is what truly sealed the deal for me. I do not have a great history with cars and was reluctant to have a car payment again. I chose Kia because if something goes wrong...it's covered by warranty. Also, I am driving the most fun car I have ever owned. Sunroof, satellite radio, and very comfortable seats sold me when I took the test drive. This is the smallest car I've owned but it drives like a bigger car and is great on gas. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a great car with great features and warranty at a great price.
LOVE IT!!!! - 2010 Kia Forte
By Bonnie - December 4 - 1:06 pm
I just got out of college and this is the first car that i bought on my own. I LOVE IT!!! It rides great and i have taken it on many 4 to 5 hour trips. It has alot of features that i didn't expect from a kia and the exterior design is great. I feel like its kind of a luxury car without the price. I did take it in for the charger lighter wasnt working but they fixed it right away no charge. Great gas mileage, and it is just a smooth ride.
Never buy another - 2014 Kia Forte
By superdave99 - December 3 - 7:51 am
Bought this 2014 Kia Forte 5 new, Now has 15,xxx miles on it. We have had to the shop several times. Antifreeze fumes blowing out of dash vents 5 times, Had gas fumes out of dash vents twice, 3 times it smelled like a overcharged battery that has been boiling. Wife left one day for work and when I went to the garage to get in my old chevy truck the garage recked the battery smell. It burns your eyes and throat and nose. Getting ready to take back to the dealer again. If they wont trade us out of it. It will be going back again and again and again. Also been having issues with engine missing at a stop sign or light in gear.
New Kia owner - 2010 Kia Forte
By destiny1963 - October 14 - 10:00 am
I recently purchased my first brand new vehicle and it is the Kia Forte. It drives/handles/rides really well. The interior room is amazing for a smaller car. Impressive gas mileage, sharp looking inside and out. I was very leery about getting a Korean made vehicle because of so many negative comments made about the brand in the past. But so far, I'm impressed. My husband and I weren't looking for a hot rod but our Forte has a sporty look and plenty of acceleration.
Inexpensive Civic Substitute - 2010 Kia Forte
By KS Flyboy - September 27 - 10:53 pm
After the wife got one, I decided to move to a car too. I had planned on a Civic, but too expensive and dealer did not want to offer book on trade (Escape). Originally planned to get EX with sunroof, but wanted dark interior (coffee on EX not to my liking). Dealer had a Copperhead SX on the lot with sunroof and cloth interior. The red stitching on the seats has grown on me, but I love everything else on the car. Engine has great power and currently getting 31 mpg with only 650 miles on it so far. Backseat has way more room than anything else in this size. Bluetooth is so cool and easy to use. Got the car for invoice, $1500 in rebates, and 0% financing for 36 months.
2011 Forte EX - 2011 Kia Forte
By skinsfanjack - September 23 - 8:11 am
I have now owned my new Forte for one month. Have driven it just over 1,000 miles in mostly city driving and have achieved an average of 30MPG. I am a BIG guy, 6'3" and 260#. I find more leg, head, shoulder and hip room in this Kia than others in its class. It is comfortable to drive - but maybe not so much on a long trip. Has many creature comforts not found without extra cost on the competition. If I have a complaint it is that it feels a little light and "squirelly" in Interstate driving, so one must pay attention. I was used to a big Oldsmobile before checking on most cars in this class, all of whom came up short except for the Hyundai Elantra. The Kia won the coin toss.
Great car! - 2013 Kia Forte
By kevohyuh - September 18 - 12:58 am
Currently at 15,006 miles and loving it. I heard a lot of complaints about the gas mileage and I have to tell you.. I get 32 to 35 miles to the gallon easy and have nothing to complain about. The car looks great. Inside and out. I would suggest better stock speakers and a metal fuel door, but other than that, perfect little car for the money. Can't go wrong.
The Love for Kia begins... - 2011 Kia Forte
By scrutinizer2 - September 16 - 5:35 am
I have been researching this and many other vehicles for many years. This car in particular has always been at the top of my list of FWD sedans and hatchbacks. FINALLY GOT IT! The SX Forte has an enormous amount of power for a four cylinder, best in class handling, and to my surprise, it also rides very comfortably. Go Kia for Great Value, Best Warranty, and Good Steering Feel! The EPA estimated 32mpg on highway. But I wanted to test the best that it could do. After driving in the MOST ECO-FRIENDLY manner, the car went 39mpg on the highway!
Wow, tried the rest now try the best - 2010 Kia Forte
By charlescharles - September 12 - 6:07 pm
I work for a valet company, it is safe to say that i have had the privilege to drive all the cars in this segment and then some. Subtle design with a hint of class that does ot belong in this segment. Not one of its competitors feel this good and i can honestly say that the only car that stands out above it is the focus. Too me the elantra has a weird exterior. The corolla is extremely outdated and feels cheap, the civic is nice but if you are like me and lean on the bigger than average then your leg will stick into the handbrake and you will feel awkward driving it. For the price nothing comes close, hopefully depreciation is not too bad and in my opinion the only deterrent. 87/100