2018 Kia Forte Expert Review

4.2 Overall Score
Performance 4.0 Comfort 3.8 Styling 3.8 Value 4.3

Editor's Overview

Kia’s entry in the competitive and crowded compact-car class is available in two body styles, the stylish 2018 Kia Forte sedan and the even sexier Forte5 hatchback. Both are refined, fuel-efficient and packed with features. Each offers high-quality interiors, impressive infotainment systems and a choice of three trim levels, while the top-of-the-range Forte5 SX features a turbocharged engine with over 200 horsepower.

You'll Like The 2018 Kia Forte If...

The 2018 Forte lineup offers you a choice of a practical 4-door or Euro-styled 5-door hatchback, each replete with a generous warranty, lots of standard features and a decent price. If you’re looking for an attractive, stylish, comfortable and well-equipped compact with the highest crash-test safety ratings, you’ll like the Kia Forte.

You May Not Like The 2018 Kia Forte If...

If you’re looking for a diesel engine in this class, the Kia Forte is not for you; check out the Chevy Cruze. If all-wheel drive is on your wish list, shop the Subaru Impreza or the VW Golf SportWagen. If a hybrid interests you, shift over to the Kia Niro. The Kia Forte is also light on rear-seat legroom compared to the Honda Civic.

What's New

For 2018 Kia has improved in the Forte’s list of luxuries. The Forte LX now has standard cruise control and available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The Forte S gets new 16-inch wheels and the Technology Package now includes a sunroof. The Forte EX gets standard Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist.

Interior Features

Much like its exterior, the interior of the 2018 Kia Forte and Forte5 is simple and a bit understated, but interesting, attractive and artistically detailed. Control layout is intuitive and the soft-touch dash and high-quality materials add an upscale ambiance. Seat comfort is excellent and four adults can ride in comfort. EX models get standard leather and there are heating and cooling seats 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. 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

Kia has forgotten how to make ugly cars. The Korean automaker is now a style and design leader, with trendsetting sedans like the Optima and Stinger and cool-looking SUVs like the Soul and Sportage. The 2018 Forte and Forte5 are also lookers, with tight bodywork, LED accent lights and athletic proportions. Kia also gets the stance right, and the Forte looks right on the road. Although the two body styles share a nose, the Forte5 hatchback is the better-looking of the two with its short rear overhang and rear spoiler. Overall, it's a fresh and good-looking group of cars with a number of luxurious features like power-folding exterior mirrors, puddle lights and illuminated door-handle pockets.

Driving Impressions

There’s a pleasing and satisfying entertainment value to the driving characteristics of the Kia Forte. This is not a boring car to drive. It isn’t an exciting hot rod either, but the Forte’s steering, engine, transmission and suspension are all tuned well and they feel lively and responsive. This is not by chance; Kia engineers like their cars to have a sporty feel. That said, there are sportier and more thrilling cars in this class. Despite the available 201-horsepower engine in the Forte5, enthusiasts should check out the Mazda3, Honda Civic SI, Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Jetta GLI or VW Golf GTI for their fix. For the rest of us, the Forte’s 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is adequate. The 164-horsepower version of the engine in the Forte LX sedan, and Forte5 LX and EX models is better and it works well with the 6-speed automatic transmission. Around town and on the highway, the Forte sedan and hatchback are all excellent choices.

Pricing Notes

Prices for the 2018 Kia Forte lineup start at about $17,600 (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 around $22,500. Prices for the Forte5 hatchback start just over $19,000 and can reach close to $27,000 for a loaded version of the powered-up SX. 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

All 2018 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. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder base engine in the Forte LX sedan makes 147 horsepower, while the more expensive Forte5 LX hatchback starts with a 164-horsepower version.

Notable Options

Options for the 2018 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 Plus Package includes a power moonroof, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, push-button start, fog lights, LED taillights and other features.

Favorite Features

Much like similar systems found in more expensive cars like the BMW 3 Series and the Cadillac CT6, Kia’s Drive Mode Select system allows the Forte’s driver to choose among three settings, Normal, Eco and Sport depending on mood and the driving situation. Each adjusts the car’s engine, transmission and steering, maximizing comfort, fuel economy or performance.

This important safety technology is optional on the 2018 Kia Forte S and EX. The system reads the road ahead for obstacles in your path, including vehicles or pedestrians. If it determines a collision is imminent and the Forte’s driver is not taking action, it will apply the vehicle’s brakes for you.

Under the Hood

The base engine for the 2018 Forte and Forte5 is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. 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. Transmission choices in the sedan are a 6-speed manual or a smooth and responsive 6-speed automatic. The Forte5 gets just the more powerful 2.0-liter, while the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in the Forte5 SX can be paired with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

2.0-liter 4-cylinder (Forte Sedan LX, S, EX)
147 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
132 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 29/37 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter 4-cylinder (Forte5 LX, 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: 25/34 mpg

1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (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

Kia’s entry in the competitive and crowded compact-car class is available in two body styles, the stylish 2018 Kia Forte sedan and the even sexier Forte5 hatchback. Both are refined, fuel-efficient and packed with features including available driver-assist systems. Each offers high-quality interiors, impressive infotainment systems that incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a choice of three trim levels, while the top-of-the-range Forte5 SX features a turbocharged engine with over 200 horsepower. Prices start just under $18,000 for a Forte LX sedan with a 6-speed manual transmission. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 147 horsepower. An optional 6-speed automatic transmission is available and kicks up fuel-economy ratings to 29-mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway. Competitors include the Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.

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