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U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Kia Forte Performance Review


Performance: 7.3

The 2020 Kia Forte’s base engine has sufficient power for around-town driving, but the available turbocharged engine is the better option for frequent highway travelers. While the Forte isn't the kind of sedan you'll want to quickly throw into corners, some critics were pleased with its athleticism, especially in the GT trim. Still, it has a firm ride, lackluster steering, and an unrefined continuously variable automatic transmission. Fuel economy is pretty good for the class.

  • "We’re already impressed with the sedan’s suspension tuning. It’s firm, but comfortable. Its high-speed stability is extraordinary." -- Autoweek
  • "The biggest knock against the Forte here is its stiff suspension. It's OK on rough paving or shallow imperfections, but it struggles to smooth out larger bumps. The rear suspension, in particular, is especially troubled by uneven bumps." -- Edmunds
  • "[It] drives in a pleasant, refined and somewhat nimble manner. The steering gives some idea of what the front wheels are up to, throttle response is prompt but not overly sharp, and the brakes feel confident." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The 2020 Forte comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 147 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional.

The Forte GT is equipped with a 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This trim comes standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and the six-speed manual transmission is available in this trim.

The Forte doesn’t have a particularly powerful base engine, but neither do most rivals. You should upgrade to the available turbocharged engine if you want quicker acceleration. The CVT is sluggish and operates in a coarse manner.

According to the EPA, the Forte gets 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway with the manual gearbox and up to 31 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway with the CVT. Those are above-average numbers for the compact car class.

  • "The Forte drives like your everyday compact sedan. Acceleration is fine, taking about 8.2 seconds to get from 0-to-60 mph. This isn't as fast as the Honda Civic, which gets there in 6.8 seconds with its optional turbocharged engine, but it's on par with competitors like the Volkswagen Jetta, and faster than its corporate sibling, the Hyundai Elantra." -- Autotrader
  • "The engine is smooth, even at the top of its rev range, and it sounds great, snarling through its chromed and oversized sport-tuned dual-exhaust tips. Kia even offers the Forte GT with a slick six-speed manual transmission, which will make hardcore driving enthusiasts smile." -- Autoweek
  • "In routine driving, the Forte feels adequately punchy. At Edmunds' test track, our test Forte covered 0-60 mph in 8.7 seconds, which is an average time for the class. The CVT automatic generally works well but at times feels unpolished. It delivers power promptly when commanded, but it's too eager to drop revs when you ease off the throttle slightly. This characteristic can make for surging power delivery." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

The base Forte has decent handling and composure. However, some critics note that the steering feels unrefined and lacks feedback. Other reviewers were impressed by the sedan’s athleticism but noted that its suspension is on the stiff side. The performance-focused GT trim delivers livelier driving dynamics than the base model, thanks in part to suspension, braking, and tire upgrades. 

  • "Steering is light and a bit twitchy, which wouldn't be a bad thing if it weren't for the vehicle's sometimes wobbly-feeling underpinnings. Nonetheless, there's nothing to really praise or criticize about the Forte's driving dynamics. …" -- Autotrader
  • "[The GT trim] changes direction like a light, little sports car, offering a level of athleticism that’s rare in this class, and its suspension soaks up midcorner bumps without any drama. It’s easy to place it into a corner and hold your line." -- Autoweek
  • "We're also not overly impressed with the Forte's handling. The steering weight is fine but offers little feedback, and the on-center feel is vague. While the Forte corners relatively flat, it can get unsettled by midcorner bumps." -- Edmunds
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2020 Kia Forte

MSRP: $17,890 - $23,090

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