2019 Kia Forte Review - Basic Done Best

Fast Facts

2019 Kia Forte EX

2.0-liter I4, DOHC (147 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm)
Continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive
30 city / 40 highway / 34 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
7.47 city / 5.9 highway / 6.9 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
37.2 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $22,885 US / $29,839 CAD
As Tested: $26,220 / $30,039 CAD
Prices include $895 destination charge in the United States and $1,774 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 kia forte review basic done best

I’ll grant that I’ve established a pretty cool second job for myself with this gig writing about cars. What gearhead wouldn’t love to get paid to talk (well, write) about their favorite subject — and often, drive some of the coolest new cars around? It sure beats flipping burgers to put extra cash in the wallet.

The not-so-secret side of this? It’s generally not the coolest cars that generate the most clicks. Most readers tend to care about cars they’ll legitimately consider buying, rather than a $100k sportscar. Thus, reviews of basic commuter cars, while not nearly as fun to drive, are much more important.

My job was made easy for me with the 2019 Kia Forte. It doesn’t overwhelm with outlandish styling. It doesn’t get the juices flowing with incredible performance. It simply makes the daily commute effortless and economical. What else can you ask from a car?

Kia has done a remarkable job moving styling cues from its halo Stinger onto this compact Forte. While nobody will mistake the two, it’s led to a properly handsome entry-level sedan. I especially appreciate the ridges on the hood, creating the illusion of an old-school power bulge. (Old School Power Bulge would make a great cover band name, incidentally.) The LED detail to the taillamps is a nice touch. The rest of the rear is a bit busy, however, with the black triangular housing for the reversing lamps and turn signals looking a bit tacked-on.

The interior is typical Kia – plain, simple, and well thought-out. Infotainment controls on the touchscreen are simple and intuitive, though I prefer to use the matching knobs and buttons on the steering wheel. Standard dual-zone climate control is unexpected in this class, but is quite welcome – as are the available heated and cooled front seats.

I especially appreciate the two-tier cubby ahead of the shifter, perfectly sized for a pair of cell phones. Too few carmakers acknowledge that the front passenger needs to set their phone down. The top tier of that cubby features Qi wireless charging – always welcome, as I can never remember to bring a USB cord.

If you do remember the cord, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on all Forte trims, as is that eight-inch touchscreen. Further standard features include forward collision avoidance and warning systems, paired with lane keeping assistance. This EX Launch Edition tester came fitted with optional blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Rear seat room was plenty for our kids. While I certainly couldn’t fit “behind myself,” I’m larger than the average human. Don’t make a habit of transporting the entire varsity basketball team, and the Forte will be comfortable for all involved.

Driving the Forte is a pleasantly unremarkable experience. Other than some thumps when hitting Ohio potholes squarely, the ride is muted, with little of the usual wind or road noise seeping through to the cabin. Soft springs add a bit of lean when negotiating corners, but this means occupants have a controlled, gentle ride. This is neither a sports sedan nor a hot hatch, recall?

I was surprised when I looked at the transmission line on the spec sheet. Indeed, while the Forte is fitted with a CVT, it exhibited none of the typical annoying traits of the genre. Nothing but smooth, quiet power delivery from the Forte. It’s not neck-snapping, by any means – off-the-line performance is a tad sluggish with 147 hp – but it’s more than adequate for most drivers. Efficiency is quite good. Were I commuting on the interstate more often, I can easily imagine approaching the 40 mpg figure quoted by the EPA.

Should I choose to purchase my own Kia Forte, I’d likely forgo some of the fancier features and embrace my inner cheapskate with the entry-level FE trim. Sadly, the Ace of Base model only offers a trio of colors: white, black, and grey, though it offers an extra MPG when fitted with the CVT transmission over the more-plush EX models. At $19,615 delivered, I’d be quite happy driving with a small monthly payment.

That’s what the Forte excels at – it’s a lot of car for a low payment. It’s a cheap car that doesn’t look it. It’s comfortable, performs well, and is inexpensive to run. Embrace basic, because basic is all most drivers need.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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4 of 45 comments
  • MKizzy MKizzy on May 06, 2019

    Given how often the bumpers of urban driven vehicles are scraped and dented from parking lot accidents and the like, there's going to be a lot of 5-10 year old Kia Fortes tooling around with busted and missing turn signals/back up lights.

    • See 1 previous
    • Otaku Otaku on May 07, 2019

      @Carrera I wonder if that might factor into higher insurance premiums for this model versus the Elantra.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on May 13, 2019

    I'm 50/50 on H/K products. A colleague at work has a 2008 Sante-Fe that he had to be junked because the entire front frame rotted out. This was after he just spent 2K on replacing the transmission last year, most front end components and the famous harmonic balancer on the engine the year before. It currently had 120K miles. I worked with a copier firm that used a 2005 Sante-Fe with the 2.7 that got used daily and very well serviced. In 2008 that same owner contacted me for assistance with some special large capacity printers and we got talking about his Sante Fe. it needed it's engine replaced with around 130K on the clock because it developed a knock and was using a lot of oil. Another friend's grandma bought a 2013 Sonata SE brand new and the 2.4 engine locked up while they were driving requiring a new engine at only 90K miles. Thankfully the warranty was still in effect to cover that. And this isn't the first person I have spoke to needing a 2.4 engine replaced. Then I have other friends with newer 2014-2016 H/K vehicles that have had better luck with more minor issues in a 100K mileage period. Their interiors certainly seem nice on the surface and their other engines like the 1.6, 2.0 and 3.3 V6 engines seem to be reliable so far.

  • SCE to AUX It's not really a total re-badge since some of the body parts are unique, and the interiors are quite different.As I mentioned the other day, the Tonale has a terrible name and a dim future.As for the Alfa team - guess what, this is how corporate ownership works. You are part of Stellantis partly because you're not viable as a standalone business, and then your overlords decide what's shared among the products.By the way: That Uconnect infotainment system found in Alfas was originally a Chrysler product... you're welcome.
  • Kurkosdr Someone should tell the Alfa Romeo people that they are a badge owned by a French company now.The main reason PSA bought FiatChrysler is that PSA has the technology to enter the luxury market but customers don't want a French luxury car for psychological/mindshare reasons. FiatChrysler has the opposite problem: they have lots of still-respected brands but not always the technology to make good cars. Not to say that if FCA has a good platform, it won't be used in a PSA car.In other words, if those Alfa Romeo buds think that they will remain a silo with their own bespoke platforms and exclusive sheet metal, they are in for a shock. This is just the start.
  • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
  • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
  • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.