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2021 Kia Forte Review

The 2021 Kia Forte secures a spot near the top of our compact car rankings. It's comes loaded with safety and infotainment technology, it has a spacious cabin, and it delivers above-average fuel economy.

Pros & Cons

  • Lengthy standard features list
  • Roomy passenger and cargo areas
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Good fuel economy
  • Unresponsive CVT
  • Middling ride quality

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Kia Forte's #4 ranking is based on its score within the Compact Cars category. Currently the Kia Forte has a score of 8.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 16 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

8.2

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.3
Performance: 7.0
Interior: 7.8
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.5 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Kia Forte?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Kia Forte a Good Car?

Yes, the 2020 Forte is a good compact car. It has a roomy cabin with high-quality materials, adult-friendly seating, and a user-friendly infotainment system. This Kia also comes with a generous number of standard features, especially considering its low price point. Fuel economy is good in the base model, and a performance-enhanced Forte GT model is available.

There are some downsides, however, including a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that some reviewers find unresponsive. Additionally, the Forte’s firm ride can feel unsettled over imperfect roads.

Why You Can Trust Us: 16 Reviews Analyzed

To give you a complete overview of the 2021 Forte – and make your car-shopping experience easier – we analyzed 16 Kia Forte reviews alongside performance specs, interior dimensions, and more.

This 2021 Forte review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Kia Forte?

The Forte is a great value and a good choice in the compact car class. That said, there are other worthy contenders to consider. The Honda Civic delivers a better driving experience than the Forte, and the Hyundai Elantra has a slightly higher predicted reliability rating.

Find a 2021 Kia Forte for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Kia Forte: What's the Difference?

There are no major differences between the 2020 and 2021 Kia Forte.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Forte »

Here are the key changes for the Kia Forte over the last few years:

  • 2017: refreshed exterior styling; added several available active safety features; gained optional Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; improved fuel economy with base engine; Forte Koup discontinued
  • 2018: no major changes
  • 2019: fully redesigned with revamped interior and exterior styling, a standard 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and several newly standard safety features
  • 2020: GT and GT-Line trims joined lineup; S trim discontinued
  • 2021: no major changes

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Forte, 2019 Forte, and 2020 Forte reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Kia Forte Cost?

The base 2021 Kia Forte FE starts at $17,890, which is low for the class. The LXS trim starts at $19,390, while GT-Line and EX trims start at $20,490 and $23,090, respectively. The range-topping GT trim starts at $22,690.

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.

Kia Forte Versus the Competition

Kia Forte vs. Honda Civic

The Honda Civic doesn't have as many standard features as the Forte, and it costs a few thousand dollars more, yet it fares better in our compact car rankings. The Honda offers more powerful engine choices than the Kia, and its athletic handling makes it more engaging to drive. The Civic also has one of the nicest cabins in the class. If you want a refined driving experience and are willing to spend the additional money, the Civic is the better choice.

Compare the Forte and Civic »

Kia Forte vs. Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra has a lot going for it, including an above-average predicted reliability rating, a comfortable ride, and great fuel economy. However, the Forte is a more well-rounded vehicle and likely the better choice. It offers a longer list of standard features, including an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, and its starting price is roughly $1,000 less than the Elantra.

Compare the Forte and Elantra »

Compare the Forte, Civic, and Elantra »

Forte Interior: Roomy and Refined

Forte Cargo Space

The Kia Forte has 15.3 cubic feet of trunk space, which is one of the highest capacities in the compact car class. All models but the base trim come with split-folding rear seats, and a hands-free power liftgate is standard in the GT-Line and higher trims.

How Many People Does the Forte Seat?

The Kia Forte seats up to five people in two rows. The seats are cushioned, bolstered, and relatively spacious, which makes them comfortable to sit in for a long time. Plus, there's sufficient headroom for tall folks.

Forte and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The tether anchors are easy to find, but the lower anchors are set too deeply in the seats.

Forte Interior Quality

The Forte's cabin is filled with quality materials, especially in high-end models, and interior touches like circular air vents help it look stylish.

Forte Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

An infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen is standard. This system sits near the top of the center console and includes physical controls below the display for climate and audio settings. The interface is easy to see and reach from the driver’s seat, and controlling it is straightforward.

  • Standard infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, four speakers, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, and a USB port
  • Available infotainment features: navigation, satellite radio, HD Radio, two extra USB ports, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and wireless device charging
  • Additional standard features: remote keyless entry
  • Other available features: proximity keyless entry, push-button start, remote start, and a sunroof

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Forte Performance: Efficiency Gets Priority Over Agility

Forte Engine

Most Forte models feature a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 147 horsepower, which is enough for commuting around town. The base FE trim comes standard with a manual transmission, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available. All of the other models with this engine come standard with the CVT. The CVT isn't very refined, but it helps the Forte deliver good fuel economy.

If you want more pep, you’ll have to opt for the top-of-the-line GT trim, which comes with a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine can be paired with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission or an available six-speed manual.

Forte Gas Mileage

The base Forte with the manual transmission gets 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, which is good for the compact car class. Opting for a model with the CVT gets you an even better 31 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. The GT trim, the only model with the 1.6-liter engine, gets up to 27/35 mpg city/highway.

Forte Ride and Handling

The Forte's driving dynamics get mixed reviews. Some think its ride is fairly comfortable, while others say there's vague steering, and the firm suspension system creates a jarring ride over bumpy pavement. Front-wheel drive is standard.

Read more about performance »

Forte Reliability

Is the Kia Forte Reliable?

The 2021 Kia Forte has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Kia Forte Warranty

Kia offers one of the longest warranties among automakers. The 2021 Forte comes with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Forte Safety

Forte Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Kia Forte an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, with four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test. Notably, the NHTSA's side barrier rear passenger test revealed that there’s a higher likelihood of injury if there is an intrusion of the left rear door.

As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Forte. However, the IIHS gave the similar 2020 Forte the highest rating of Good in all six crash tests.

Forte Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Driver attention monitoring

Available advanced safety features:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane change assist
  • High-beam assist
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Adaptive cruise control

Read more about safety »

Forte Dimensions and Weight

The Forte is about 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 2,707 to 3,079 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Kia Forte Built?

Kia builds the 2021 Forte in South Korea and Mexico.

Which Kia Forte Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Kia Forte comes in five trims: FE, LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT. The first four trims come with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, while the top GT trim has a stronger turbocharged 201-horsepower four-cylinder. The base Forte FE is a solid pick for shoppers because it has lots of driver assistance and infotainment features.

The LXS trim comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and upgraded interior materials, while the GT-Line offers additional comfort, safety, and styling amenities. The EX trim adds even more comfort features. However, you’ll lose some of these amenities if you opt for the top-of-the-line GT trim, which comes with the more powerful engine and an upgraded suspension system.

Kia Forte FE

The FE trim (MSRP: $17,890) comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The CVT is available for $900. Standard features include an 8-inch touch screen, a four-speaker stereo, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, a USB ports, remote keyless entry, cloth upholstery, and six-way manually adjustable front seats. Several active safety features are also standard, including a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and driver attention monitoring.

Kia Forte LXS

The LXS trim starts at $19,390. It comes with the CVT, as well as upgraded interior materials, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, and alloy wheels. Remote start is an additional $495.

Kia Forte GT-Line

Starting at $20,490, the GT-Line is only available with the CVT. This trim features sport cloth seats with synthetic leather side bolstering and white contrast stitching. It also comes with a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, heated sideview mirrors, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, a hands-free power liftgate, fog lights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, a six-speaker stereo, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist.

You can add remote start for $495. The GT-Line Premium package is $1,700 and includes a sunroof, satellite radio, voice recognition, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, two extra USB ports, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat.

Kia Forte EX

The EX trim (MSRP: $23,090) comes only with the CVT. It does away with the GT-Line's unique styling, but it features synthetic leather-trimmed seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated and ventilated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, satellite radio, HD Radio, two extra USB ports, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and wireless device charging.

Remote start is an extra $495.

Kia Forte GT

The GT trim starts at $22,690 with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and $23,290 with the available six-speed manual. In addition to the stronger engine, the GT comes with a sport-tuned suspension, a dual-exhaust system, ambient lighting, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It also includes high-beam assist, LED projector headlights, a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, and unique styling, like sport cloth seats with synthetic leather side bolstering and red contrast stitching.

The Forte GT loses some of the EX trim's comfort features, like synthetic leather-trimmed seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat.

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 2021 Kia Forte specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Kia Forte excels at many things, which is why it's a top pick in the compact car class. Its cabin is refined, its standard features list is plentiful, and it gets good fuel economy. It also boasts spacious seating and a roomy trunk. However, the Forte is not particularly fun to drive due to a somewhat unresponsive CVT and a questionable ride quality.

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

  • "There are several great competitors, like the Honda Civic and Mazda3, but the Forte has its own strengths." -- Autotrader
  • "The Forte is a small car that you can show off because it doesn't give the impression of being an economy bargain pick. The strength of this car is that it's an affordable vehicle that doesn't make you feel as if you've compromised. But it also doesn't exhibit the same fun-to-drive dynamics that make the Civic and the Mazda 3 so rewarding to pilot." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "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 (2019)
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