2020 Kia Forte GT Debuts at SEMA, Gently Juiced Up

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
2020 kia forte gt debuts at sema gently juiced up

Automotive enthusiast come in a wider variety of flavors than automakers are sometimes willing to admit. You have the well-heeled supercar community, hot rod fans, off-roaders, van people, and so on and so forth, and what have you. The point is: there’s a diverse array of customers out there, and one segment that has been neglected of late are people who love an unassuming car with a surprising amount of pep.

We need more cars like the Volvo V70 R, Mercury Marauder, and especially the Chevrolet Cobalt SS.

While Kia isn’t giving enthusiasts who prefer flying under the radar at breakneck speed everything they ever wished for, its surprise announcement of the 2020 Forte GT was a solid start. Think of it as the modern and Korean equivalent of the Dodge Dart GTS 440 — or, perhaps more accurately, the Dart Swinger 340.

Kia borrowed the turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four (and a few other things) from the Hyundai Elantra Sport in order to provide a more exciting Forte. At 201 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque, performance gains over the standard model should be glaringly apparent. But it won’t start shredding tires until the Korean motor group shows its willingness to go mental. Kia’s train hasn’t arrived at Crazy Town just yet, but it seems to be making progress.

The 2020 Kia Forte GT is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission or optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic. Larger front disc brakes appear, along with beefier sway bars. The manufacturer promises the model will come equipped with a more-aggressive sounding dual exhaust system.

Like Hyundai’s Veloster N, the Forte GT gets red and black accenting to distinguish itself from lesser trims. There’s a new black grille with red highlights, heated gloss-black mirrors, sporting side sills, and a modestly black spoiler perched atop the decklid. It might not be totally incognito but it’s likely subtle enough to avoid attention from those not in the know of such things. A set of 18-inch wheels, also with some black and red detailing, with 225/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport Summer rubber are optional extras.

This exterior color theme extends into the interior, leading to red stitching on the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and optional sport seats. Upgraded alloy pedals help complete the look. The sporty Forte will be split between GT1 and GT2 trim levels — differentiating the car’s overall appearance and equipment. However, both will come with the brand’s Drive Wise safety tech, LED headlights, upgraded 320-watt Harman Kardon audio, wireless device charging, and a sunroof.

Those previously mentioned cosmetic upgrades (both inside and out) can also be affixed to models equipped with the base engine as part of the GT Line appearance package, though that would make you a huge poser, according most high schoolers.

Expect pricing and performance figures to be very close to the Hyundai Elantra Sport. And, since the Forte GT isn’t quite as good looking, the warmth of its reception will likely be dependent upon how much it can undercut the Hyundai’s MSRP and 0-to-60 time. Expect more details and a pricing breakdown closer to launch. Meanwhile, we’re going to keep hoping they somehow fit the Kia Stinger’s 2.0-liter turbo into the Rio.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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2 of 24 comments
  • Lon888 Lon888 on Nov 01, 2018

    I'm grateful for 2 things with this car - 1. It wasn't displayed in some horrid shade of gray. 2. It has 3 pedals. When I give up my GTI in the upcoming future, this is the kind of car I'll be looking for.

  • David Loving David Loving on Nov 01, 2018

    I drive a 2014 Kia Forte Koup SX and it's fun with the 201 hp turbo.

  • Cprescott The pandemic changed the sales game. No longer do dealerships need inventory. After two years people are accustomed to having to order what they want and then extorted on the price by the dealer for that privilege. Now used cars with 75k are selling for $5k more than I paid for my 21k, 2016 model back in January 2019. I pray my car won't get totaled and I have but 13 payments left to make on it. I may never buy another car again.
  • Grein002 I hope you meant "take the Ranger out behind the *barn*" rather than "bar". I think something completely different happens "behind the bar".
  • Cprescott Suddenly there is no reason to buy ugly anymore. The Silverdodo is dead. Long live the less hideous Colorado.
  • Cprescott Portable BBQ's for everyone!
  • Lou_BC The 2023 ZR2 is burdened with GM's 8 speed. It's been allegedly "fixed" so it doesn't gear hunt and shudder. I still won't trust it. The turbo 4 cylinder should address the lack of torque found in the V6. I test drove a full-sized Trail Boss. I could make it gear hunt. The turbo 4 didn't seem to be lacking in power, at least for an empty crewcab with a 6.5 box. It lacked anything resembling character. It had next to zero compression braking even with tow/haul engaged. Chevy should have continued offering the VM Motori based inline 4 diesel that's in the older Colorado trucks. I do like the fact that the 2023 comes with 33's standard and IIRC the wheel hubs/axles etc. have been beefed up to handle the larger rubber. The bolt pattern (IIRC) is shared with fullsized 1/2 tons opening up one's choice for aftermarket wheels.