2018 Kia Forte

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MSRP: $16,800 - 26,100

2018 Kia Forte Review

The 2018 Kia Forte has one of the best interiors in the class, and despite the Forte's middling performance, it ranks in the top half of the compact car class.




Critics' Rating: 8.6
Performance: 7.5
Interior: 8.6
Safety: 9.3
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Well-built interior
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Roomy seats
  • Good cargo capacity
  • Underpowered engines
  • Dull handling

Is the Kia Forte a Good Car?

The Kia Forte is a good compact car, but it has its faults. With uninspiring handling and weak engine options, the Forte’s performance leaves a lot to be desired. While you might expect cars with muted performance to be hyper-fuel-efficient, the Forte’s fuel economy ratings are just average.

When it comes to interior quality, however, the Forte is hard to beat. Its quiet cabin is awash with more soft-touch materials than nearly every competitor. Also, Kia's infotainment system is one of the most user-friendly on the market. Both rows of seats offer roomy accommodations, which is impressive for a compact car. Trunk space is also above average.

Should I Buy the Kia Forte?

The Forte is an excellent choice for those who value interior comfort, great predicted reliability, and a lengthy warranty. Even if these aren’t your priorities, the Forte is worth a look. Its below-average price and rich interior make it a solid value overall.

Despite its many accolades, the Forte finishes in the middle of the compact car class, which is an indication of how competitive this segment is. It's never a bad idea to comparison shop when making a major purchase. With that in mind, the Hyundai Elantra and the Forte are similar in many ways, while the Mazda3 is one of your best options if you prioritize performance.

Compare the Forte, Elantra, and Mazda3 »

Should I Buy a New or Used Kia Forte?

The Kia Forte saw no major changes for the 2018 model year. If you're open to driving a used Forte, consider a used 2017 model. It is identical to the 2018 model, and it could save you thousands of dollars over a new Kia Forte. For 2017, the Forte received a significant refresh, making it a better choice than other models in this generation (which started with the 2014 model). The refresh included an updated exterior design and a new 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine. Also, several features became available in the Forte for the first time, including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

To research some other models in this generation, check out our full reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Kia Forte. If you decide an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page for savings and incentives on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Kia Forte »
We Did the Research for You: 40 Reviews Analyzed

Our car reviews include everything you need to know before heading to the dealership. We combine the opinions of the automotive press with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability ratings to form a complete picture of every vehicle we rank. This 2018 Kia Forte review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which spans the 2016 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Kia Forte Cost?

The base Kia Forte has a starting price of a little under $17,000, making it one of the least expensive compact cars on the market. The Forte5 hatchback also has a below-average starting price – just over $18,000. There are multiple higher trims in each body style. The most expensive Forte model, which is the Forte5 SX, has a starting price of around $24,000. Not only is that less than many class rivals’ top trims, it’s even less than a few competitors’ base prices.

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

Which Is Better: Kia Forte or Hyundai Elantra?

The Hyundai Elantra and the Forte are neck-and-neck in our rankings, and they have similar prices. Both cars come evenly equipped and offer sedan and hatchback versions. There’s ample rear-seat space in both cars, but the Forte has more trunk capacity in either body style. Performance is kind of a dud with both the Elantra and the Forte. Each model has several engine choices, but none are particularly powerful. Still, the Elantra has a smoother ride, and its Eco trim is more fuel-efficient than any Forte configuration. You can’t go wrong with either car.

Which Is Better: Kia Forte or Mazda3? 

The Mazda3 is a class leader when it comes to performance. Its athletic, fun-to-drive nature blows away the Forte’s drab road manners. The Mazda3 enthusiastically takes on winding roads and quick corners while maintaining a comfortable ride. It also comes with more standard features than the Forte, including a rearview camera, push-button start, and a second USB port. The Forte has the edge in some categories, though. It offers more rear legroom and more cargo space in both sedan and hatchback body styles. It's also a good value; it costs less, comes with a longer warranty, and features a higher predicted reliability rating. These two cars are similar in terms of overall quality. Choose the Mazda3 if you prioritize an enjoyable driving experience; get the Forte if you favor practicality.

Compare the Forte, Elantra, and Mazda3 »

Forte Interior

How Many People Does the Forte Seat?

This Kia seats five people, and unlike some compacts, there aren’t really any bad seats in this car. The seats are well-padded in both rows, and there’s plenty of legroom. Taller people may wish for more headroom, however.

Forte and Car Seats

There are two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors. The system is generally easy to use; the only real complaint is that the lower anchors are set deep in the seat.

Forte Interior Quality

Climb inside the Forte, and you’ll find arguably the nicest cabin in the compact car class. It’s quiet and attractive, and it has more high-quality materials than most rivals.

Forte Cargo Space

The Forte makes a better cargo hauler than some other compacts. Sedan models have nearly 15 cubic feet of trunk space, which is enough room for more than 10 grocery bags. Hatchback models have over 23 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, which is room enough to pile in a cooler and some beach chairs.

Fold the hatchback’s rear seats down, and you have more than 56 cubic feet of room. That’s enough space to haul larger outdoor gear or a full stock of tailgating supplies.

Forte Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Forte comes standard with Bluetooth, a four-speaker stereo, satellite radio, and a USB port. Available features include a six-speaker stereo, a sunroof, navigation, and the UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The UVO infotainment system highlights the features list, and it’s definitely worth adding to your Forte. The interface is simple to master, and the touch screen is responsive and easy to see and use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make it easy to connect your smartphone, and they are not features that every compact car offers. For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Forte Performance

Forte Engine: 3 Four-Cylinder Choices

The Forte’s base engine is a 147-horsepower four-cylinder. A 164-horsepower four-cylinder is available. These engines are largely similar in terms of on-road performance. Both are fine for driving around town, but you’ll probably wish for more power on the highway. The Forte5 is available with a 201-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers better acceleration but still doesn’t feel especially sporty.

Forte Gas Mileage: Firmly Middle-of-the-Pack

The Forte’s fuel economy varies significantly depending on which engine and transmission you choose. The best numbers (which are still average for the class) come with the base engine and the automatic transmission: 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The model with the lowest EPA-rated fuel economy is the Forte5 with a manual transmission, which gets 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.

You’ll spend about the same amount of money on gas each year driving the Forte as you would with rivals like the Hyundai Elantra or Mazda3.

Forte Ride and Handling: Keep Your Expectations Low

The Forte’s ride is fine over most road surfaces, and it has decent handling on winding roads. However, it lacks the sporty feel of rivals like the Mazda3, meaning this isn’t the car for people who want to have fun behind the wheel. A couple Forte models come with a sport-tuned suspension.

Read more about performance »

Forte Reliability

Is the Kia Forte Reliable?

The 2018 Kia Forte has a predicted reliability rating of four out of five from J.D. Power. That’s a good rating overall (three is an average rating for all vehicles), and it’s a better rating than many other compact cars earn.

Kia Forte Warranty

Kia covers the Forte with a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. That’s one of the best warranties you can get with any car on the road.

Read more about reliability »

Forte Safety

Forte Crash Test Results

The 2018 Kia Forte earns a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It earns five out of five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests. At the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Forte earned the top score of Good in five crash tests and a rating of Acceptable in the passenger-side small overlap test. The Forte also received a Superior rating for its front crash prevention technology and a score of Good for headlight performance. As such, the IIHS names the Forte a 2018 Top Safety Pick+.

Forte Safety Features

The Forte doesn’t have any standard active safety features, but it’s available with a rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane change assist, and forward collision warning.

Read more about safety »

Which Kia Forte Model Is Right for Me?

When buying a Kia Forte, you have a choice between two models: the sedan, which is just called the Forte, and the hatchback, which is known as the Forte5. Each comes in three trims, and two of the trims are the same in each body style.

When buying the sedan, the Forte EX is the way to go. It’s reasonably priced and has a lot of features for a compact car. If your budget is a little tighter, the Forte S isn’t a bad second choice, as it still offers some nice tech features. Just note it doesn’t have as many comfort features as the EX. Either way, you’ll want to step up from the base Forte LX, which offers few features of note.

Hatchback shoppers have a tougher decision. The base Forte5 LX offers just enough features to be interesting, but it’s not the best choice. That title belongs to either the Forte5 EX or the Forte5 SX. These two have nearly identical features lists, but the SX is a bit more energetic because it comes with a more powerful turbocharged engine. Still, since the Forte isn’t that sporty any way you slice it, the Forte5 EX is probably the best value for hatchback buyers.

Kia Forte LX

The Forte LX has a base price of $16,800. It comes standard with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, Bluetooth, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a four-speaker stereo, satellite radio, and a USB port. About the only upgrade the LX offers is a six-speed automatic transmission, which you can add for $1,100.

The Forte5 LX has a starting price of $18,300. This model comes with a 164-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and power-folding outside mirrors. It’s available with the LX Popular Plus package ($2,000), which includes a rearview camera and the UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Kia Forte S

The Forte S starts at $19,400. The S trim is only offered as a sedan. In addition to the LX sedan’s features, the S comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, a rearview camera, and the UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The Forte S offers the S Technology Plus package ($1,700), which adds a sunroof and several driver assistance features, such as blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and more.

Kia Forte EX

The Forte EX has a starting price of $21,700. The EX sedan comes with a 164-horsepower four-cylinder engine, leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and a rear cross traffic alert. The EX Premium Plus package ($3,900) adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, navigation, HD Radio, a sunroof, and several driver assistance features.

The Forte5 EX starts at $22,200. It comes with the Forte5 LX’s features plus leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rearview camera, and the UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The EX Premium Technology package ($3,600) adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, navigation, HD Radio, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and several driver assistance features.

Kia Forte5 SX

The Forte5 SX has a starting price of $23,900. It comes standard with a 201-horsepower turbo-four engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. You can get a six-speed manual transmission for $2,200. Other than the powertrain, the SX’s standard and available features are the same as the Forte5 EX’s. The only difference is that in this trim, the option package is known as the SX Premium Technology package. The price is the same.

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 2018 Kia Forte specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Kia Forte isn’t the most athletic or fun-to-drive car in the class, but its performance is perfectly fine if you just need a commuter vehicle. Inside, this little Kia has few – if any – flaws, and its cabin is among the nicer ones in the class. The Forte only finishes in the middle of our class rankings, but it’s worth a look from compact car shoppers.

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

  • "The popularity of compact SUVs is on the rise, but not everyone wants or needs a high-riding, all-wheel-drive car. For those looking for simple, safe and affordable transportation, the 2018 Kia Forte and Forte5 hatchback make great choices. The Forte's subtle styling isn't as outlandish as the new Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, and its handling and performance lag behind that of the Mazda3. However, the Kia Forte trumps the field with its impressive standard and optional equipment list, low price and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty." -- Autotrader
  • "Compact cars aren't usually known for offering the latest and greatest technology and features, but that's not the case with the 2017 Kia Forte. It has plenty to offer along with a very reasonable price that makes it worth considering if you're in the market for a small sedan or hatchback." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "While we love the sedan and hatchback's new looks and tech, the reality is that the Forte still comes up short when it comes to the kind of agility and power that gets enthusiasts' blood pumping. Also, those base prices are low, but they rise quickly as you add options." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
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