Car Comparison

2015 Kia Forte vs. 2015 Hyundai Elantra: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2015

The 2015 Kia Forte and the 2015 Hyundai Elantra are compact cars offered in 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback body styles. They share an engine, transmissions and other mechanical components, and they even share a parent company, so what exactly makes the Forte and the Elantra different? If you're searching for a new compact car, you'll probably want to know what separates these two similar models, so we've created a detailed comparison that highlights all the key differences between the Forte and the Elantra to help you figure out which one is right for you.

Exterior

On the outside, there's some family resemblance between the Elantra and the Forte, though we'd hardly say both cars look the same. Instead, we'd say the two models offer rounded, modern-looking exterior designs that happen to stand out from the rest of the compact-car pack.

But when it comes to the details, just about every aspect of the Elantra and Forte are different enough to give the two cars unique looks, from the grille to the headlights, the taillights, the rear ends and the wheel designs. The details are so different, in fact, that we have a tough time believing these two cars could be reasonably mistaken for one another.

Interior

The Forte and the Elantra also offer substantial differences on the inside. In fact, virtually nothing is shared between the two cars save for a few switches and buttons. Everything else, including the gear selector, the dashboard, the gauge cluster, the air vents and the steering wheel, is completely different. We happen to think the Hyundai's interior, with its stylized center control stack and attractively shaped air vents, is a little more attractive than the Forte's cabin, which is all business. However, both offer high-grade materials, attractive finishes and a distinctive look from one another.

Mechanicals

The Elantra and Forte share two engines. Base-level models (the Elantra SE and Limited and the Forte LX) get a 145-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, which offers around 27 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, depending on the model and the transmission. Drivers who want more power can upgrade trim levels (to the Elantra Sport or the Forte EX) and get a 173-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which returns about 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy. That engine is also standard on the 5-door Elantra GT and Forte5, along with the Forte Koup and Elantra Coupe.

Only the Kia offers an even more powerful 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is available on SX versions of the Forte Koup and Forte5. It makes an impressive 201 hp, and it returns about 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy depending on transmission.

Features & Technology

Despite identical parent companies and similar underpinnings, features and technology are surprisingly different when you compare the Elantra and the Forte. Specifically, the Kia offers more futuristic gadgets and sporty features, such as an adjustable steering system, xenon headlights, the aforementioned 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Tuned more for comfort, the Elantra is far more conservative with its choice of options. You'll find leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats and dual-zone automatic climate control, for example, but you won't find more unique features such as illuminated exterior door handles and a cooled glove box. Those are reserved for the Forte.

Driving Experience

Owing to their separate marketing positions (the Forte positioned as a sporty compact and the Elantra as more of a mainstream model), you'll find some differences in the driving experience of these two compact cars. Most notably, the Elantra offers a more comfortable, softer and more relaxed ride, while the Forte simply feels less composed over bumps.

In general, however, both the Elantra and the Forte offer some of the best driving experiences of any compact car on the market today. Handling is surprisingly precise, fuel economy is strong and we're impressed that the Forte offers three different engine options that are enough to satisfy seemingly any compact-car shopper.

Based on driving experience alone, these models would easily make it on our top-three list of compact cars, and we're a bit disappointed they don't find as many buyers as some mainstream models that don't offer as much value or such a great combination of luxury and sportiness behind the wheel.

Safety

In crash tests carried out by the federal government, the Elantra earned slightly higher marks than the Kia Forte, picking up five overall stars to the Forte's 4-star overall rating. The Elantra also beat out the Forte in crash-testing conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), where it received a Top Safety Pick rating. That's a distinction the Forte didn't quite manage to earn due to a slightly lower rating in the firm's small front-overlap test.

As for safety equipment, the two models are about the same and are also similar to most of their compact-car rivals. Both come standard with anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags, and traction control, for example. Both also offer an available backup camera and an emergency telematics system. Our only complaint: The litany of high-tech safety gadgets, such as a blind spot monitoring system, a lane-departure warning system and forward-collision alert, has not yet reached the Elantra and the Forte.

Conclusions

The 2015 Hyundai Elantra and the 2015 Kia Forte are near the top of the compact-car game, and we think both models will make a lot of drivers very happy. Both cars offer a long warranty, a lot of features, good safety scores, a pleasurable driving experience, several powertrain choices, modern styling and excellent fuel economy. But while we think the Elantra and Forte are two compact cars worth considering, we strongly suggest test-driving them before buying. The two models have just enough unique character aspects and features that some drivers may prefer the Elantra over the Forte or vice versa.

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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.
2015 Kia Forte vs. 2015 Hyundai Elantra: What's the Difference? - Autotrader