The 2019 Kia Forte rolls into the new model year with high fuel economy, a great warranty, and excellent value. It’s sold as a sedan only; the former hatchback model has been dropped.
The engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, making 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It’s coupled to a new continuously variable transmission, or a 6-speed manual in one model. The Forte is front-wheel drive.
The new Forte is 3.2 inches longer and 0.8 inches wider than the previous sedan, with a curb weight of about 2,800 pounds. It remains handsome, more like the sporty Kia Stinger than before, and the interior is sleek and functional.
It continues to get excellent gas mileage, with the CVT-equipped base FE model rated by the EPA at 31 mpg city, 41 highway, 35 combined. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on the FE, but it gets 4 miles per gallon less, at 27/37/31 mpg.
The 2019 Forte earns a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, but it hasn’t been crash-tested by the NHTSA yet.
The Forte comes as FE, LXS, S, and EX models. The base FE costs $18,585 including destination, and is very well equipped, starting with automatic emergency braking and active lane control. It gets the manual gearbox standard, a big 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and smartphone compatibility, 6-way adjustable front seats, Bluetooth, USB port, power windows and locks, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, and 15-inch wheels with hubcaps.
Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and LED headlights with automatic high beams are optional.
The Forte LXS, for just $500 more than the FE with the CVT, adds significant value, with the CVT, 16-inch alloy wheels, a split-folding rear seat (instead of a one-piece folding seatback), some exterior tweaks and better interior trim.
The Forte S for about $1,100 more adds a rear-seat armrest, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and satellite radio. Options for the S include a $1,200 power moonroof, and those LED headlights with automatic high-beams.
The EX costs about $23,000, and adds synthetic leather seats that are heated and cooled, a power driver’s seat, keyless ignition, and other things such as LED turn indicators in the side mirrors, a glove box light, and two USB ports.
The sharp full-size Stinger was well received, so why not make the new compact Forte like it, with crisp, contemporary sheetmetal?
That’s what Kia has done. Designers pushed the Forte windshield back by five inches; the rear deck has been trimmed by the same amount. The radical change doesn’t jump out at you, until the new Forte is parked beside the old one. Then, you can also see the added three inches in length, also revealed in cabin space.
The new design clearly brings a sportier look–long hood and short deck–at least with the 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels most models. The base FE has 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps.
Thicker windows on higher trims and insulation over the CVT help the cabin of the new Forte to be 5 decibels quieter than before. Overall, the interior feels upscale, with soft-touch plastics. The round air vents are stylish, with a matte silver finish on some trim levels.
The Forte’s instrument panel features a large 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s perched high on the dash; its controls are well integrated, simple and easy to control–one rotary volume knob and one tuning knob–while the screen’s display is clear and intuitive. Like many good things with new Forte, the screen’s layout is a carryover from the old Forte.
The front seats are comfortable for long trips thanks to progressive seat foam designed to counter fatigue. Both front seats are height-adjustable, another rarity in the class. Six-way manual adjustment for the driver’s seat is standard, while the EX has 10-way power adjustment.
The spacious interior allows a 6-foot passenger to be comfortable in the rear, behind a 6-foot driver. The increased size, 3.2 inches longer and 0.8 inches wider, adds a couple inches of rear legroom. The trunk has 15.3 cubic feet of space, more than most compact sedans.
The new Forte has moderate power and predictable handling, and that’s fine. Its 147-horsepower engine feels adequate and its CVT makes the most of its fuel-efficient design. The best CVTs are programmed to simulate the changing of gearsâ€”and this is what the Forte’s CVT does, as it moves between pre-selected ratios. It has a Sport mode that is engaged by moving the shift lever to the left, and in this mode the driver can manually shift up and down among these simulated gears.
In our seat time, we felt a soft and compliant ride, especially on the 15- and 16-inch wheels, and steering that’s firmer and provides more feedback than before, as well as being more direct than you usually find on cars of this price.
The new 2019 Kia Forte has its merits, from its strong value to an extensive warranty. Performance is fine, but it’s the features that likely will win over most buyersâ€”from its touchscreen infotainment to the luxury-car touches on the top version.