Kia’s entry into the compact sedan market, the Forte, is all-new for 2019. The new version is offered exclusively as a sedan and takes styling inspiration from the Stinger, Kia’s new rear-wheel-drive sport sedan. In a segment that is falling out of favor with consumers who are growing hungrier and hungrier for SUVs as the years go by, the updated Kia Forte is a bold new entry, and offers great value with regard to features and content. Overall, the new Forte is highly competitive in its segment, and is a great, affordable alternative to a more expensive compact SUV.
What’s New for 2019?
The Forte is all new for 2019, replacing the outgoing model, which dates back to 2014. See the 2019 Kia Forte models for sale near you
What We Like
- Quick steering
- Good value
- Great warranty
- Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Ventilated seats available on upper trims
What We Don’t
- Continuously variable transmission drones under acceleration
- Wobbly road manners
Every 2019 Forte makes use of the same 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder found in the outgoing model, and making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission is technically a 6-speed manual, but don’t expect to find many 3-pedal Fortes on dealer lots, as the majority will come spec’d with a continuously variable unit (CVT). The CVT is a $900 option on the base FE model, and standard on all other trims.
With the manual, the Forte returns 27 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg in combined driving. The automatic is actually more efficient, returning 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/34 mpg combined.
The 2019 Kia Forte received top scores in nearly every category of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, earning it a Top Safety Pick+ designation, the highest award. Every new Forte also comes with an array of standard driver-assistance safety features, including forward-collision warning, forward-collision avoidance, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and driver attention monitoring. Radar cruise control, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring with collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert are added once you move up in trim levels.
Standard Features & Options
The FE ($18,715) is the base model Forte and offers good standard features including an array of driver-assistance safety tech, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an 8.0-in infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, although the CVT found on other trims is available as a $900 option. Bluetooth connectivity and a 4-speaker audio system are also included.
The Forte LXS ($20,115) adds features starting with a standard CVT. Selectable drive modes and a 60/40 split folding rear seat are also included. The LXS also gains some additional styling elements not present on the base model, offering 16-in alloy wheels and gloss black bumper and grille accents.
In S ($21,215) guise, the Forte comes with 17-in wheels, fog lights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and a one-touch up-down driver’s window, along with satellite radio, voice recognition, and Kia’s UVO connectivity services. The S Premium package adds automatic high beams, a sunroof and LED headlights and interior lights.
The top-of-the line Forte EX ($22,915) gains a 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, passive keyless entry with push-button start, leatherette upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats, and a variety of USB ports.
Behind the Wheel
The Forte drives like your everyday compact sedan. Acceleration is fine, taking about 8.2 seconds to get from 0-to-60 mph. This isn’t as fast as the Honda Civic, which gets there in 6.8 seconds with its optional turbocharged engine, but it’s on par with competitors like the Volkswagen Jetta, and faster than its corporate sibling, the Hyundai Elantra. Upper trims also come with three different drive modes: Normal, Sport, and Smart, each of which adjusts the transmission’s calibration accordingly.
Steering is light and a bit twitchy, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if it weren’t for the vehicle’s sometimes wobbly-feeling underpinnings. Nonetheless, there’s nothing to really praise or criticize about the Forte’s driving dynamics, although Kia’s decision to use a CVT is a little disappointing, as the droning noise the transmission makes under hard acceleration can get a little annoying. That said, in day-to-day driving, the CVT is easy enough to ignore, and its shortcomings are likely outweighed by the benefits it offers with regard to fuel economy.
You won’t think you’re in a luxury car, but the Forte’s cabin is still nice. The different surfaces used — from matte to gloss plastic to brushed aluminum — all mesh well together and serve to elevate the experience. A large 8.0-in infotainment screen is standard as are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Hyundai Elantra — The Forte’s corporate cousin, the Elantra was last all-new for the 2017 model year and received a refresh for 2019. Available powertrains are similar to the Forte, although the Elantra offers a mild performance variant in the Sport model, which comes with a 201 hp turbocharged engine paired with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic.
2020 Toyota Corolla — The Toyota Corolla is all new for 2020 and offers a litany of standard active safety features along with Apple CarPlay, although Android Auto is still unavailable. The Corolla also offers an affordable Hybrid variant that returns 52 mpg in combined driving.
2019 Honda Civic — Honda durability and resale value are enticing, as are the Civic’s advantages with regard to power, acceleration and fuel economy. The Civic also offers sporty coupe and practical hatchback body styles.
2019 Kia Optima — If you want more space consider a Kia Optima. As an all-new version is due next year, buyers should be able to find a great deal on a 2019 model. A midsize sedan, the Optima will offer more room and greater refinement than the compact Forte, and is a good value proposition in 2019.
If you’re looking for a simple, affordable and economical compact car, the Forte is a great option. Thanks to its redesign, the Forte offers sleek new styling and should feel new for years to come. It also offers all of the safety features buyers want in a modern vehicle. Its powertrain is competent, if a little uninspired, and the including of standard dual-zone automatic climate control and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay should be seen is a plus. Altogether, the Forte is competitive, and is worth a test drive in your search for a new compact sedan. Find a Kia Forte for sale