HOW’S THE RIDE?
The Forte comes with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, paired with an automatic transmission. A manual transmission is also offered on the base Forte. Numbers on the power plant are 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. The Forte comes exclusively in front-wheel drive.
Drive mode select is an excellent feature, letting you choose between Smart (eco); Sport and Normal options, based on your driving situations. Especially in sport mode, the drive is much more enjoyable than I had anticipated from this power plant.
The engine can be a bit noisy if you push it hard, but it gets you moving quickly. Only one or two other vehicles in the segment beat the Forte in overall performance, but they are also more pricey, so it’s a tradeoff many will make.
Handling and response to driver input are quite strong, and braking is immediate. It’s an overall very nimble ride.
Tech and safety are two areas where the Forte comes through very strongly compared to other vehicles in the segment.
The Forte’s infotainment system features center around an 8-inch touchscreen, which features a rear camera, and offers access to Kia’s UVO eServices system.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration are included, as is satellite radio with a 3 month-subscription. Several USB chargers, an AUX input and 12-Volt outlet are included, and you get Bluetooth connectivity.
On the safety side, the EX I tested was fully loaded with features such as: Blind-Spot Collision Warning; Driver Attention Warning; Forward Collision Avoidance Assist; Forward Collision Warning; Lane Departure Warning; Lane-Keeping Assist (which pulls you back in your lane very effectively), and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.
All Fortes will feature dual front advanced airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, traction control system, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, hill-start assist control and tire pressure monitoring system.
One very helpful optional package on the EX (for just over $3K) is the EX Launch Edition, which includes: Harman Kardon premium audio with Clari-Fi; Navigation system; Auto-dimming rearview mirror; Power sunroof; LED overhead interior lighting; a well-placed wireless phone charger; Forward Collision Avoidance Assist for Pedestrians as well as Cars; Parking Distance Warning (Reverse); Smart Cruise Control; 17-inch graphite finish alloy wheels and rear spoiler.
The official fuel numbers on the Forte are 30 city/40 highway/34 combined. During my time in the vehicle, I averaged a couple mpg less than these estimates, but those numbers were still impressive.
Going head-to-head against all the main compact competitors (Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Jetta, Subaru Impreza, Mazda3), the Forte is tied for tops in class … only matched by the Jetta.
The 2019 Kia Forte EX I tested was just over $26,000. But many versions are much more affordable. More specifically, the FE trim level starts at $17,790; LXS at $19,190; S at $20,290 and EX at $21,990.
Warranties on the Forte are a 10-year/100K limited powertrain warranty, 5-year/60K limited basic warranty and 5-year/60K roadside assistance.
Across the board, the Forte has emerged as a leader in the compact segment. It’s one of the best small-car options on the market, with a driving experience that’s genuinely enjoyable, solid tech credentials, and an overall sharp presentation.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.