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2021 Honda Civic vs. 2021 Kia Forte: Which Is Better?

Perennial best-buy winner the 2021 Honda Civic goes up against the well-equipped, bargain-priced 2021 Kia Forte. Each makes a compelling compact sedan, but which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Both the Civic and the Forte are small on the outside but roomy on the inside.
  • 2021 Kia Forte comes with a class-leading warranty.
  • 2020 Honda Civic comes as a sedan or a hatchback..

2021 Honda Civic

2021 Honda Civic sedan

Base price: $19,990 / Read our 2021 Honda Civic review

What we like: Reliability; high resale value; choice of sedan or hatchback body; choice of engines.

What we would change: Add Apple CarPlay/Android Auto standard; offer a hybrid; bring back the sporty Si variant.

Overview: A consistent top seller and for very good reason, the 2021 Honda Civic boasts excellent build quality, a rock-solid reputation for reliability, and subsequent high resale values. For 2021, the Civic is offered as either a hatchback or a sedan, with a choice of a naturally aspirated or turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The coupe has been dropped for this model year, as is the sporty Si variant. But the Civic is still fun to drive, with some trims even offering a very enjoyable 6-speed manual. All 2021 Civics come with the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver aids, although base models do not include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. Inside the Civic is surprisingly roomy, with good rear-seat legroom and a usable 15.1-cubic-foot trunk. For those in need of more cargo space, the hatchback offers 25.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats that expands to 46.2 with all seats folded. Resale values are always good, and the Civic is a consistent Kelley Blue Book Best Buy award winner.

What’s new for 2021: Given that there will be a full redesign for 2022, not a great deal changes for this year. The Civic coupe, never a big seller, has been discontinued, and there’s no Civic Si available for 2021 either.

Features and technology: With a choice of either a sedan or hatchback body style and two engine choices, the 2021 Honda Civic comes in a whopping eight different trim levels. The base LX trim of the sedan includes the base engine, while the hatchback is powered by the 1.5-liter turbo. All trims come with the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver aids that include forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. The LX sedan adds 16-inch wheels, automatic climate control, and LED running lights. The infotainment system is a 5-inch color screen with Bluetooth and a USB port. The hatchback adds split-folding rear seats.

Next up is the Sport, which adds a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 18-inch wheels, and keyless entry and ignition. The Sport hatchback adds a 6-speed manual, an underbody spoiler kit, and dual exhausts. With the EX come bigger wheels, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats. Next up is the EX-L, which adds leather upholstery and a self-dimming mirror. Above that, the Civic Touring sedan includes a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, a navigation system, and heated rear seats. The top Sport Touring hatchback brings a 6-speed manual, LED headlights, and a 540-watt, 12-speaker audio system.

What does the future hold: The Civic will be fully redesigned for 2022. Find a 2021 Honda Civic for sale 

2021 Kia Forte

2021 Kia Forte
Base price: $18,855 / Read our 2021 Kia Forte review  

What we like: Roominess; impressive number of standard features; good CVT; class-leading warranty.

What we would change: Improve the looks; replace some plastic with more soft-touch surfaces; improve reliability.

Overview: Just because a car is an entry-level compact sedan, does not mean it needs to be dull, particularly in this very competitive segment, and the 2021 Kia Forte presents a compelling case for itself, with a roomy interior, ample standard features list, a choice of transmissions, and even an uplevel GT trim that brings a turbocharged engine and a more sophisticated suspension. If anything, the Kia’s exterior is not the most exciting thing, but the interior, aside from some hard plastics, is perfectly pleasant and amply equipped. The Kia comes with a manual, but there’s also a CVT that is surprisingly good at mimicking the shifts of an automatic. While resale values have not been strong, buyers can at least take some solace from Kia’s class-leading warranty.

What’s new for 2021: For 2021, most of the changes to the Kia Forte involve equipment being added to different trim levels. For example, the EX trim now includes a powered sunroof, wireless charging, and the Harman Kardon upgrade stereo system. It also gets Uvo telematics through a smartphone app, which can set cabin temperature, or dial roadside assistance and 911. The GT trim with an automatic transmission now gains blind-spot monitoring, and models with a manual transmission get Michelin summer tires. The GT Line Premium also includes a power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Features and technology: The 2021 Kia Forte is offered in five different trim levels, although the basic trim is impressively equipped. Prices range up to $23,655 for the GT with an automatic. Most noticeably, every Forte includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. There’s also a fair amount of active safety equipment, including forward-collision mitigation, lane-keeping assistance, and driver attention monitoring. It also has an adjustable steering wheel, 6-way manually adjustable front seats, A/C, a USB port, Bluetooth, and a 4-speaker audio system. The next LXS trim includes different wheels and the CVT, plus some nicer plastics and split-folding seats.

The GT Line adds 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 6-speaker stereo. The GT Line Premium includes the 8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, two USB ports, wireless charging, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The EX adds even more features, and there’s also a GT2 package for the GT trim that includes Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires and a more sophisticated transmission.

What does the future hold: As the tweaks for 2021 mostly include upgrades to packages, we expect more of the same. We would like to see more soft-touch surfaces across the model range, however. Find a 2021 Kia Forte for sale

Civic vs. Forte: Strengths comparison

Civic Benefits: Outstanding reliability; high resale value; sedan or hatchback body style.

Forte Benefits: Much lower price; longer warranty; more standard equipment.

2021 Honda Civic vs. 2021 Kia Forte: Which is better?

Shoppers must always decide what they’re willing to pay for, and if money is really an object, then there’s nothing wrong with the 2021 Kia Forte. It’s roomy, comes with a choice of engines, and is nicely loaded. But there’s a reason the 2021 Honda Civic is a consistent  top seller, at the top of so many best buy lists. It’s absolutely reliable and solid, kind of  sporty to drive, offers great safety features and a couple body styles, and after 10 generations, every detail has been obsessed over and perfected. It’s the winner. Find a 2021 Honda Civic for sale or Find a 2021 Kia Forte for sale

2021 Honda Civic 2021 Kia Forte
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter I4 2.0-liter I4
Horsepower 158 hp @ 6,500 rpm 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 138 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable 6-spd manual
Fuel Economy 33 mpg (30 city/38 hwy) 31 mpg (27 city/37 hwy)
Also Available 1.5-liter turbocharged I4; 6-spd manual CVT; 1.6-liter turbocharged I4; 7-spd automatic
Basic warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 4 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 106.3 inches 106.3 inches
Overall Length 182.7 inches 182.7 inches
Width 70.9 inches 70.9 inches
Height 55.7 inches 56.5 inches
Turning Diameter 35.4 feet 34.8 feet
Headroom, Front 39.3 inches 38.8 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.1 inches 37.5 inches
Legroom, Front 42.3 inches 42.2 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.4 inches 35.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.0 inches 56.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.0 inches 55.3 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 97.8 cubic feet 96.0 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 15.1 cubic feet 15.3 cubic feet

Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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