2018 Kia Forte

Performance


$16,800 MSRP
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2018 Kia Forte Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.5

The 2018 Kia Forte is available with three four-cylinder engines, but none of them are as energetic as some class rivals' offerings. Handling tells a similar story, as the Forte is composed but not as athletic as competitors. Fuel economy is average for the class, and ride quality is generally fine.

  • "Overall, the 2017 Forte continues to lack the firm resolve of a Ford Focus or a Mazda 3. There's somewhat more body motion that you might expect from a sportier small car, yet at the same time choppy pavement can ring in loudly – and we remain to be convinced that the Forte serves up any more comfort in return. It's perfectly adequate, but it's not terribly special." -- The Car Connection (2017)
  • "Let's just get this out of the way first: Despite the available 201-horsepower engine available in the Forte5 and Forte Koup, this subcompact doesn't have the sporty chops to back up its looks. Enthusiasts should check out the Mazda3, Honda Civic SI, or Volkswagen Jetta or GTI for their fix. However, for the other 99 percent of drivers who just want a comfortable, feature-filled and sporty-looking sedan, coupe or hatchback, the Forte lineup is a solid choice. Around town and on the highway, the Forte sedan, coupe and hatchback are all excellent choices." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The Kia Forte comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 147 horsepower. This engine doesn’t deliver outstanding power or acceleration, but it’s perfectly fine for a commuter car, which is all the Forte really aspires to be anyway.

A more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is also available. It puts out 164 horsepower. Despite the extra horsepower, this engine doesn’t feel all that different from the base engine when you’re behind the wheel.

The Forte5 hatchback offers a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 201 horsepower. This is the only engine that delivers noteworthy acceleration, though it still doesn’t turn the Forte into a sports car.

A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and a six-speed automatic is available (or standard with the 164-horsepower engine). The automatic occasionally hunts for the right gear, but neither transmission will ruin your drive. The Forte5 is available with a seven-speed automatic transmission as well (or standard with the turbo-four).

The Forte gets its best fuel economy with the base engine and the automatic transmission. With that setup, it earns an EPA-estimated 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Those are typical numbers for the class. Swap the automatic for the manual, and ratings drop to 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. The Forte5’s turbo-four gets the worst mileage of the lineup, earning 25/30 mpg city/highway.

  • "Our Forte sedan was equipped with the direct-injected 2.0-liter engine that produces 164 hp, which was more than enough grunt to get us moving through the wide-open spaces outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. Though we would have liked some extra power for passing slower traffic, at least the 6-speed transmission offered appropriately spaced ratios for the task at hand. The transmission occasionally hunted and upshifted early, however, suggesting the car is tuned for favorable fuel economy, not outright performance. If you're seeking a sportier drive, opt for the SX's turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission. Both are a cut above what we've experienced in previous Kia products, although the manual is still not as refined or precise as a Mazda or Honda manual." -- Autotrader
  • "The EX's 2.0-liter engine delivers good acceleration for the class, and the turbo 1.6 adds extra zip. Overall, the Forte is an easy car to live with day to day." -- Edmunds
  • "The larger engine offers more relaxed tuning, but neither is among the quickest or most powerful for compact sedans." -- The Car Connection (2017)

Handling and Braking

The Forte comes standard with front-wheel drive and lets you choose between Standard, Sport, and Comfort driving modes to tailor the vehicle’s dynamics to your liking. This car doesn’t have the engaging handling of some class rivals, but it is composed around corners. You won’t feel many large bumps in the road, though the Forte is a little jittery over some road surfaces.

  • "It also handles reasonably well, though it's hardly a match for sporty rivals like the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus. The suspension tunes out some pavement coarseness, but irregularities still ring into the cabin, and there's more of a din at highway speeds than is now typical for this class." -- The Car Connection (2017)
  • "Most shoppers in this segment will likely be satisfied with the Forte's overall ride quality, but the Forte's suspension is occasionally a bit firm and unrefined. Rougher roads produce a somewhat busy ride; in comparison, rivals such as the Focus and Mazda 3 feel relatively cushy over broken pavement. The Forte feels steady on winding roads, but it's not particularly engaging." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Ride and handling won't lead the class, but true to this Forte's form they are good enough to seem like a good deal for 20 grand. Cornering lean was commendably controlled in the test car, and it was as easily maneuverable cutting through traffic as it was fitting into parking spaces between other cars." -- Consumer Guide (2017)
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