By on October 17, 2018

Yes, yes, yes. This marks the second week in a row for the same manufacturer, almost as long a stretch as Khabib Nurmagomedov has gone without scaling the wall of a UFC cage.

The little Forte sedan (remember those? Ford doesn’t) ups its game in 2019 with a refreshed sense of style and a bucket full of new equipment. This is most definitely our first Ace of Base that includes dual-zone climate control as standard equipment.

Those who are un-wowed by the presence of such a gee-whiz feature are either unmarried or have never had a passenger in the right-hand seat. Dual-zone ventilation allows one half of a family unit the luxury of freezing their buns off while the other bakes in heated comfort. A driver’s well-being trumps all other concerns on a drive around these parts, so until the advent of dual-zone, passengers in the Guy household had to endure whatever temperature fancies the driver saw fit to unleash.

In fact, the only thing left to row about these days is what emanating from the stereo speakers. Here, the new Forte would do well, supplying an 8-inch touchscreen (not a cut-rate 7-incher) complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The four-speaker system is, of course, wired for Bluetooth and a backup camera.

The $17,690 base Forte FE is also filled to the gunwales with safety equipment, ideal for new drivers young and old. Forward collision and lane departure warning systems loops drivers in of impending doom, while a driver attention system keeps tabs on the somnambulant. My biggest carp? Cruise control is optional.

Powering this car is a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-four making a segment-appropriate 147 horsepower. Hill start assist helps prevent those unfamiliar with the car’s six-speed manual from wantonly rolling into whatever’s directly astern. Note: Kia chooses to call their (optional, $900) continuously variable transmission an IVT, not a CVT, perhaps to distance itself from the undertones associated with that acronym.

Rims are 15-inch steelies with hubcaps and only two shades, grey and white, are available without extra charge. At least the exterior trim is color-keyed. This is not a bad-looking compact car. Quick straw poll for the comments: of what luxury-brand small sedan do those taillights remind you?

For an even better deal, head north. For $16,495 Canadian dollars, the 2019 base Forte (called the LX in that market) sports many of these same features plus heated seats and steering wheel. You can bet one side of the dual-zone will be set to maximum heat this winter, too.

[Images: Kia]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They stoke the fires of our flinty cheapskate hearts. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate today’s selection.

The model above is priced in Freedom dollars and shown with American options and trim. Destination charges can go pound sand. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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43 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Kia Forte FE...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    Very timely article, as I’m helping a coworker navigate the waters of affordable sedans to replace his trusty ’07 Camry that he’s rolled up 180k miles on doing a lot of highway driving (40k miles a year or so). Has $15k-ish (max $17k OTD or so) to spend, and initially was considering downsizing to a CPO Corolla, which locally dealers are asking $14.5k for a ’16 LE, which I think is a horrible value, and a noticeable downgrade in highway comfort for long hauls.

    I’ve kind of honed in on the Elantra in SE trim, as well as Fortes, pre-refresh ones, along with Sonatas and Optimas and Fusions, and even stuff like CPO Veranos. It’s a perfect test-case of “are there truly fire sale prices on sedans like TTAC claims?” So far the best deal I’ve seen offered was $15,9k OTD on a Elantra SE, that’s before haggling.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGrieves

      If he is open to buying a VW, I’ve seen some crazy deals on Passats. There is a 2018 Passat S at a local dealer with a “no haggle” sticker on it for $18,500 (MSRP about $23K). That’s slightly above his price range but you could probably get a little more off. Some folks are totally against VWs though, and I get that.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I had strongly considered Passats, I think it’s one of the best midsizers for knocking down serious highway miles. But at 40k miles a year… I’m not THAT confident in them, and he’d blow past that 72k mile warranty of theirs in no time.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          I had never-again experiences with both companies. My B5 self destructed like they all did. My NF Sonata had all kinds of niggling issues inside 100K and the warranty was limited enough and dealer weasel enough that I fixed nearly all of them out of pocket. So I have the objectivity of no confidence in either of them.

          That said, the Forte is in its 1st year while the Passat is in its 8th, CR surveys show the recent run of Passats as pretty good, Kia dealers are the bottom of the barrel, and assuming they’re both running the Passat is a drastically nicer car.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Hmm. I’ll have to think about this some more. What is truly going to be as robust as a boring-but-tank-like ’07 Camry that has literally not needed anything outside of oil/filters/tires and a brake job? Part of me thinks perhaps going to a used ’15-’16 Camry (non CPO, who cares) might just make sense after all. Same good old K-platform bones underneath.

          • 0 avatar
            volvo

            @tgem

            If the camry has no current issues and available funds are constrained why replace it? You never know but if mostly highway driving the drivetrain might be good for another 150K miles. $18K will buy a lot of gas and minor repairs.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            volvo I’d be inclined to agree, but I think even with a Camry there is something to be said for piece of mind. Said coworker came to me last year with the same concern back when the car had 140k miles, I offered to give it a look over, and gave it a clean bill of health with a suggestion to keep an eye on brakes and consider replacing tires. A recent scare for him was the oil light going off not too long after getting an oil change at his usual place (has always used synthetic, changed on time). From the story I suspect the place literally just forgot to change the oil and it eventually ran low. He topped it off and it’s been fine since, but it has him thinking. I suggested keeping a close eye on oil consumption and to just keep driving it. But now is not a terrible time to swap, the ’07 even with 180k miles can still fetch about $4500 around here. Once you crest 200k miles, there’s a very real psychological barrier and the resale drops precipitously.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      gtem

      1 – something wrong with math. If your friend drives 40K/y, his car should have 400K miles not 180.

      2 – ~16K should get you 1 year old Mazda6 Sport, which has plenty of useful standard features and is navigation-ready.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        He bought it used a few years ago with low miles, and I think the 40k mile (my guess, it might be 30k) routine has not been going on for that long. Mazda6s are certainly on the list of contenders.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      gtem

      40,000 miles a year. I’m assuming most of those are highway miles.

      New car: Chevy Cruze diesel.
      Used car: Chevy Volt

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Peter no offense but I would sooner recommend someone resurrect the Hindenburg than recommend a short-production-run diesel from GM to someone that needs to rely on it for long highway trips (Indiana to Toronto and back regularly). That range would also make the Volt’s electric range quite irrelevant, you’d be running the generator full time in a heavy car, what’s the point.

        I am considering recommending the un-loved ’13-’17 Malibu/Malibu limited with a CPO warranty, or maybe even a Verano or Regal.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          The previous gen Regal is truly unloved and I’m even seeing some low mile turbo models coming out of rental fleets.

          If he doesn’t care about back seat room or trunk space I could see a last gen Regal or a last gen Malibu being a good bet.

          And of course the depreciation would be higher than a Camry making the price of entry easier.

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          The previous-gen Regal (especially if you can get a refreshed 2015-up version for that budget, and avoid the 2011/12 model years) is a very nice car. Most came with the turbo engine too so it is quite zippy. Looks good too and has a very nice interior. By contrast most Malibus of the vintage you describe are equipped with the base NA 4-cylinder and are nowhere near as nice inside. And all of them are unattractively styled.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      What’s wrong with the Camry? At 180k, it’s just broken in. Sure, it will need some suspension work, boots, etc. but $5k would more than cover maintenance for another 100k.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        If it were me bumpy that’s what I would do. Drain and fill the ATF, keep an eye on vital fluids, and just keep running it. Highway miles are easy on the car. I don’t even think the boots or suspension would need messing with for some time to come, judging by what it looked like at 140k last summer. Despite all of the cost cutting that hit that generation, the K-platform Camry still wears like iron for the most part. My cousin runs a Russian-market stick shift ’03 XV30 with 1 million KM on the clock, and all those miles were on Siberian roads(!!!). He did put a used motor in it at right around 1 million klicks.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    “Quick straw poll for the comments: of what luxury-brand small sedan do those taillights remind you?”

    Audi OOOO

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    “The little Forte sedan (remember those? Ford doesn’t) ”

    Gee, I wonder why FCA isn’t the subject of such snied remarks? I mean, they also discontinued their “little sedan” for this market, didn’t they? Funny, that.

  • avatar
    earthwateruser

    I like the looks of that Kia, but I still prefer the Elantra at the same price point. Those Kia wheel covers fooled me though, they are the best wheel covers I’ve ever seen.

    BTW, I find dual zone climate control systems to be tedious and not terribly effective. Our system loves to churn out a lot of air at whatever temperature is selected, so one occupant or the other is usually forced to close some vents regardless of the setting. And the system hates that. And don’t you effing dare touch the fresh/recirc or defrost settings or else the system will just ignore you.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    A CVT? Not you, too, Kia…

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      I recently bought a 2012 Suzuki Kizashi, knowing it had a CVT. I’ve changed the fluid, which needs it about every 60k-infinity depending on who you ask. I actually like the driveability of it. I’d prefer a manual, but at my price point ($3500 for this car) I can’t be that picky.

      Of course, the first car with a CVT I drove probably sealed the deal for me. I rented a 2017 Nissan Maxima while the car I replaced was in the shop (then written off). I’m surprised the 300hp V6 didn’t rip the CVT apart. Instead it was fun to drive, and returned 25-28 MPG.

      I will baby the heck out of my car’s CVT, though. Those things aren’t cheap to fix/replace.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Jesus, the back looks exactly like the new 3-series. Good for Kia. Bad for BMW.

    Amazing level of equipment for a base model.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Has a good set of features, but I just don’t see the draw over the competition. Boring design, anemic performance, probably typical mediocre H/K fuel economy. Cost of ownership is probably no less than a Civic/Corolla when you factor in resale as well, though I’m sure these will be sold at a discount in short order. Feels like a missed opportunity in the context of Kia’s successful offerings over the last decade.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “probably typical mediocre H/K fuel economy”

      When was the last time it was mediocre? The only recent-ish H/K rental that got poor MPG was a brick-like Soul. My Elantras and Fortes easily crest 40mpg in highway driving, and even the Optimas and Sonatas are knocking on 40 or even beating it (43mpg average in a Optima FE over a 4 hour 250 mile drive once).

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Agree with you there. The rental Elantra I had last fall easily got ~40mpg. Meanwhile with my Golf, in the same area, I struggle to get 30 mpg. Granted the Golf is a lot more fun to drive which doesn’t help.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        What years are these cars? My ’13 Optima SXL is lucky to do more than 23MPG combined under my admittedly lead foot. I am thinking it just floods the engine with fuel under any kind of boost.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          So your aggressively driven turbocharged Optima = H/K typically mediocre mpg?

          Uhh…

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            I am a fringe case… but Fuelly indicates the average mileage of a 2.0T Optima to be a good 10% or so below EPA ratings in the real world. By contrast something like a Camry meets or beats similar estimates with similar power.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Sounds like many modern turbo-4s then. Mash the gas and watch the MPG plummet. Exceptions seem to be VWs, I have gotten spectacular steady state highway MPG from 1.4 and 1.8 TSI motors.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          My rental was a 2017 or 2018 Elantra (current engine/body style) with the same 2.0L that also powers this base Forte.

          I believe your Optima engine is a turbo? If so that is probably why you struggle. With many turbos (including my Golf) you are usually choosing between power and fuel economy. Throttle response and all the available boost makes it hard not to dip too much into the power side.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          That 2.0T is pretty ancient and tied to what is also a pretty old 6 spd AT.

          The new 2.5T (which is supposed to be more efficient) partnered w/ the 8 spd AT should improve FE.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I manage to *average* 23mpg with my ’15 Genesis AWD 3.8, and I’ve seen it hit 29 highway. The 2.8 in my previous Saab 9-3 was lucky to average 20, on premium instead of regular, and was tiny, weighed 1000lbs less, was fwd, and down 60hp! I’m not complaining.

      • 0 avatar
        jjthegreat

        Truth. The fuel economy in my 2.8 Aero turbo makes me consider something larger and faster that will have less fuel costs! These 9-3’s are great spirited driver cars tho.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      I’d say the sheetmetal is better than most of the rest of the segment (and now, w/ the refreshed and uglier Elantra on the way, better than the Elantra).

      This is the “base” model which is geared towards the typical “daily driver”; the SX/GT trim will get the 1.6T and IRS and will appeal to those looking for something that is a little more “fun.”

      C/D got an observed 42 highway MPG for both the Elantra and (old) Forte w/ the 2.0L and 6 spd AT.

      Which beat the Civic w/ the new 1.5T and CVT (41 MPG) as well as the Jetta 1.4T w/ 6 spd AT (39 MPG).

      As both the 2.0L and 6 spd AT H/K are at the end of their life-cycle and about to be replace, fuel economy should improve w/ upcoming powertrains.

      The key is to purchase the right engine/transmission combo – such as the 1.6T + DCT (albeit, some don’t like how the DCT shifts).

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I purchased a new Forte manual trans base sedan in 2011 for US$14,500. It was less pricey than a lightly used Corolla Sentra, or Civic…and came with that great warranty.

    I drove it 85,000 miles over four years. No complaints. No issues. I would buy another base Forte with pleasure.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    If you don’t have any driving-related aspirations, this is easily Di Car for you. I mean, it is nice car with no pretensions.

  • avatar
    otaku

    I haven’t test driven one of these yet, but just about all of the reviews I’ve seen claim that this new Forte has much better steering feel and improved handling versus the latest model Elantra (despite both using the same chassis and twist-beam rear axle). I like the exterior styling with the new Stinger-inspired grill and the interior seems much more upscale compared to the somewhat conservative Elantra. I would gladly give up the dual-zone climate controls and touchscreen gimmicks for a set of either 15″ or 16″ alloy wheels (or perhaps a slightly lower asking price). Still, as a lifelong driver of only coupes, who is now considering eventually trading up on something ‘newish’ with a warranty, I would give this car some serious consideration.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Price with destination and CVT – $19,485. Just saying….

    Also has a direct injection engine, which will require maintenance as it ages to prevent the intake valves from coking up.

    I’m more of a port fuel injection guy.

  • avatar
    volvo

    I agree with this being a no go for me. I went to the Kia configurator and the base does not have cruise control as an option. You need to go to higher trim levels to get cruise control. Seems weird to me that cruise control is not standard on most vehicles. Driving extended distances on the freeways cruise control greatly reduces driver workload.


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