2017 Kia Forte Expert Review

4.3 Overall Score
Performance 4.1Comfort 3.8Styling 3.9Value 4.3

Editor's Overview

As its competitors up their compact-car game, Kia isn't sitting still. The 2017 Kia Forte sedan and Forte5 hatchback both hit the showroom floor with notable updates to styling, powertrain and technology. The upgrades add to an already impressive list of features that includes three different body styles and excellent refinement and quality.

You'll Like The 2017 Kia Forte If...

The 2017 Forte lineup offers you a choice of practical 4-door or Euro-styled 5-door hatchback, each replete with a generous warranty, lots of standard features and a decent price.

You May Not Like The 2017 Kia Forte If...

While we love the sedan and hatchback's new looks and tech, the reality is that the Forte still comes up short when it comes to the kind of agility and power that gets enthusiasts' blood pumping. Also, those base prices are low, but they rise quickly as you add options.

What's New

The 2017 Kia Forte sedan and Forte5 hatchback receive Optima-inspired styling this year. New driver-assist technology includes automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available. There's a new 2.0-liter base engine, a new S trim for the sedan, and a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for the SX mode. The Kia Forte Koup is no more.

Interior Features

The interior doesn't look much different this year, retaining the logical controls and comfort, plus the whimsy of the passenger-side dash ripples. The soft-touch dash is exemplary of the overall quality of materials inside. EX models get standard leather this year, and there's also heating and cooling available, as well as a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support. Even the rear seat offers a center armrest with cup holders, as well as a good amount of room for the class. Then there's the Forte5's excellent 23 cubic feet of cargo space, in case the sedan's 15-cubic-foot trunk isn't enough.

Exterior Features

The new grille and headlights on the 2017 Kia Forte look like they're straight from the bigger Kia Optima sedan. Ditto for the taillights, which retain the original shape, but have been redesigned to look more like the larger car's. The Forte5 shares the same nose, but keeps its unique hatchback profile, obviously. Overall, it's a fresh and good-looking group of cars. The LED accent lights are a nice touch, and even with the updates, the overall conservative aesthetic remains, as do features like power-folding exterior mirrors, puddle lamps and illuminated door-handle pockets.

Driving Impressions

Let's just get this out of the way first: Despite the available 201-horsepower engine available in the Forte5, this subcompact doesn't have the sporty chops to back up its looks. Enthusiasts should check out the Mazda3, Honda Civic SI, or Volkswagen Jetta or GTI for their fix. However, for the other 99 percent of drivers who just want a comfortable, feature-filled and sporty-looking sedan, coupe or hatchback, the Forte lineup is a solid choice. Around town and on the highway, the Forte sedan and hatchback are all excellent choices. Multiple creature comforts coddle driver and passenger alike, and even the base engine feels plenty powerful; the turbo is just gravy. The sedan’s added driver-assist technologies like automatic braking and lane departure warning sweeten the deal on a solidly economical daily-driver choice.

Pricing Notes

Prices for the 2017 Kia Forte lineup start at about $17,300 (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price/MSRP) for the low-end Forte Sedan LX model with a manual transmission. That includes the $850 destination charge; an automatic transmission adds about $1,000 to the price. The new Forte Sedan S model starts at about $20,000, while the top-end EX sedan starts at $22,000. Prices for the Forte5 hatchback start just over $19,000 and can reach close to $27,000 for the powered-up SX version. That's a solidly competitive price structure for the compact Kia, right in line with offerings from Honda, a little above Nissan and Toyota, and a little below Mazda. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. On the resale front, the Forte models are expected to have below-average residual values.

Notable Equipment

The new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder base engine in the Forte sedan/Forte5 hatchback offers the same power as last year's 1.8-liter but better city fuel economy with the popular automatic transmission. All Forte sedan and Forte5 hatchback models come with keyless entry, standard Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity, air conditioning and a split-folding rear seat. The base LX model Forte sedan is fairly dressed down, even offering steel wheels and a manual transmission. A new mid-level S model sedan offers nicer interior appointments at a lower price than the EX. A full complement of active and passive safety features is standard on every Forte.

Notable Options

Options for the 2017 Kia Forte lineup include navigation, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and Kia's UVO infotainment system. Most of that's included in the Forte's Premium Plus package, although leather is now standard on EX sedans. Many features are bundled by trim level, and the Forte5 models offer a level above the sedan called SX that adds a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 201 horsepower, as well as 18-inch wheels. A Technology Package adds navigation, heated and cooled seats, and other niceties like a power moonroof.

Favorite Features

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay bring the functionality and interface of your smartphone to your car's infotainment system. Just plug your phone's USB cable into the car's port, and you're set, bringing your phone's navigation, music, texting and other compatible apps to your car's dash.

While the Kia Forte5 may not have the sporting chops of the Volkswagen GTI, we're just glad Kia has remained committed to this small but fanatical market niche.

Under the Hood

The new base engine for the Forte and Forte5 is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are essentially the same as last year's smaller engine, but this engine gets notably better city fuel economy. It's standard in the LX and S models of the Forte sedan. The other 2.0-liter engine is a direct-injection 4-cylinder that puts out a more robust 164 horsepower, which is slightly down from last year. Transmission choices in the sedan are a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. The Forte5 gets just the more powerful 2.0-liter, while the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder can be paired with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

2.0-liter 4-cylinder (Kia Forte Sedan LX, S)
147 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
132 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 29/38 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter 4-cylinder (Kia Forte Sedan EX)
164 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm (ULEV-II)
160 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm (SULEV)
151 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm (ULEV-II)
149 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm (SULEV)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 mpg

1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (Kia Forte5 SX)
201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/29 mpg (manual), 25/30 mpg (automatic)

Editors' Notes

The 2017 Kia Forte lineup gets a solid update this year to the 4-door sedan and 5-door Kia Forte5 hatchback. New styling makes the two look like miniaturized versions of the larger Optima sedan; this is a good thing. Under the hood, the base 1.8-liter engine has been replaced with a larger, but more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. And both the Forte sedan and Forte5 get upgrades to technology, including enhanced driver-assist systems, and a new infotainment system that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Put it all together and you have a comprehensive compact-car lineup that goes head-to-head with the Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and many others with multiple body styles, good looks and surprising levels of refinement.

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