SEATTLE — Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from the latest KIA Forte. This is, after all, a first experience with the model All I knew was that it is a compact sedan that’s primarily a competitor to the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, and Mazda 3. By today’s standards, it was easy to anticipate just another compact sedan that seemed to have no sense of character. Boy was I wrong.
The 2019 KIA Forte EX not only has character but it drives like a charm. The vehicles is loaded with tech and has an excellent interior design.
Starting with the engine, KIA slaps in 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine with a rated output of 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. Its IVT (Intelligent Variable Transmission) transmission is a new implementation of CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that doesn’t feel as dumbed-down as normal CVTs go.
Instead of using belts, the IVT utilizes chains for a different feel that comes across with a more traditional feel to it while in “sport mode”. For those who prefer a manual transmission, there is a six-speed manual available. However, the manual transmission does come with a lower fuel economy rating.
This engine and transmission combination is good for an EPA rating of 31mpg around town and up to 41mpg on the highway with a combined average of 35mpg. In my week with the car, achieving 35 was no sweat at all.
KIA has clearly adopted its stunning exterior design language from the Stinger into the Forte. It is easily the best looking sedan in its class. ‘
The front grill screams masculinity and its subtle roundness here and there bring a nice feminine touch. As an entirety, however, the overall design combines sporty, refinement and assertive in a unique way to KIA. This car is a head-turner for sure and that’s no doubt because it resembles a “baby Stinger”.
Our EX test model sports 17” alloy wheels with disc brakes all the way around. Stopping isn’t a problem with the Forte as the tires grip well and the brakes do an excellent job of making short-work out of stopping quickly.
Inside the Forte:
Step inside and you’d almost be certain you’re sitting in a German car. From the round air-vents to the way the climate controls are laid out in the center of the dash, one can easily see the influence their former Audi designer has brought to the table. Add the combination of soft-to-the-touch surfaces with some of the well-appointed plastic surfaces and you have the makings for an upscale look.
The gauges are very well laid out and easy for the driver to read and negotiate. KIA’s 8-inch, center-mounted display for the on-board navigation and infotainment center provides an ultra-responsive experience with nearly unnoticeable delay. While the mapping is starting to look dated, the overall system is pretty advanced for a car in this class.
Audio quality is good but not stellar unless you step up to the Harman/Kardon 320-watt system found in the “Launch Edition” package.
Legroom up front on the power-adjustable seats is more than exceptional for adults while the rear passenger legroom is ample for teens and even adults on rides under an hour or two.
On the road:
Driving the Forte in Sport Mode is actually quite fun. It does a great job of helping the IVT feel more normal and the steering wheel feel gets a bit more weighted. You’ll also find that in Sport Mode, the transmission will hold the gears a lot longer before shifting. Frankly, the only thing really missing here to complete the experience are some paddle shifters. Instead, if you want a manual shifting mode, you’ll have to use the shifter.
Going around hard corners at higher speeds is also rewarding as the car does a great job of remaining relatively flat around corners and there isn’t a great deal of understeer either, which is so typical of front-wheel-drive. Overall, KIA has done a brilliant job with the performance of the Forte.
With the low-end of the Forte starting at just above $17k, there’s certainly a Forte for most price-conscious consumers. Consumers who want a great performing car with stellar looks and a best-in-class warranty.
Talk to any auto-journalist about KIA and they’ll tell you that KIA has been firing on all cylinders. This latest Forte is yet another win for this exciting company.
Find out more at: www.kia.com