The Kia Forte compact sedan was all-new for the 2019 model year. The new version is offered exclusively as a sedan and takes styling inspiration from the Stinger, Kia’s rear-wheel-drive sports 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 recently updated Kia Forte is a bold 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 2020?
Sporty new GT variants have been added to the Forte’s model range for 2020. These include the GT with a more powerful turbocharged engine and a sporty appearance package inside and out and the GT Line, which keeps the base engine but adopts the styling cues of the GT. Also, the S trim has been dropped for 2020. See the 2020 Kia Forte models for sale near you
What We Like
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Ventilated seats available on upper trims
Exciting turbocharged GT model
What We Don’t
Continuously variable transmission drones under acceleration
Wobbly road manners
The base engine in the 2020 Forte is a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four 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 optioned with a continuously variable unit (CVT). The CVT is a $900 option on the base FE model, and standard on all other trims but the GT.
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 31 mpg city/41 mpg hwy/35 mpg combined in the FE model and 29 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/33 mpg combined in every other Forte with the base engine.
The Forte GT is new for 2020 and packs a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four engine under the hood making 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission in the GT is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and a 6-speed manual is available as a $600 option.
The turbocharged GT comes with a fuel economy penalty compared to the base engine, but it’s still pretty efficient. The Forte GT returns 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined with the automatic transmission and 25 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined with the manual.
The 2020 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. Adaptive 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 ($17,790) is the base model Forte and offers good standard features including an array of driver-assistance safety tech including forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and a driver attention and drowsiness monitor. You also get air conditioning, cruise control, and an 8.0-in infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. A 6-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 ($19,190) 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, a chrome exhaust tip, and gloss black bumper and grille accents.
Upgrade to the new Forte GT-Line ($20,390) and you get a few more features plus a sporty appearance package inspired by the higher-performance GT model. This includes a sport grille and side sills, black gloss exterior accents, a rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, LED daytime running lights and taillights, sport seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel both with contrast stitching, and a leather-wrapped shifter. Other features of the GT-Line include 6-speaker audio, perimeter approach lighting, a rear center armrest with cup holders, auto-up/down driver’s window, blind-spot collision warning, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and push-button start.
If you want a little extra luxury in the GT-Line model, you can get the GT-Line Premium Package ($1,500) which adds a power sunroof, SiriusXM, Harman Kardon premium audio, two USB ports, wireless charging, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, and LED interior lighting.
The well-appointed Forte EX ($21,990) loses the GT-Line’s appearance package and gains a 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leatherette seating, heated and ventilated front seats, rear A/C vents, two USB ports, dual-zone automatic climate control, SiriusXM, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and some tasteful chrome exterior trim.
Finally, there’s the all-new Forte GT ($22,290), which ups the performance with the aforementioned turbocharged engine and a standard DCT automatic transmission or an available 6-speed manual for an extra $600. Other performance upgrades include fully independent front and rear suspension plus bigger front disc brakes and thicker sway bars. The GT obviously has the sporty appearance package you just read about on the GT-Line trim plus several other features including a high-flow active dual-exit exhaust with chrome finishers, LED auto-leveling headlights, high beam assist, red stitching in the flat-bottom steering wheel and sport seats, GT ambient lighting, and GT-specific 18-in 2-tone alloy wheels.
If you want the sportiest and nicest Kia Forte ever built, you can upgrade to the GT2 package ($2,200), which is an option on the Forte GT with the DCT, but not the manual. GT2 adds Harman Kardon premium audio, a power sunroof, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, blind-spot warning, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, rear parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless charging, a front center sliding armrest, and LED interior lighting.
Also optional on the GT with either transmission is Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires for an extra $200.
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.
Obviously, upgrading to the new Forte GT is an upgrade to the driving experience. The newly available turbocharged engine in the Forte brings this Kia’s performance up to par with the Honda Civic Si, at least on paper. The Forte GT is a big performance improvement over the base engine and is one that’s worth a test drive for an enthusiast who needs a practical, affordable car.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Hyundai Elantra — The Forte’s corporate cousin, the Elantra, was last all-new for the 2017 model year and received a refresh in 2019. Available powertrains are similar to the Forte including the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.
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.
2020 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.
2020 Kia Soul — If you like the idea of the Forte, but would rather have it in the form of a funky hatchback, that’s basically what the Kia Soul is. The Soul is all-new for 2020 and it has the exact same engine options as the 2020 Forte, but you can’t get the turbo engine mated to a manual transmission in a Soul.
If you’re looking for a simple, affordable and economical compact car, the Forte is a great option. Thanks to its recent redesign, the Forte offers sleek, modern styling and should feel new for years to come. It also offers all of the safety features buyers want in a modern vehicle. Its base powertrain is competent, if a little uninspired, and the inclusion of standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay should be seen is a plus. We’re excited about the all-new GT model, which looks great and is satisfying to drive while still being quite affordable. 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