2019 Kia Forte: Fun and upscale compact
The redesigned 2019 Kia Forte makes a strong case for small cars. It is affordable, economical, practical and fun to drive. And the top-of-the-line EX Launch version I tested practically qualified as a luxury car.
Everyone interested in automobiles knows that buyers are increasingly turning their backs on cars in favor of crossover SUVs and trucks. The continuing strong economy and relatively low gas prices are giving buyers excuses to buy larger, more expensive and less fuel-efficient vehicles. Chevy and Ford have stopped producing most of their cars, especially the smaller ones, like the compact Cruze and Focus.
But in a week of driving the Forte, I became convinced Chevy and Ford are making a mistake. The economy is not going to stay this strong forever and gas prices will eventually rise, like they have in the past. Cars are less expensive to buy and own than SUVs and trucks. And the Forte proves even the smaller ones still have a lot to offer.
The Forte was the first car of any kind that I've tested in months. I've been driving SUVs lately, with a few trucks and vans thrown in, too. That makes sense, because more and more buyers want to know what they are like.
I'd all but forgotten about the advantages of cars by the time the Forte showed up, however. For starters, it was easier to get in and out of, especially compared to large SUVs and trucks. It road much lower to the ground, which made it feel sportier. And, because it is a compact, the Forte was easy to drive in and out of heavy traffic and park.
And the cost was much lower than everything else I'd been driving, including the purchase price and the cost of gas because it got better mileage.
So I'd been driving about two days before it suddenly hit me — the 2019 Kia Forte is really and truly a good car. It has a surprising amount of interior room for a compact, the ride is firm without being harsh, the steering is nimble, and the acceleration is impressive, especially in the Sport mode available on higher trim levels.
It's also a good looking car. The redesigned look is aggressive without being cartoonish, aided the larger front air dam and shortened trunk. The interior is also more refined, with easy to fund and understand controls that would look at home in a larger, more expensve vehicle.
Kia has long been known for offering value, and the 2019 Forte is no exception. It comes standard with such features an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a range of safety system for around $18,000. Our fully-loaded EX Launch edition included a rich leather interior, upgraded Harman Kardon stereo, a power sunroof, additional safety systems, the aforementioned Sport mode and more — and yet was priced at around $26,000, which is less than half of some of the vehicles I've been testing lately.
All Fortes are powered by a 2.0-liter engine that produces 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. Kia is not offering a smaller turbocharged engine, like those available in some other compacts. But it is still EPA rated at 30 miles in town and 40 on the highway, which is respectable by any measure.
The Continuously Variable Transmission in the Forte also deserves praise. It is one of the most responsive I have ever tested.
Kia also offers a 10-year, 100,000 warranty on the Forte, which is among the best in the business.
OK, the Forte doesn't ride as high as an SUV or truck, so visibility is not as good. And it's not available with all-wheel-drive at any price. But for day-to-day driving under most conditions, it was attractive, comfortable and enjoyable way to get around — and a heck of a lot easy to live with than many larger vehicles.
If you're in the market for a new ride, don't think you need to follow the herd and only consider bigger, more expensive SUVs and trucks. Sometimes smaller is better, and the 2019 Kia Forte is among the best.
2019 Kia Forte
Base price: $17,790
Price as tested: $26,220
Type: Compact sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4 (147 hp, 132 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 27/37
Overall length: 182.7 inches
Curb weight: 2,903 pounds
Final assembly: Monterrey, Mexico