2017 Kia Forte S: Economy Sedan without the Cheap Feel

The Kia Forte has been out since 2008, with the current generation coming out in 2012. Based on that alone, you might think it feels a bit dated and cheap, but Kia has done a good job of updating the small sedan to keep it engaging. The entry level price of just under $20k means that you can afford one of these without breaking the bank, and without making you feel like you’re driving a cheap car. The interior quality is reasonable, and a huge step up from when it was originally introduced. Of course, wearing an ‘S’ badge on the back, we’d hoped for a little more performance, but overall it’s still a good choice.

Under the hood, there’s a simple 2.0-Liter 4-Cylinder with no turbos, superchargers, batteries, plugs or any such trickery. While the simplicity saves in cost, the downside is boring acceleration and lackluster performance. It feels quite dull to drive, and the lazy transmission doesn’t help matters. The handling is better than the powertrain, but overall it doesn’t do much to live up to the S badge on the back.

Cruising on the highway, it’s actually quite loud inside as well – another factor of the entry level cost. Around town the wind-noise is much more manageable, and having such a small car is handy in the city anyway. The fuel mileage is good as well, listed at 29-city and 38-highway MPG, a good reminder that you don’t need fancy hybrids to get good mileage. And this will never have batteries that need to be disposed of, so it’s a pretty green alternative as well.

Styling-wise, you have the signature Kia grille with chrome surrounding, and decent proportions from most angles. Again, nobody buys one of these for the looks alone, but just because a car doesn’t cost that much doesn’t mean it has to be ugly! Especially from the rear ¾-view, there’s a coupe-like silhouette that makes this stand out from the basic upright sedans of a few years ago. The 2017 model carried a few updates from 2016, including new headlights and taillights. Subtle changes, but definitely for the better.

For technology, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a welcome addition at this price point. You can get a few active safety features as options with the technology package, and the navigation package adds a sunroof and a few other feature perks. The sunroof package is a bit steep at $2,500, and with such good smartphone integration you don’t really need the built-in navigation; so unless you just have to have a sunroof, you can skip that one.

Over the years, Kia has been gradually and subtly improving the Forte that you almost don’t recognize it. There are a few tip offs as to the platform’s age, things like the switchgear for the lights and windows, but the modern infotainment system and pleasing material choices really make it pretty decent inside. Coupled with the handsome exterior and affordable entry point, this Kia Forte is one to check out if you’re in the market for a small sedan. Combine all that with the 5-year 60k mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and there’s not much to complain about. The next step they really need to take is making it a little more fun to drive.

Special thanks to Kia Motors for providing the 2017 Kia Forte S for review