The 2019 Kia Forte is all-new with greatly improved styling, a larger interior, and more room for cargo. Affordable compact sedans can be ho-hum vehicles. They’re the commuter cars that get the job done with a focus on fuel economy and affordability. Comfort and style, not to mention feature availability, aren’t the priority. The Kia Forte takes those assumptions and tosses them aside.
Let’s start with the design of the Forte. Those familiar with the sporty, performance-oriented Stinger will see similar design cues in the Forte. It mimics the Stinger’s fastback lines to make the Forte look sporty and attractive. It’s not the dull, milk toast design that often plagues compact sedans. The Forte looks good.
The new Forte is longer, wider, and taller with plenty of space for five passengers. Even the six-foot crowd won’t have a problem and will find plenty of room for their heads and knees in the rear seats. It is a snug fit for three passengers in back, but not one that requires the middle passenger be a contortionist.
The Forte’s larger size also gives it a larger trunk. There’s 15.3 cubic feet for cargo, so it can just as easily carry a week’s worth of groceries as a family’s luggage for a vacation getaway. This is a compact sedan that often doesn’t feel like one.
It’s also an attractive interior, especially in the top EX trim, which was our tester. Priced at $21,990, it includes leatherette seating surfaces, 10-way power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The interior of the Forte looks good and never once makes you think you’re in an affordable car that cut corners to keep the price down.
The standard infotainment system includes an 8-inch touchscreen with AM/FM/MP3, 4 speakers, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Yes, even the base trim gets that nice large screen. Top trims see the addition of UVO eServices, satellite radio, and a 6-speaker audio system with the option for navigation and further upgraded audio.
Our EX included the Launch Edition package ($3,210), which added a long list of features including navigation, 8-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system, power sunroof, wireless phone charger, forward collision avoidance assist, smart cruise control, and reverse parking distance warning. This brought our final price to $26,220. That’s quite an affordable price point for such a well equipped car.
Power for the Forte comes from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with the option for a 6-speed manual transmission on the base trim only. That’s not a huge amount of power, but it’s enough to keep the Forte from struggling on the highway.
The Forte isn’t a performance car, but it never feels underpowered, even under hard acceleration. It also offers crisp steering that help make the ride more enjoyable. What you sacrifice in power you gain in fuel economy and it’s a fair trade.
The 2019 Kia Forte with a manual transmission gets an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg combined. Those number rise to 30/40/34 with the continuously variable automatic. The Forte manages to be fuel efficient without being underpowered and boring.
The 2019 Kia Forte is an affordable compact sedan that offers great pricing combined with good fuel economy. That’s why people buy this kind of car in the first place. Where it excels is in delivering the features, style, and comfort you would expect in a more expensive car.