By on January 15, 2018

2019 Kia Forte

Today at the North American International Auto Show, Kia Motors bestowed the all-new 2019 Forte upon the world. Granted, it’ll mainly be in the hands those entering the workforce for the first time, but those budget-minded youngsters will be please to learn that the third-generation Forte boasts improved fuel economy and features.

It’s not all touchscreens and gas savings, however. It doesn’t look like the new model has had to make many sacrifices, but Kia is launching the base Forte with a CVT instead of the six-speed automatic the current generation uses. That has us a little uneasy, though Kia  promises it won’t be an abysmal substitute and that the rest of the improvements should help deliver a vehicle that represents a net gain in refinement.

2019 Kia Forte Sedan

Excuse the phrasing, but it’s nice to see the rear end getting some attention. I recently walked through a rental lot littered with late-model compact sedans from Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, Chevrolet, and Ford. Seeing them all lined up, asses exposed, made me realize just how little energy goes into styling the back half of this particular segment. While it’s not quite as magnificent as Kia’s earlier renderings  led me to believe, the restyled rump is a vast improvement over the current model year and will make the car significantly less boring to sit behind in traffic.

The front has also received some love. There are deeper creases in the hood, the headlights taper upward a bit, and Kia added a substantive black valance. We’re not swooning over the latter inclusion, it does give the car a bit more attitude and pairs well enough with the Stinger-inspired changes to the grille and upsized air curtains.

Has this transformed the Forte sedan into the sexiest car in the compact segment? From the back, maybe. But the frontal updates leave me feeling lukewarm overall. The transformation isn’t so dramatic to completely metamorphosize the vehicle. Instead, we’re left with a more interesting Forte with sporting pretensions.

2019 Kia Forte Sedan

How sporting remains to be seen. The 2019 Forte launches with the second-generation 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder that’s in the current LX-trimmed models. Updated for fuel efficiency, Kia isn’t convinced it will break away from its current 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The upside is that it anticipates a 3 mpg improvement (Kia wouldn’t break that down into highway and city miles). Much of that will be the end result of the new transmission — a CVT.

However, Kia assured us it made an effort to ensure this particular chain-belt CVT, which it dubs an “Intelligent Variable Transmission” (IVT), sucks far less than the competition. It claims they’ve eliminated the rubber band-like feel of a variable tranny and replaced it with something that could be confused with a multi-geared setup. We’ve heard this from other automakers in the past and witnessed slight successes and utter failures. That said, a CVT isn’t the end of the world in a economy minded car and the Forte will still come with a six-speed manual option for driving enthusiasts. We’re just hoping Kia is willing to dump in a peppier engine as an optional extra.

The current incarnation of the Forte5 SX has an available turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four with direct fuel injection. But that’s the hatchback, Korean sedans have have historically gotten the short end of the performance stick. This sedan’s future may be no different — at least Kia hasn’t indicated otherwise to us.

For the most part the best goodies are isolated to the interior, which has grown in size along with the rest of the car. Now 3.2 inches longer (182.7 inches in total), 0.07 inches wider, and a smidgen taller, Kia says passengers will more room on the inside. But the real selling-point is that it’s been made more comfy and filled with more things you’d want as standard. The most blatant is the 8-inch color touchscreen, which comes equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. For 2019, the Forte can be had with blind-spot warnings, lane assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, and smart cruise control (which has adjustable following distances).

Kia is also claiming the vehicle is quieter and more robust than its predecessor. In conjunction with its higher-tech safety features, it thinks the added rigidity should improve handling as well as crash-worthiness. The 2018 Forte sedan was already chosen as Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Since the new Forte builds upon that framework (both structurally and electronically), the company is confident in a repeat victory.

It’s probably not quite so “Stinger-like” as Kia had wanted. But the company still managed to delivery a car that looks to be better than the one it’s replacing in almost every single way. Unfortunately, the 2019 Forte5 hatchback will probably make it look like garbage.

2019 Kia Forte

[Images: Kia Motors ; © 2018 Bozi Tatarevic/TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

13 Comments on “2019 Kia Forte Sedan: Vastly Improved But Unlikely to Best the Hatchback...”

  • avatar

    Very disappointed, even though I’m only in the market for a hatchback and that will look far better than this.

    The interior is the laziest Mazda ripoff I’ve ever seen, and the exterior looks fine from the front (pretty much the same as the old one) but from any other angle extremely ungainly and ill-proportioned. To use a phrase I’ve seen one here before, it looks like it has a full diaper, and looks like a Sentra that was designed with even more apathy.

    And that’s not even mentioning the CVT, which takes this car off of our households list from now on, unless the manual is actually fun to drive which the Koreans usually can’t manage.

    • 0 avatar

      The issue with them offering a manual will be if as Hyundai/Kia currently does it is only offered with the base level. The 6-speed auto in my Elantra is perfectly alright, but I’d much rather have a manual…which would have meant no options I really want. Plastic wheel covers, no heated seats, no fog lights, etc? Forget that.

    • 0 avatar

      Lazy Mazda ripoff? What, because of the floating screen thing? There’s literally zero other similarities. It’s not like they copied Mazda’s stupid central knob. There’s actually regular buttons and knobs for the infotainment.

      • 0 avatar

        I dont know what you guys were expecting… this is a Kia.

        I had to google for interior photos and it looks like a mildy update Kia interior… the wheel does look mazda but eh… this is hatchbacks we are talking about.

        I would call this update a low impact, low energy (!) update.

        I expect this to be about he same…. selling well in the $20,000 driveaway class w/ 7 yr warranty.

        CVT or 6 spd auto who cares. Barely matters.

        I’m guessing they carry over the 150hp PFI 2.0 when they should be going DI but hey, we gotta hit the budget.

        Of course only base manuals but what did you expect.

    • 0 avatar

      If the dash of the new Forte is a lazy “ripoff” of Mazda’s, then what is the dash of the Accord?

      And besides, they’re all “copies” of what BMW and Audi have done.

      Pretty much every automaker is doing the floating tablet-thing (on at least some models) these days.

      And the front, much less the rest of the sheetmetal, looks little like the current one.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve had pretty solid performance from Hyundai/Kia automatics – including the 6-spd auto in my Optima Hybrid – so their venture into CVT-land makes me nervous.

    However, the one and only CVT I’ve ever driven (Versa Note) seemed pretty responsive.

    As for the 2019 Forte’s looks, I can’t tell any difference from the current version.

  • avatar

    The CVT would make it a non-starter in my book, and anyway, they’ve dropped the Koup, which makes me even less interested. My oldest daughter drives a 2012 Koup SX, and it’s a decent enough car (2.4l Theta four with 6-speed auto), but it’s definitely a Tier 2 car (not exactly a Toyota or Honda).

    I was thinking it would just need to get her through four years of college (she graduates from high school in June), but now she’s set on going to law school afterward, which will mean another three years at least. I’m not convinced it will make it that far (it’s got 111,000 miles on it now).

  • avatar

    Looks almost like new Jetta we observed yesterday. Only better from the side because it doesn’t have that stupid cheap-looking crease.

    blah-blah, CVT… Next article please. And don’t forget “Made in Mexico”. Ah, dear Jetta.

  • avatar

    I tried to calculate the % increase of sidewall from the concept to this and my calculator returned #Err

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    So here we are in the auto/truck world starting to see 8 and even 10 speed automatic transmissions (and rumor to be even MORE GEARS coming) and many cross perfectly fine vehicles off their list because of a CVT transmission.

    So basically-with more gears in auto transmissions-those things are going to be shifting “all the time” hunting for the right gear.

    I had a 2012 Subaru Legacy with the CVT and it was acceptable. I got rid of the car for other reasons.

    I don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar

      Having used a CVT for almost 1/2 a year now, it’s my opinion that a lot of the complaints can be resolved with programming and adjusting how the CVT behaves. The modern batch do the job, they respond quickly to throttle input, and they manage rpm’s at absurdly low levels compared to what a human could do on a consistent basis.

  • avatar

    Actually found the rear of the Elantra to be pretty nice as compact sedans go.

    Going to differ with MP – find the front fascia more appealing than the rear, but overall, a much need improvement over the rather bland outgoing Forte, and esp. the dashboard design.

    Nonetheless, don’t get all the “Stinger-like cues” remarks from the press as doesn’t really look anything like the Stinger (only thing may be that they increased the hoodline so that the Forte has more of a RWD proportions).

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Kia did their version of the Elantra Sport in a “GT” version (so would have the 1.6T and DCT combo with an IRS).

    But on lower trims, remains to be seen about the CVT, but using a chain-type belt and having programming that mimics an AT, may not be bad as CVTs go.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: I will not shed a tear for the demise of the current system of auto sales. I’ve been looking for a...
  • Lou_BC: The Santa Cruz is more attractive than the Maverick. All of the one’s I’ve looked at were also...
  • Oberkanone: Altima sold 200,000 plus in USA in 2018 and 2019. Inability to manufacture due to labor and supply chain...
  • Urlik: Seatbelt pretensioners, not airbag pretensioners. Need a headline correction.
  • Urlik: Seatbelt pretensioners, not airbag pretensioners.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber