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2019 Kia Forte: First Drive Review

The 2019 Kia Forte is all-new, and recently, Autotrader was invited to the vehicle’s national press launch in Pittsburgh, where we got to put it through its paces on some of the winding back roads of Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and that tiny little sliver of West Virginia that pokes up between the two.

The History of the Forte

The Kia Forte was introduced for the 2009 model year and was offered in sedan, coupe and hatchback body styles. The first generation model was offered from 2009 to 2013. The Forte was fully redesigned for 2014. Coupe and hatchback variations were again offered, although the coupe was canceled after the 2016 model year. Sales of the second generation Forte lasted through the 2018 model year. This brings us to the all-new 2019 Forte, which takes styling cues from Kia’s new halo car, the performance-oriented Stinger. The 2019 Forte features a sleek new design with a long hood and short rear decklid, giving it aggressive proportions. While Kia clearly wasn’t ready to discuss prospects for an all-new Forte5 to follow the new sedan, their comments made it seem likely that a new Forte hatchback would debut sometime in the near future.


The 2019 Forte’s engine is a carryover of the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder from the second-generation model. The engine makes 147 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Entry level Fortes come with a 6-speed manual, while the volume transmission will be a continuously variable unit. Fuel economy for CVT-equipped models is quoted at 30 miles per gallon city, 40 mpg highway and 34 mpg overall.

Compelling Features

The all-new 2019 Forte offers some compelling features. Every new Forte comes with standard driver assistance safety features consisting of forward-collision warning, forward-collision avoidance, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning. Optional are radar cruise control and blind spot monitoring with collision warning and rear cross-traffic monitoring. Additionally, all models receive a sharp, 8-inch center infotainment screen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; welcome inclusions given that a few years down the road this tech will likely be standard fare across the industry. Dual-zone automatic climate control is also standard. Also available are ventilated front seats (which are also heated, but that’s to be expected), a wireless charging pad and a Harman Kardon audio system.

Driving Impressions

The Forte is a compact sedan in the vein of the Honda Civic or Volkswagen Jetta, so we can’t expect Civic Si or GLI caliber performance from it, despite its new sporty design. Still, it felt planted and stable in the twisting back roads we took it on throughout suburban Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Ohio. Zero-to-60 testing on the new Forte has yet to be conducted, but as it uses the same engine from the previous generation model, we expect the feat to take a little over eight seconds. While many lament the proliferation of the continuously variable transmission in the economy car market, we found the new unit in the 2019 Forte to be tolerable and, most of the time, easy to ignore. In day-to-day driving, the transmission’s benefits outweigh its strengths. When it comes time to push the Forte though, you can’t help but notice the transmission droning on a bit, especially with the transmission in sport mode.

How It Stacks Up

Given how many times it was brought up in Kia’s presentation, it’s pretty obvious that the new Forte has been benchmarked heavily against the Honda Civic Sedan. For that reason, let’s take a look below at how the two vehicles compare in terms of basic specs.

The 2018 Honda Civic Sedan makes 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque from its naturally aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine — that’s 11 hp and 6 lb-ft more than the Forte. Exterior dimensions are nearly identical. Inside, the Civic does offer slightly more passenger space, except for when it comes to rear seat legroom, in which the Forte offers over half an inch more. Still, the differences are hardly enough to matter outside of the spec sheets. Cargo room is equally similar: The Civic offers 15.1 cu ft. in the trunk, while the 2019 Forte offers 15.3. Finally, when it comes to fuel economy, the Civic has an overall rating of 32 mpg city, 42 mpg hwy and 36 mpg combined, besting the Forte by two miles per gallon in all categories.


In the end, the 2019 Kia Forte is a fine vehicle. Fine in the sense that it will neither offend nor excite while getting you from point A to point B in an orderly, efficient and comfortable fashion. But also fine in the sense that it offers a compelling, sporty design, uses seemingly high-quality materials and offers features — standard and available — that represent just about everything a person could ask for from a compact sedan in 2018, propelling the Forte to the forefront of the segment (at least for the time being). Prices start at $17,690 for base FE models, while top-of-the-line EX models come in at just under $22,000 before adding destination costs. Built in Monterrey, Mexico, the 2019 Kia Forte should be arriving on dealer lots as we speak.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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