What it is: If you are aware of the Kia Stinger, the 365-horsepower rocket ship, the all-new Forte takes its design cues from the Stinger but not its fire-breathing, turbocharged engine. Aggressive styling with a minimalist trunk lid gives it a faux fastback look that really works well. The Forte is based on the newest Hyundai Elantra platform and all trim levels are equipped with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It’s available with either a six-speed manual transmission or Kia’s first ever CVT, which I actually quite enjoyed. I find the far majority of CVTs annoying at best, but Kia did a great job with this one. The engine and transmission have been tuned for efficiency and the results are huge fuel economy numbers: 30 city and 40 highway.
Kia is known for delivering great value, especially when it comes to options, and the Forte is no different. Four trim levels are offered, the FE ($17,790), LXS ($19,190), S ($20,290), and EX ($21,990). All models include an 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, a backup camera, and a suite of safety features like forward-collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, and lane-departure warning. It’s very impressive that they can deliver features like this on a sub $18,000 car.
My test model was a completely loaded-out EX trim, with special Snow White Pearl paint ($295) and the EX Launch Edition package ($3,210) that added navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio, power sunroof, 4.2-inch LCD cluster display, wireless phone charger, smart cruise control, LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, and more. The result was a borderline luxury experience, with all of the bells and whistles, for a price (including delivery) of $26,515.
Now, the 147-horsepower engine is not a screamer, but if you want to move up to something faster, then you are looking at a well-equipped Optima or an entry-level Stinger for $6,000 more. The interior is quiet even at highway speeds, and the great Harman Kardon audio system is a joy to listen to. The pearl paint is eye catching and the contrasting black body accents in the front and rear bumpers give the Forte a distinctive appearance. I didn’t have any complaints about the Forte after a week and a few hundred miles.
Price: $17,790 base price. $26,515 as-tested with destination charge.
Mileage: 34 combined/30 city/40 highway
Upsides: Immense value.
Downsides: Limited options on lower trims.
Wrap-up: Every generation cars are continuing to get better and the Forte is proof that that continues to be the case. I chastised Lexus a bit two weeks ago for not including many safety features in their cars as standard features, and here is a perfect example of saying, “Well Kia can, why can’t you?” With the pricing on new vehicles continuing to climb higher, I have to wonder if consumers will start to look more toward sedans again as you can get some truly stellar vehicles for under $20,000. The 2019 Forte is not a bad spot to start looking.