2019 Kia Forte EX new car reviews

Know how some companies are abandoning the small sedan market? Not Kia. There’s an all-new Forte for the 2019 model year. And for those of you who like to count, this marks the third generation for the model.

Big news: The new Forte is bigger than the one that it replaces. How much bigger? How about 3.2 inches longer and eight-tenths of an inch wider.

Bigger doesn’t mean heavier. The old Forte sedan started at 2811 pounds. The new one can weigh as little as 2762 pounds.

Power is not up, though. In fact, the 164-horsepower option is gone, leaving the entire model line motivated by 147 horsepower along with 132 lb.-ft. of torque. While a six-speed manual is available, our test car featured Kia’s new Intelligent Variable Transmission.

Here’s how they describe it:

“Waiting before developing Kia’s own continuously variable transmission (CVT) allowed engineers to research issues often associated with CVTs and apply their findings in the application used in the Forte. One of the main criticisms is that they can create a rubber-band-like feel, and in an effort to address this issue, engineers built the IVT with adaptive style shift logic with a chain-type belt instead of push belt, a first in the compact class. This results in smooth and linear acceleration, and for a more enjoyable and sporty driving experience, a step-shift-like feel mimics a conventional automatic at wide-open throttle or when more acceleration is needed.” We drove the top-of-the-line EX. MSRP is $21,990. Looking to spend less? The Forte sedan lineup starts at 17,690.

But hold the phone. At the SEMA Show, Kia officials unveiled the forthcoming Forte GT model–and we use the word “forthcoming” because it will be a 2020 model.

What makes this Forte worthy of the GT badge? Yup, a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. Kia anticipates that will make 201 horsepower along with 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Two transmissions will be available: six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual clutch.

Other upgrades: larger front brakes, thicker anti-roll bars and 225/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires. So, basically, it’s like a Veloster or Elantra GT wearing Kia styling.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I recently had a conversation with a gentleman who owns a lot of top-shelf cars—like, some serious stuff. “Whaddaya like that you’ve driven lately?” he asked.

Sheepishly, I said a lot of Kia and Hyundai products.

And then he goes off: His dad has owned everything, including Bentleys. What does he drive now? A Hyundai Genesis sedan–and he freaking loves it. So, props for making inroads.

I got into the Forte after driving something from another brand. Okay, it was a Ford. The new EcoSport. Hey, I crack easily.

The Kia felt so much more upmarket, and that was before even backing out of the parking space. The interior materials–touch points, in automotive speak–just felt so much more substantial. The knobs turned with a solid click, click. Remember how Toyotas felt back so much more substantial than their competitors back in the day? Yup.

I’m a little surprised to read that the Kia doesn’t even make 150 horsepower. It didn’t feel weak.

And that new transmission? Get the letters CVT out of your mouth. It shifts and behaves like a really good automatic. Sure, the manual would be nice, but this automatic wasn’t a penalty.

The rest of the car? Solid.

The one thing that I didn’t like? I had to give it back. For a daily–and one carrying a very fair price–this is spot-on. Take a victory lap, Kia.

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Comments
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Stealthtercel
Stealthtercel Dork
2/15/19 12:13 p.m.

I'm glad to read this positive review.  My son drives a 1st-gen Forte, which I freely admit was on our list partly because Bobzilla likes them so much, and it feels as though it was built up to a standard.  I've also driven two 2nd-gens, one as a rental and one as a loaner from the dealer while the dd Rondo received its engine transplant.  They were both solid cars and we enjoyed them, but in contrast to the 1st-gen they kind of gave me the feeling of being built down to a price. 

My problem in considering a 3rd-gen is the utterly stupid decision somebody made to hide the rear turn signals down in the bumper.  Kia does this with the Sportage too (not to mention Infiniti with the EX), and it drives me nuts.  Ideally, I want my turn signals to be visible half a mile back.  If I can't have that, I would at least like the vehicle directly behind me to know what I'm planning, and if that vehicle is, for example, an F150 (hey, could happen) and if we're in stop-and-go city traffic (which also just might happen) I very much doubt the driver back there would have a clue.

Maybe the higher trim levels have repeaters in the side mirrors, for that extra margin of safety.

Rant off.  But c'mon, Kia: this was an oops.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
2/15/19 1:46 p.m.

In reply to Stealthtercel :

Agreed with the low turn signals. What were they thinking?

twowheeled
twowheeled New Reader
2/18/19 11:06 a.m.

"engineers to research issues often associated with CVTs and apply their findings in the application used in the Forte. One of the main criticisms is that they can create a rubber-band-like feel"

umm no, one of the main criticisms is they break. why can't any manufacturer address that? 

kevinatfms
kevinatfms Reader
10/9/19 8:09 a.m.

I wonder if Kia will ever get the Veloster N's 275hp turbocharged 2.0L???

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
10/9/19 8:22 a.m.
twowheeled said:

one of the main criticisms is they break

Yes, this.

infinitenexus
infinitenexus Reader
10/9/19 8:32 a.m.

I remember in high school seeing the Kia Sephia and how cheap and garbagy it was and how they constantly broke down.  Now Kia has really made a name for themselves, the optima looks nice, and I love the Stinger.  It's nice to see such a positive change in a brand in a relatively short period of time.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
10/9/19 8:40 a.m.
ProDarwin said:
twowheeled said:

one of the main criticisms is they break

Yes, this.

I mean, everything breaks. Look at Honda and Chryco, there was a 10 year period they completely screwed up normal automatic transmissions. Subaru made glass manuals. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
10/9/19 12:33 p.m.
bobzilla said:
ProDarwin said:
twowheeled said:

one of the main criticisms is they break

Yes, this.

I mean, everything breaks. Look at Honda and Chryco, there was a 10 year period they completely screwed up normal automatic transmissions. Subaru made glass manuals. 

I don't want to get in a long argument about this, but I think its pretty widely accepted among car guys that in general CVTs do have major reliability issues compared with other transmissions.

06HHR
06HHR Dork
10/9/19 1:14 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

There are entire car lines (looking at you Nissan) that I won't even consider because their lineup is all CVT, and i've not only heard the horror stories but know of someone firsthand who has had the pleasure of transmission replacement before 70k miles, just past the drivetrain warranty.  The industry has spoken though, pretty sure all compact to midsize cars will have CVT's within the next few model cycles. I'd better get that Malibu soon..... maybe.. 

Tactical Penguin
Tactical Penguin SuperDork
10/9/19 4:03 p.m.

I've test driven a few different trims of the current Forte, and I'd happily buy one...but I'm scared of the CVT as well.

That being said, one of the guys here said the police department he worked for had a couple undercover Nissan Altimas that lived pretty hard lives and were still on the original CVT transmissions when they were retired with over 200k miles on them.  He claimed it was the sole reason he bought an Altima after he retired.

EDIT: The ventilated seats in the Forte EX are awesome though.  It was nice enough that I still entertain thoughts about getting one as a daily.

 

Rodulrich
Rodulrich New Reader
10/9/19 4:18 p.m.

In reply to bobzilla :

I almost rear ended a Sportage because of the low turn signals not too long ago.  Once I finally noticed the signals I thought to myself, "What a stupid design choice."

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
10/9/19 7:22 p.m.

On topic, the Forte is basically an Elantra.  I almost bought one before I ended up with my Veloster which I still mildly regret.  I can't imagine one as a nearly $20k car, but the model I was looking at for $12k seemed to be a decent chunk of car with a 10/100 warranty for the money.  

There is a zero percent chance I would consider one with a CVT, and very little of that has to do with CVT "performance".   

Tactical Penguin said:

EDIT: The ventilated seats in the Forte EX are awesome though.  It was nice enough that I still entertain thoughts about getting one as a daily.

 

I like that Kia/Hyundai offer this on relatively entry level cars, but I have been pretty underwhelmed by the actual performance.  My coworker has a 2016 ish Sonata with this feature and immediately after leaving the gym on a hot day I try this feature an I can't tell if its moving any air or if the lights on the button are just a placebo.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
10/10/19 3:38 p.m.
ProDarwin said:
bobzilla said:
ProDarwin said:
twowheeled said:

one of the main criticisms is they break

Yes, this.

I mean, everything breaks. Look at Honda and Chryco, there was a 10 year period they completely screwed up normal automatic transmissions. Subaru made glass manuals. 

I don't want to get in a long argument about this, but I think its pretty widely accepted among car guys that in general CVTs do have major reliability issues compared with other transmissions.

I’m not arguing that at all. Just saying that even the simple things can be screwed up by accountants 

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