Small sedans these days seem like a bit of a dying breed with the proliferation of crossover SUV’s, but many manufacturers are dedicated to offering them. 2019 Kia Forte is completely redesigned for 2019, and while they have sadly dropped the hatchback model, this sedan version is improved in almost every possible way.
Starting with the design, Kia has kicked it up a notch by borrowing some design cues from both their other models and other manufacturers. The grill and headlights are reminiscent of the new Kia Stinger and signify a new design direction for the manufacturer. The headlights have a four-corner LED marker light design that evokes Porsche’s current headlights. Again, say what you will about borrowing design elements, but in this case, they add to the appearance.
The ‘borrowed’ theme continues inside, with some nods to Mazda and Mercedes in the design of the dash. A central LCD touchscreen protrudes up from the middle of the dash, and a horizontal aluminum trim combines with round AC vents to remind you of Mazda’s design. Materials are nicely chosen, with soft touch and some heft to both surfaces and controls. It does not feel like a budget sedan.
Starting at under $18k, it is a budget sedan, but our EX test vehicle pushed over $26k pretty quickly with added options. There are some pretty unexpected available options for this class, like heated and cooled seats. But some competitors have other available options (like Civic’s side camera.) It’s worth researching all the features and deciding which ones are most important to you.
Technology is above average throughout this Forte, with some active/passive safety features like emergency braking, active cruise, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitors. Overall, the systems work well and help keep you safer. The central LCD controls a simple and effective operating system with easy to use features and plenty of connectivity.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are there, as well as plenty of USB and power ports.
Oddly, the high current power port is on a different level as the data port, and the former is backlit while the latter is not. Since they sit right next to each other, that makes the interior look less refined. That’s a shame when the materials and design are so good, and it seems like an easy fix.
Power comes from a non-turbo 2.0 liter 4-cylinder, backed with an ‘IVT’ transmission, a marketing euphemism for a CVT. Often the gearbox feels a bit disconnected, as do most CVTs, but it’s also got a manual mode, and even in the automatic mode it holds ratios to mimic a standard transmission. An excellent result of the powertrain is the efficiency, at 30 city and 40 highway MPG.
Unfortunately, the non-turbo engine is lacking in torque and comes across a bit buzzy, but it lacks the complexity of a turbocharged engine and has less components to possibly fail. With 147hp, it’s got enough to get things going, but overall the performance isn’t really inspiring. Handling is above average, and ride quality is good as well.
Overall, this new 2019 Kia Forte is a wonderful small sedan. While we lament the loss of a hatchback option, this is a still a good option for a city car. You can fit five comfortably, have a decent trunk and can still park just about anywhere in the city. Combine all of that with a value price, excellent warranty, and host of features, and you end up with a solid contender in the small sedan class.
Special thanks to Kia Motors Corporation for providing the 2019 Kia Forte EX for review.