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MSRP: $17,790 - 21,990

8.4

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.3
Performance: 7.1
Interior: 7.7
Safety: 9.5
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2019 Kia Forte Review

Following a complete redesign, the 2019 Kia Forte earns a spot near the top of our compact car rankings. This small sedan brings a lot to the table, including a spacious cabin and trunk, easy-to-use technology, good fuel economy, and a high safety score.

Pros & Cons

  • Cavernous trunk volume
  • User-friendly technology
  • Plenty of rear legroom
  • Good fuel economy
  • So-so engine power
  • Slightly stiff ride quality

Is the Kia Forte a Good Car?

Yes, the 2019 Forte is a great compact car, but with its middling engine and so-so ride quality, the Forte doesn't have the most exciting performance. Still, the Forte compensates with great gas mileage and a terrific interior.

The Forte's cabin looks great and features upscale materials, and its front seats are comfortable and supportive. This Kia has one of the largest trunks in the class, and the sedan's long standard features list is headlined by a user-friendly infotainment system. To top things off, the Forte has good safety and predicted reliability ratings. All of these reasons are why the Forte was a finalist for our 2019 Best Compact Car for the Money award.

Should I Buy the Kia Forte?

The Forte is one of the best values in the class. Its base price of around $17,700 makes it less expensive than most rivals, and it includes a lot of standard amenities. That includes infotainment technology like a touch-screen system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, as well as active safety features like lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and driver attention monitoring. You would spend thousands of dollars more to equip a car like the Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra with those features. However, both of these cars are also available as hatchbacks, which deliver more cargo space than the Forte sedan.

Compare the Forte, Civic, and Elantra »

Should I Buy a New or Used Kia Forte?

Kia fully redesigned the Forte for the 2019 model year. Although you can save lots of money by going with an older model instead of a new Forte, you'll miss out on the benefits of the redesign. These include revamped interior and exterior styling as well as a standard touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The 2019 Forte has a longer wheelbase than the previous generation, which results in increased rear legroom and more cargo space. However, this new generation does away with the hatchback Forte5 model. The only available engine in the 2019 Forte is the base offering from the 2018 model. It has the same amount of power as the outgoing model, but a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available for the first time.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Forte »

We Did the Research for You: 20 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 20 Kia Forte car reviews – along with lots of other data – to help you decide if the 2019 Forte is the right new car for you.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined automotive industry experience. To remain objective, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside team manages the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Kia Forte Cost?

The 2019 Kia Forte starts at $17,690, which is one of the lower base prices in this affordable class. The base model comes with a six-speed manual transmission; an optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available for $900. All higher trims come standard with the CVT. Midrange models in the lineup start at $19,090 and $20,190, respectively. The range-topping Forte EX starts at $21,990, and it goes up to around $25,700 when you add some major options and packages.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

Kia Forte Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Kia Forte or Honda Civic?

Both the Honda Civic and Forte earn lots of critical praise, but the Forte is the better value in base form thanks to a lower starting price and heaps of standard infotainment and advanced safety amenities. You'll pay a lot more to get a Civic with a touch-screen infotainment system that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Even then, the Civic's interface can be tricky to use, while the Forte's system is more intuitive. Additionally, the Forte has a better predicted reliability rating. The Honda takes the cake in performance, however. Even the Civic's base engine is peppy, and there are other higher-performance options available. The Civic has athletic handling and well-weighted steering, along with a comfortable ride. Choosing between these two may just come down to whether you want more amenities at a cheaper price with the Forte or better overall performance with the Civic.

Which Is Better: Kia Forte or Hyundai Elantra?

The Hyundai Elantra is a good car, but it doesn't stack up as well against the Forte. The Elantra has one of the lower base prices in the segment, but it's not as low as the Forte's. The Forte offers more cargo space and rear legroom than the Elantra. Both cars have the same standard 147-horsepower engine, but the Elantra offers a choice of a fuel-efficient turbocharged engine in Eco models or more powerful four-cylinders in Sport and GT models. Both are good compact cars, but a lower rating from professional critics hurts the Elantra in our rankings.

Compare the Forte, Civic, and Elantra »

Forte Interior

How Many People Does the Forte Seat?

The Kia Forte seats five people. The front seats are well-bolstered to keep you comfortable and supported on long drives. Back-seat space is average for a compact sedan. Three people will be a tight fit, but two adults should have enough room to sit comfortably.

This Kia comes standard with cloth seats and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. To get more comfort amenities, you'll have to upgrade to the highest trim level, which comes with leatherette upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and heated and ventilated front seats. Critics singled out the seat ventilation for its efficiency and ability to keep you cool when it's hot out.

Forte and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of rear-seat LATCH connections in the Forte, as well as a third tether anchor for the middle seat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the system the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use, as some of the lower anchors are set deep in the seats. 

Forte Interior Quality

The base model Forte features lots of hard plastics and so-so surfaces, which reflects in its below-average MSRP. Higher trim levels boast soft-touch door panels and dashboard coverings that give the Forte a more premium feel than many of its rivals. Only the top model includes leatherette upholstery, which feels a lot like the real thing and contributes to an upscale atmosphere.

Forte Cargo Space

At 15.3 cubic feet, the 2019 Forte has one of the largest trunks in its class. That bests the Honda Civic sedan (15.1 cubic feet) and the Hyundai Elantra sedan (14.4 cubic feet). However, both of those rivals are available in hatchback versions that offer around 25 cubic feet with the back seat up and lots more room with the back seat folded down. Speaking of folding things down, the Forte comes with a split-folding rear seat in all models but the base trim. Also optional is a hands-free power trunk, which pops open when you stand behind the car with the smart key on your person.

Forte Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The 2019 Forte offers a ton of standard features, including an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The touch screen sits high on the dash, within easy view of the driver. There are clearly labeled physical buttons and knobs to adjust audio and cabin climate settings. The infotainment system processes commands quickly, though some critics gripe that the navigation system's map reverts to a wider view after you zoom in.

Read more about interior »

Forte Performance

Forte Engine: Take It or Leave It

All 2019 Forte models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. The base model's powertrain features a six-speed manual transmission, while a continuously variable automatic transmission is optional in that trim and standard in higher models. Dubbed the Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), this is Kia's first attempt at a CVT; critics praise its responsiveness.

You'll want some time in the driver’s seat to see if you can live with the Forte's engine power. Reviews of its performance range from downright slow to merely adequate, and some even think it’s surprisingly good. If you do most of your driving around town or at low speeds, it should be sufficient. You may have to hit the gas a little harder to pull away quickly from a stop or to get up to highway speeds, though.

Forte Gas Mileage: Fuel Sipper

With the standard manual transmission, the Forte returns fuel economy ratings of 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. It gets up to 31 mpg city and 41 mpg highway with the CVT. Those numbers are similar to what the Honda Civic offers with its base engine and each transmission choice, but the Forte does a little better than the Hyundai Elantra in all those considerations.

Forte Ride and Handling: A Mixed Bag

There's not a lot that sticks out – good or bad – when talking about the Forte's handling. It's easy enough to throw into a turn, and body lean is moderate. The suspension is a little stiffer than what you'll find in other compact cars. That means you'll feel larger bumps and imperfections in the road, but the ride quality is comfortable enough for daily driving. The brakes are firm, consistent, and they deliver confident stopping power.

Read more about performance »

Forte Reliability

Is the Kia Forte Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2019 Kia Forte an above-average predicted reliability rating of four out of five.

Kia Forte Warranty

Kia covers the Forte with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. That's among the best coverage you can get from any automaker.

Read more about reliability »

Forte Safety

Forte Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names the 2019 Forte a Top Safety Pick+, giving it the highest rating of Good in every area crash test category and a Superior rating for front crash prevention, when properly equipped.

Forte Safety Features

The 2019 Forte comes with a good amount of standard safety technology. Along with a rearview camera, you'll get lane departure warning, lane keep assist, a driver attention and drowsiness monitor, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

To get most of the other driver assistance features in the Forte, you'll have to upgrade to the highest trim, and in some cases, purchase an additional package. These optional amenities include adaptive LED headlights, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, reverse parking sensors, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

Read more about safety »

Which Kia Forte Model Is Right for Me?

The 2019 Kia Forte is available in four trims: FE, LXS, S, and EX. All models have a four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The base Forte comes standard with a manual transmission, and an automatic is optional. Higher trims only come with the automatic transmission.

If you're on a budget, the base Forte is a good choice thanks to its standard touch-screen infotainment system and smartphone integration. It also comes outfitted with a fair amount of advanced safety technologies. There aren't a lot of advantages to either of the middle two trims, so if you're going to upgrade, you should go all the way up to the Forte EX. It still retails for under $22,000, and you'll get leatherette seats, heated and ventilated front seats, more USB ports, and additional driver assistance features. With this trim, you can also add a singular package for a few thousand dollars that makes the car essentially fully loaded.

Kia Forte FE

The 2019 Kia Forte starts at $17,690 and comes with a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional for $900. Standard features include cloth seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with a four-speaker stereo, a USB port, Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. The Forte's standard driver assistance and active safety features include a rearview camera, driver attention monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. 

Kia Forte LXS

The Forte LXS starts at $19,090. It comes with the CVT, alloy wheels, and a split-folding rear seat. Remote start is optional for $495.

Kia Forte S

For $20,190, the Forte S adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a six-speaker stereo, satellite radio, and voice recognition. The S Premium package ($1,200) includes a sunroof, LED headlights, adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, and LED interior lighting. 

Kia Forte EX

The top-of-the-line Forte EX retails for $21,990 and comes with leatherette upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated and ventilated front seats, proximity key entry, push-button start, two additional USB ports, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Most optional features are found in the EX Launch Edition package ($3,120), including LED headlights, navigation, HD Radio, a seven-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo, wireless phone charging, a sunroof, and a spoiler. Driver assistance features in this package include adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, reverse parking sensors, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

See 2019 Kia Forte specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2019 Kia Forte is one of the better values in this class because it's practical and fuel-efficient and has a lower starting price than many competitors. But it isn't just a value pick; this Kia boasts one of the nicer interiors in the class. It's spacious, comfortable, and attractive, making it easy to see why the Forte finishes near the top of our compact car rankings. Performance enthusiasts may want to opt for a sportier rival, but everyone else should take a look at the Kia Forte.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Kia put forth a solid effort with the new Forte. It's refreshing to see this at a time when many others are treating sedans as second fiddle to their crossover lineups. There's no doubt that the Forte is still in its weird happy medium of not necessarily being the best at one particular thing. At the same time though, this complete redesign brings it dangerously close to the top of its commuter car competition." -- Autoweek
  • "In short, the Kia Forte has grown up. It’s more refined and sportier, while boasting more tech. It’s also more fuel efficient. And in addition to having a generous amount of safety and infotainment technology, the new Forte has been made more attractive with some styling cues taken from the Kia Stinger sport sedan." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On top of its value proposition, its combination of style, respectable handling, excellent ride comfort and tech position the new Forte well to play to wide audience. Nobody should be surprised if it continues to be Kia's best seller." -- CNET

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 11, 2019

Steady Sales: Sales of the Kia Forte currently place in the upper half of the compact car class, but so far in 2019, sales have been constant relative to the same span last year.

Research more buying advice »
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