The Kia Forte is a perfectly competent, quite acceptable small sedan, and if your heart is set on buying one, by all means do so. But first check out the competition, especially the Mazda 3, the Ford Focus, and the Hyundai Elantra. Each of those cars is more attractive, more refined, and more fuel-efficient than the Forte sedan, yet no more expensive than the Kia.
The main problem with this Forte is that there’s nothing special or remarkable to help it stand out from the crowd. Demerits include a thrashy engine, a ride that is easily unsettled over bumps, and anonymous exterior styling. On the plus side, the trunk is quite large, the options list lengthy, and the price affordable. Let’s not mince words: the Forte is fine, but there are better small sedans for the money.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
The recent small-car boom — especially in the so-called C-segment – has been great for buyers. At long last, we have a rash of new compact cars that don’t skimp on comfort, style, and fun. On the other, it makes aging contenders like this Forte look a little more long in the tooth. That is, if you can even find it — in some ways, it’s lost and forgotten; the Livingstone to the C-segment’s Africa.
As my colleagues note, this car has some positives: the Forte is taut, tossable, and the 2.4-liter engine — a hallmark of the SX package — offers a pleasant amount of low-end grunt, despite being a bit buzzy. But the entire package doesn’t exactly sear itself into your gray matter. If Kia could work in a little more refinement and a little more pizzazz (perhaps borrowed from the surprisingly sexy Forte Koup) while maintaining the price point, it would go a long way.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
It may not be the most exciting, refined, or best looking vehicle in its class, but the 5-door Kia Forte has the advantage of being on a very short list of affordable small cars that can be had in a hatchback bodystyle. In sedan form, though, the number of competitors increases significantly, which makes it that much more difficult for the somewhat dull Forte to make a case for itself. It’s a perfectly decent vehicle that’s both attractive and economical but the Forte sedan’s poor ride and not-as-cheap-as-Kias-used-to-be price tag make it a bit of a non-starter in the small car arena.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The Forte shared a very important evening with me: it was my steed to and from a midnight-premiere screening of the Disney/Pixar movie Cars 2. Much like the characters from the silver screen, the Forte is lively with its enthusiastic four-cylinder and a transmission that is happy to hold a gear a little longer while accelerating. It has a cheery disposition thanks to its clean, simple lines and smiling grille. However, the Forte’s chassis was easily unsettled by uneven pavement, making the feel closer to Mater the rusty tow truck than the Radiator Springs’ resident Porsche, Sally Carrera.
What the Forte has is personality — something generally lacking from much of its compact competition. It trails the Mazda3 and Ford Focus on emotional driving experience, but is handily more fun to drive than the offerings from Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. The Focus has set the bar high with its near-telepathic and perfectly-weighted steering, but the Forte’s steering is quick and appropriately light making the car feel quite nimble around town. The Forte feels long in the tooth already — the leaders of the compact segment rocketed ahead shortly after this car’s introduction — but the fact that it still has a fair bit of life in it suggests that the next-generation Forte could be top-notch.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
There is nothing exciting or surprising about this car. That’s not to say it’s a bad car, it’s just an average car. It’s intended for the budget minded and those needing a car to get from point A to B. I do need to make special mention of the stereo — specifically the satellite radio antenna. This is only one of only a handful of cars I’ve driven that have NOT lost its connection to the satellite through all six levels of our parking garage we have.
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
2011 Kia Forte SX Sedan
Base price (with destination): $19,590
Price as tested: $23,140
2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
17-inch alloy wheels
Traction control system
Electronic stability control
Tire pressure monitoring system
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with 6 speakers
Sirius satellite radio
USB/Auxiliary input jacks
60/40-split folding rear seats
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Metal-finish accents and metal pedals
Options on this vehicle:
● Leather package — $1000
o Leather seat trim
o Heated front seats
o Auto-dimming rearview mirror
● Power sunroof — $750
● SX technology package — $1800
o Navigation system
o Push-button start with smart key
o Automatic temperature control
o Chrome finish exterior door handles
Key options not on vehicle:
23 / 31 / 26 mpg
2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 173 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Curb weight: 2898 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch alloy wheels
215/45R17 all-season tires