2019 Kia Forte EX Review

Affordable, fun, and stuffed to the gills with features


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handsome redesign mimics the Stinger, rife with tech and safety features, great standard equipment list, spacious trunk, more nimble than previous generation.
Negatives: Not as fun as the Mazda3 or Honda Civic, back seat is tight.
Bottom Line: The new Kia Forte sedan is a solid buy for a small sedan. Though it's not as fun to drive as some of the competition, it presents a great package thanks to the high level of amenities and safety tech, as well as an easy to use interior. The styling is better than ever, and so is the fuel efficiency.
The Kia Forte sedan is one of those vehicles that doesn't get enough love, and that's too bad. Kia has pumped a lot of effort into the little sedan, and now in its full redesign, it gets even better. Crafted to look like a small Stinger, the sheetmetal gets re-worked, and the inside gets redone, as well. The result is a more upscale looking Forte. We drove the top trim EX Launch Edition for a week to see how much the model has changed. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.4

 

Kia firmed things up a bit, and the result is a Forte sedan than drives better than ever. It doesn't mean you can nail the apexes like you can in the Mazda3, but it does provide a driving experience that won't bore you.

Ride Quality: Firmer than before but there's still plenty of compliance dialed into the suspension and chassis. It feels composed and comfortable.

Acceleration: The same 2.0-liter four is there with 147 horses, but it's mated to a CVT. It feels spritely, but 0-60 comes in an underwhelming 8.7 seconds. This thing needs a dual clutch automatic or a stick shift.

Braking: Excellent brakes exhibit great stopping power. Pedal progression is linear, and there are no dead or mushy spots.

Steering: There's no steering feel, and it's a bit numb at times. Though the effort increases, it feels artificial. At least it's responsive and precise, though.

Handling: The Forte can hold up well in turns, feeling balanced and exhibiting very little body roll. Don't push it too hard, though.

Technology

8.8

 

Kia is one brand tha tcontinues to do in-car tech remarkably well. Instead of making it look fancy, they make their systems easy to read and easy to use. There's also a lot of additional technology that's hard to find on more expensive cars, even as optional features.

Infotainment System: The 8" touchscreen is clear, and the menus simple to navigate. Voice command has limited command options, but it works well enough.

Controls: We like the continued presence of physical controls since generally they're easier to operate while driving. The Forte's infotainment buttons are in a single row below the screen, and audio knobs flank them, making them all easy to use and at the right height. The climate controls and steering wheel control are some of the best around.

Styling

8.7

 

We really like the Forte's looks, especially in the white Launch Edition. It's not overstyled like the current Honda Civic sedan, but it's not quite as fetching as the new Mazda3 or even the new Toyota Corolla sedan.

Front: The front end is upscale with a slick tiger nose grille and dramatically swept back headlights.

Rear: Taillights look similar to the Stinger's which is a high compliment. The slim shape with the internal light pattern is a nice look.

Profile: The side view shows similarity to the last generation VW Jetta. It keeps things clean and nicely contoured with a nice crease that runs from tip to tail.

Cabin: Kia manages to make a dark cabin look great. Materials are high quality, and the layout is excellent. More cars should look this good inside. It's the right amount of sportiness, and it prevents owners from getting bored with it.

Comfort

8.2

 

Though the Forte sedan isn't the roomiest in the segment, tall front passengers will be comfortable, while those in the rear will be challenged with legroom. Overall, the cabin is a good place to sit since Kia spends time making sure ergonomics and materials are very good for the price. Only the Mazda3 is head and shoulders above it.

Front Seats: Supportive and well-cushioned, you kind of forget about them since they do their job well enough.

Rear Seats: Legroom is tight, and the hard plastic seatbacks for the front seats make it a bit rough. But there's ample headroom and foot room.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): It's well-built with no errant noises except the small-displacement engine that thrums with the CVT.

Visibility: Visibility is good out the front and sides, and the seating position is also very good with the benefit of a good telescoping steering column. The back side porthole windows are too small, but the camera is excellent and makes up for the deficit.

Climate: The HVAC system works very well, as do the heated and cooled seats. Vents are also well sized, and it's nice to have rear seat vents at this price. No issues here.

Safety

9.5

 

It's hard to overstate the level of safety the Forte achieves. There are cars far more expensive that don't have this many features or score as well in crash tests.

IIHS Rating: It gets the Top Safety Pick+ award for getting "good" in every crash test, "good" headlights (in higher trims) and "superior" accident avoidance tech.

NHTSA Rating: It gets four out of five stars from the feds.

Standard Tech: The Forte EX gets a host of standard features such as Blind Spot Collision Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning.

Optional Tech: Our tester came packed with Forward Collision Avoidance Assist Pedestrian, Parking Distance Warning Reverse, Smart Cruise Control, and LED headlights with high beam assist.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

No small sedan is cavernous, but the Forte does remarkably well when it comes to small item storage and trunk space. It bests much of the competition.

Storage Space: Good door pockets, a large center stack cubby, capacious armrest, and big cupholders in the center console make for excellent spaces to store your daily gear.

Cargo Room: There's 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space, and the load floor is flat. Split folding rear seats open it up for even more gear.

Fuel Economy

8.6

 

Though we drove it mostly sport mode during our test drives, the Forte still came back with solid efficiency numbers. The naturally-aspirated four-banger makes good with its CVT when it come to gas mileage.

Observed: 28.5 mpg

Distance Driven: 141 miles

Audio

7.9

 

Our test car had the upgraded Harmon Kardon premium audio system that's packaged with safety tech for not insubstantial $3K+ price tag. It's a very good system with solid bass and clarity, but the higher volumes challenge it a bit. We think it's worth it to get the other features, and most owners will be happy with the sound quality.



Final Thoughts

Sedans are taking a beating, so automakers are either ditching them or improving them significantly, the latter of which is Kia's approach. It's hard to remember how ho-hum the Forte was three generations ago because this one just does about everything well. It's handsome, tech-savvy, easy to drive, and spacious. We're just waiting for the upgraded engine in the upcoming 2020 Forte GT, and we'll be pleased as punch. The Forte EX is still a great choice, a remarkable bargain, and an affordable sedan you can be proud to drive.
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