2020 Kia Forte Review
  • Car Review

2020 Kia Forte Review

By Autolist Staff | June 17, 2020

Pros:

  • Well-equipped for the price
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • User-friendly technology and features

Cons:

  • Some safety tech still optional even at top trim level
  • Interior sometimes feels cramped
  • Lower trim levels feel somewhat sloppy over rough roads

More Photos

See more 2020 Kia Forte photos here.


Summary

The Kia Forte is a compact sedan that competes with vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Jetta, and Hyundai Elantra. The Forte is aimed at value-conscious new car buyers who want a compact sedan with a generous set of standard features and a lengthy warranty. There are five trim levels offered for 2020: FE, LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT.

The 2019 model was all-new, so changes for 2020 have been less significant. Kia added two new trim levels to the Forte lineup: a GT trim with a turbocharged engine and a GT-Line, which carries the GT's sporty styling, but lacks the turbo engine. The EX trim is now available with a Special Edition package that brings an upgraded audio system, a spoiler, a power sunroof, navigation, and wireless smartphone charging.

The Forte comes with front-wheel drive only. Most trims come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The range-topping GT trim comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that makes 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque and is paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission.


Exterior

TLDR: The Forte's redesign brought grown-up and sporty looks that make it look more expensive than it is.

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The 2020 Forte has a sporty stance, even in its lower trims, but the GT and GT-Line trims are downright aggressive. Though it's a small car, long lines and a very gently sloping roofline stretch the Forte's profile to give it a longer, more upscale look overall.

The Forte's exterior styling is tidy with very little in the way of logos and badges to clutter it up. Kia's "clenched teeth" grille remains in place here but is much more subtle than on some of the brand's other models. Part of the car's upscale transformation is because it borrows heavily from the larger and sportier Stinger five-door. It's not as swept-back as that car, but the sleek lines are unmistakably Stinger.


Interior Quality and Comfort

TLDR: The Forte's interior can feel cramped at times, but its levels of comfort and quality are rare among sedans of this size and price.

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The Kia Forte's interior, even in lower trim levels, feels more expensive than the car's price would suggest. Critics praise the car's interior material quality and rave about the soft-touch materials, plastic accents, and contrasting colors on the more expensive versions.

The seats are ample for a small car and supportive, even for taller passengers. The front seats have a high level of adjustability, both in height and with sliders front to back, and can accommodate six-foot-plus drivers without much of a struggle.

Where the front seat wins points with reviewers for its space and comfort, rear-seat passengers will have a harder time finding sufficient room. With the front seats adjusted to a comfortable position for taller drivers or passengers, people in the back seat may quickly run out of space.

The Forte's noise insulation and thicker side glass help block all but the loudest road noise, which critics note is far better than the previous model and beats most of the Kia's competition.


Utility & Practicality

TLDR: The Forte's trunk and interior storage put it well into midsize car territory.

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There is 15.3 cubic feet of space in the Kia Forte's trunk, which edges into the range of cars like the Nissan Altima. GT versions also get what Kia calls Smart Trunk technology, which is a hands-free system that recognizes the key and can open the trunk without having to wave a foot under a sensor as in some other sedans.

The Forte's cabin offers generous storage in the door panels and center console, and the glovebox is more accomodating than most cars in the segment.


Technology & Infotainment

TLDR: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is an 8-inch touchscreen.

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All Forte models come standard with an 8-inch touchscreen that is mounted high on the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a backup camera and Bluetooth connectivity. The EX and GT trims also come with SiriusXM satellite radio and can run connected services through Kia's UVO infotainment system.

Though built-in navigation is available in some trims or packages, reviewers were satisfied with maps and directions that are provided through the connected Apple or Android smartphone interfaces.

The Forte is available with an upgraded 8-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system on some models which reviewers say sounds better than the base stereo but falls short of the sound quality provided by other premium stereos.


Safety & Driving Assistance

TLDR: The Forte earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and comes with several advanced driver assistance features.

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All Forte models come with a host of advanced driver assistance systems. Forward collision warnings, lane departure alerts, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention warning system are standard for all trim levels. Higher trims come with automatic high beam assist. Optional features include a lane change assist system, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, a parking distance sensor system, and radar cruise control.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2020 Kia Forte a Top Safety Pick. The organization rated the Forte a "Good" in all crashworthiness areas, including front, side, and roof strength. The headlights in some trims were given the lowest rating of "Poor," but higher trims received "Good" ratings. The car's front crash prevention was rated as "Superior" in vehicle-to-vehicle testing, but only received a "Good" rating for vehicle-to-pedestrian testing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Forte four stars. That is due mostly to the agency's testing that found that the left rear door intruded into the passenger compartment in a crash, which could cause injuries to back seat passengers in a collision.


Driving Experience

TLDR: The Forte's base engine feels sluggish, but the GT's turbo engine is more than adequate.

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The Forte comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with the CVT automatic.

The GT model comes with a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four that produces 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It can be mated to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission.

Reviewers say the base engine has sluggish acceleration and a loud, unrefined sound. The significant upside to the base powertrain is its excellent fuel economy. The meager power and smaller wheels and tires make for an uninspiring driving experience that reviewers note as being somewhat dull. That said, the car's economical nature with this configuration means it's best suited as an urban runabout.

The GT, with its turbocharged engine, is a lively and fun car to drive quickly. Dual-clutch transmissions are basically automated manual transmissions, which give them a different feel and sportier operation than a standard automatic transmission, and critics like the Forte's driving experience with the dual-clutch. It's considered refined, easy to live with, and well-behaved in all driving scenarios. The GT trim's sport-tuned suspension, sport-tuned active exhaust, bigger brakes, and 18-inch wheels all add to the car's racy looks and help it perform admirably in spirited driving.

Critics like the Forte GT's ability to maintain a firm and sport ride without being jittery or uncomfortable. They say that the car's sporty exhaust sound and responsive braking work well to make the GT a fun ride, and don't ruin its ability to be a stable daily driver. Though it is a compact commuter car, reviewers say that the Kia Forte GT can handle itself on a spirited canyon drive, and note that its brakes and suspension stand up to hard driving.


Fuel efficiency

TLDR: There's no hybrid model available, but you won't need it to achieve stellar fuel economy.

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The 2020 Kia Forte models equipped with the 2.0-liter engine are rated at up to 31 mpg city, 41 highway, and 35 mpg in combined driving. The 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with manual transmission is rated at 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined, and with the automated transmission, the numbers change to 27 city, 35 highway, and 30 combined.

Those numbers put the Forte right in line with its competition from Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen, while the turbocharged GT's economy is on par with sportier vehicles such as the Honda Civic Si and VW Jetta GLI.

There is no hybrid model available in the Forte lineup to compete with models such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Corolla Hybrid.


Trim levels & Pricing

TLDR: All Forte models offer a lot of features for the price, and the model tops out around $25,000.

The 2020 Kia Forte FE Starts at $18,855 after a $965 destination fee. It comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a CVT automatic transmission, 15-inch wheels, projector headlights, automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, and a split-folding rear seat. It also includes an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a rearview camera, dynamic parking guidance, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a USB port, Bluetooth, two 12-volt outlets, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure alert, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention warning.

The Forte LXS starts at $20,255 and adds 16-inch wheels, gloss-black exterior trim, a six-way adjustable passenger seat, a soft-touch dash, upper door panels, and center console, and selectable driving modes.

The Kia Forte GT-Line has a starting MSRP of $21,455. It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a chrome exhaust finisher, and a rear spoiler. Inside, it adds alloy sport pedals, sport seats with black cloth upholstery and leatherette side bolsters, white contrast interior stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, keyless entry with push-button start, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane change assist.

The Kia Forte EX has a starting price of $23,055 and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, chrome exterior trim, synthetic leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support, heated and ventilated front seats, Kia UVO eServices, and a six-speaker audio system.

The EX Special Edition Package is an additional $1,500. It adds navigation, HD radio, a Harman/Kardon audio system, a power sunroof, a gloss black rear spoiler, two-tone synthetic leather upholstery, a wireless phone charger, and LED interior lighting.

The Forte GT starts from $23,455. It comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The GT also adds a sport-tuned exhaust, sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED projection headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual chrome exhaust finishers, a rear spoiler, a gloss black sport radiator grille with red accents, cloth/leatherette sport seats, red contrast interior stitching, a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a driver attention warning system, and high-beam assist headlights.

A six-speed manual transmission is an option.


Value

The Forte is a good value in all of its forms, given the level of standard equipment and the premium features on more expensive models, some of which are unusual in this size and price category.

The EX, which carries the most upscale options of any Forte, is an excellent value for buyers who want a few extra creature comforts and that don't necessarily care about a super sporty ride or appearance. It can be upgraded with an additional safety package, which brings all of the advanced technology Kia has to offer and still tops out under $25,000.

Buyers searching for a sportier experience can opt for the GT trim, which adds a more powerful engine and a host of performance upgrades. It's $400 more expensive than the EX trim, but its livelier powertrain and more aggressive appearance will appeal to buyers that feel the standard Forte is too pedestrian. With all options, the GT lands at just over $25,000, which is still an incredible value for what you get. And all 2020 Forte models come with Kia's excellent 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.


More Photos

See more 2020 Kia Forte photos here.