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2018 Kia Forte: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2017

The popularity of compact SUVs is on the rise, but not everyone wants or needs a high-riding, all-wheel-drive car. For those looking for simple, safe and affordable transportation, the 2018 Kia Forte and Forte5 hatchback make great choices. The Forte's subtle styling isn't as outlandish as the new Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, and its handling and performance lag behind that of the Mazda3. However, the Kia Forte trumps the field with its impressive standard and optional equipment list, low price and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. In fact, the Forte offers some features still not available on newer competitors, such as ventilated front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

What's New for 2018?

The 2018 Kia Forte and Forte5 carry over largely unchanged. Cruise control is made standard on the LX trim while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are added to the Popular package. The Forte S gets new 16-inch wheels, and a sunroof is added to its Technology package. EX sedan models gain rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

What We Like

Sharp styling and plush interior; lengthy list of standard features; options not available on competitors' models; Android Auto- and Apply CarPlay-compatible; great standard warranty

What We Don't

Road noise is prominent at highway speeds; steering feels vague despite optional variable-effort FlexSteer system; stark black interior lacks visual excitement; no high-end audio option

How Much?

$17,595-$28,000

Fuel Economy

Depending on the model and trim, the Forte offers three very different 4-cylinder options. The LX and S sedan models are powered by a 2.0-liter engine, good for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. When equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, fuel economy figures are 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, while the 6-speed automatic attains figures of 29 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. Next up is a direct-injection version of the 2.0-liter engine, which is standard in the EX sedan and LX and EX hatchback trims. It produces 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission choice for the LX and EX, yielding fuel economy figures of 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy (Forte5) and 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy (sedan). Finally, there's the SX trim's turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, good for an impressive 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Manual transmission cars earn 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy, while the new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gets 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Forte is offered in two body styles, a sedan and 5-door hatchback. Trims for the sedan include the LX, S and EX, while the hatchback offers the LX, EX and SX.

The Forte LX Sedan ($17,595) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a radio with AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM radio capabilities, cruise control, remote keyless entry, auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, 15-in steel wheels with covers, air conditioning, heated side mirrors, a trip computer, a rear defroster, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

The Forte5 LX Hatchback ($19,095) adds to the LX sedan's standard equipment a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The Forte S Sedan ($20,195) adds a sport suspension, a 6-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, 16-in alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, cruise control, a rear deck spoiler, 6-speaker audio, LED position lights, 7-in touchscreen audio with UVO service plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rear backup camera, dual 12-volt outlets, Active Eco and Drive Mode Select, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and black sport cloth seat covers.

The Forte EX Sedan ($22,495) adds the more powerful 2.0-liter engine, welcome lighting with an illuminated door handle, the Smart Trunk keyless remote trunk opener, an electric wiper de-icer, 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, heated front seats, leather seating, push-button start with Smart Key proximity keyless entry, LED taillights and dual-zone automatic climate control. Also standard are blind spot monitoring with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, power-folding side mirrors, a cooling glove box, a sliding front armrest and a rear folding armrest.

The Forte5 EX Hatchback ($22,995) includes much of the same equipment as the EX sedan plus a rear wiper/washer, but minus the dual-zone automatic climate control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and lane-change assist (features optional with the EX Premium Tech package).

The Forte5 SX Hatchback ($24,695) adds a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, leather seating, 18-in alloy wheels, UVO telematics with a rear backup camera, metal pedals, LED taillights, puddle lights, a dual exhaust with chrome-tip finishers and Smart Key proximity keyless entry with push-button start.

Optional equipment for the LX sedan includes the Popular package, featuring cruise control, door-mounted tweeters, upgraded cloth seating, 4.3-in touchscreen audio, automatic headlights, Drive Mode Select, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a rear backup camera.

The S, EX and SX have most of their options bundled into packages. Some more desirable features include heated and ventilated front seats, navigation radio, a 10-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, adaptive HID headlights, a power sunroof, 17-in alloy wheels, UVO telematics with a rear backup camera and dual-zone automatic climate control. Adding the 6-speed manual to the SX trim brings every available option offered with the automatic.

The Forte S and EX sedan offer autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and blind spot monitoring with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. The Forte5 EX and SX offer the same safety equipment minus the automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning.

Safety

The 2018 Kia Forte sedan and Forte5 come equipped with six airbags, including full-length side-curtain airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, hill-start assist, electronic stability and traction control and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Optional driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking and forward-collision alert (sedan), as well as blind spot monitoring with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

To date, the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has only performed side-impact and rollover tests on the Forte5, on which the model scored five and four stars (out of five total), respectively. The Forte sedan earned an overall score of five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Forte sedan Good marks in every category and a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test when equipped with autonomous emergency braking.

Behind the Wheel

Our Forte sedan was equipped with the direct-injected 2.0-liter engine that produces 164 hp, which was more than enough grunt to get us moving through the wide-open spaces outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. Though we would have liked some extra power for passing slower traffic, at least the 6-speed transmission offered appropriately spaced ratios for the task at hand. The transmission occasionally hunted and upshifted early, however, suggesting the car is tuned for favorable fuel economy, not outright performance. If you're seeking a sportier drive, opt for the SX's turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission. Both are a cut above what we've experienced in previous Kia products, although the manual is still not as refined or precise as a Mazda or Honda manual.

We felt the electric steering system's FlexSteer setup offered varying levels of numbness -- the comfort setting was too light, the sport setting too tight and the medium setting passable in terms of effort but lacking feel overall, which sometimes led the car to wander in its lane at highway speeds. Some road noise becomes apparent at highway speeds, but at least the Forte's amenities make it a pleasant place to spend a few hours at a time, even if we sometimes felt a bit lost in the all-black cabin.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda Civic -- The Civic is bigger, more powerful and gets better fuel economy than the Forte, but it also costs more, still doesn't offer all the high-end features and can't match the Forte's warranty.

2018 Toyota Corolla -- Another crowd-pleasing choice, the Corolla has pricing closer to that of the Forte and offers a total of three trim levels. The Toyota lacks many of the standard items found on the Kia, however, but does offer autonomous emergency braking and auto high beams standard on every model.

2018 Ford Focus -- The Ford Focus features a wider price range for its numerous trim levels, plus it offers the high-performance ST and an electric model. The Focus also has a much nicer interior, is much quieter on the highway and offers a premium Sony audio system.

Used Kia Optima -- A 2014-2016 Kia Optima offers even more standard and available content plus a more powerful engine and a larger interior. Get a certified pre-owned (CPO) car and Kia will reinstate the 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

Of the two models, we think the Forte sedan makes the most sense. We love the sleek styling of the Forte5, but the sedan offers more safety features. Of the trims, we would opt for the EX and add the Premium Plus package. This combo creates a nicely equipped compact with plenty of power and cutting-edge safety features while still keeping the bottom line around $27,000.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Kia Forte: New Car Review - Autotrader