Slotting between the Kia Rio mini-car and mid-size K5 family sedan, the 2023 Forte sedan specializes in value and moderation. Frugality is its most important character trait. It has hints of sportiness but doesn’t thrill when driven at the limit even in its sportiest GT form. It has handsome design elements but isn’t drop-dead gorgeous. It has adequate engine offerings—with up to 201 horsepower from a turbocharged 1.6-liter in-line four—though it’s far from a hot-rod. It offers plenty of safety tech, but nothing we’d cite as innovative. The Forte is akin to an inexpensive cup of convenience-store coffee that could be better but could also be a whole lot worse. The Forte isn’t remotely rowdy like its Hyundai Elantra N cousin but it is thrifty, respectably capable, acceptably comfortable and—most important—a really good deal.
What’s New for 2023?
After an invigorating refresh for 2022, the Kia Forte is a carry-over model for 2023 but for the deletion of the GT Technology Package option. The package included FCA Fusion–a medley of driver-assist tech–and this is now standard equipment on Forte GT models equipped with the no-cost dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Our choice is the more powerful and sportier GT model, which ditches the Forte’s standard continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) for either a seven-speed dual clutch or a six-speed manual. We’d opt for the stick shift for its added driver engagement even though it’s $700 dearer than the DCT. Not many extras are necessary since, in addition to its 201-hp turbocharged four-cylinder—which provides much quicker acceleration–the Forte GT comes with a host of attractive extras, including 18-inch wheels, sport seats, ambient interior lighting, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Forte compact sedan offers two different engine options: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 201 horsepower. The 2.0-liter felt sluggish when we tested it, and the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) didn’t help. The non-turbocharged engine required 8.2 seconds to motivate the Forte to 60 mph at our test track—notably slower than the Mazda 3, which got there in 7.0 seconds. The optional 201-hp turbocharged engine, however, moves the Forte closer to the performance of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Civic Si. At our test track, a manual transmission-equipped GT test car managed a 6.7-second run to 60 mph, slightly off the pace of those two memorable performers. The Forte offers a comfortable and stable ride, but its handling isn’t as exciting as its Stinger-inspired exterior styling would suggest, even in the sportier GT model. In fact, when hustling the Forte in a recent comparison test against the Civic Si and the Jetta GLI, we found ourselves working harder in the Forte to keep up with the rest of the pack.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Kia Forte, specifically those equipped with the less powerful engine and automatic transmission, will keep drivers cruising past gas stations with an EPA highway rating of 41 mpg and a combined fuel economy rating of 34 mpg. If you opt for the turbocharged GT with the manual transmission, the combined fuel economy drops to 26 mpg. During testing of a 2020 Forte GT manual we observed 27 combined mpg–a little better than the EPA rating–and 37 mpg in our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test, which is part of our extensive testing regimen. For more information about the Forte’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The interior of this car impressed us with its minimalist design and high-quality materials. The back seat is spacious enough for two adults to be comfortable, and long road trips in the Forte can be made without complaint. The base model offers all the basic amenities, but things get more pleasant as you work up through the various models. Dual-zone automatic climate control is optional, for example, as are heated and ventilated front seats. With all the seats up, the Forte fit seven carry-on bags, one more than both of its key rivals, the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic.
The Car and Driver Difference
Infotainment and Connectivity
The 2022 Forte is a steal given its available technology. An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Bluetooth and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard but GT-Line and GT trims come with a larger 10.3-inch display with in-dash navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio. All models come with a secondary 4.2-inch color display between the gauges, and a wireless smartphone charging pad is an option.
How to Buy and Maintain a Car
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Kia offers a handful of standard and optional driver-assistance features, including an optional adaptive cruise control feature that uses navigation to predict upcoming curves in the road and slows the car’s speed in preparation for the turns. For more information about the Forte’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control with lane-following assist
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia’s powertrain warranty sets it apart from most other manufacturers, with most models offering just 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties. The Forte and the Elantra—from its corporate sibling, Hyundai—are the only compact cars that offer this much standard coverage.
- Limited warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2019 Kia Forte EX
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $23,180 (base price: $22,885)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1999 cc
Power: 147 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 132 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable automatic with manual shifting mode
Suspension (F/R): struts/torsion beam
Brakes (F/R): 11.0-in vented disc/10.3-in disc
Tires: Kumho Majesty Solus, 225/45R-17 91W M+S
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Length: 182.7 in
Width: 70.9 in
Height: 56.5 in
Passenger volume: 96 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15 cu ft
Curb weight: 2897 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 8.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 22.3 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 41.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.3 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.4 sec @ 87 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 123 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 173 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 34 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 41 mpg
Highway range: 570 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 34/30/40 mpg
More Features and Specs