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2020 Kia Forte Review

LIKES
  • Premium looks
  • Upscale and spacious interior
  • Lots of features and safety tech for the money
  • New GT model
DISLIKES
  • Base model is underwhelming
  • Entry engine is lackluster
  • Some rivals are cheaper to start
  • No new hatchback, for now
BUYING TIP
  • Compare warranties when you shop: The 2020 Forte comes with 5 years or 60,000 miles of coverage.


The 2020 Kia Forte has the style and now the GT power to slot into any compact-car shopping list.

The 2020 Kia Forte is an oft-overlooked compact sedan that deserves more attention than it gets. With great standard equipment and a strong warranty, the 2020 Forte is worth a look alongside popular competitors like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. For that, we give it 6.0 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2020 Forte gets two new trims in the form of the GT-Line and GT, the former of which gets styling updates to make it look sportier than it is. The Forte GT has the guts to back up its name, with a 201-horsepower turbo-4, dual-clutch transmission, and sport-tuned rear suspension and exhaust. There’s also a new EX Special Edition package that adds some unique features and trim.

Kia has applied the styling cues of its sleek Stinger to the humble Forte, and the results are a hit. The Forte looks sleek and high-quality next to its economy car rivals, especially in new GT-Line and GT guise. The interior is a cut above, with great standard tech and excellent material quality.

While the standard inline-4 and continuously variable transmission (CVT) are adequate for an economy car with 147 horsepower, the drivetrain won’t be setting any speed records nor winning any awards for refinements. The run of the mill Forte has firmly weighted steering that generates some feedback for the driver, and a decently damped ride despite its short wheelbase. Fuel economy is solid as well, with average figures ranging from 25 to 31 mpg. As for the Forte GT, we’ll let you know more after we drive one in the coming months.

The 2020 Forte has a roomy cockpit that lets tall passengers sit behind tall drivers. It’s spacious, has nicely shaped front seats with height adjustment, and a back seat that doesn’t shout penalty box. Its trunk has more space than the average compact sedan, at 15.3 cubic feet.

Both federal and independent crash testers give the Forte top scores, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings with active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control are standard or available on every model. 

The 2020 Kia Forte is a lot of car for the money, boasting standard 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, active safety tech, and above-average interior space for under $20,000 to start, not to mention Kia’s longer than usual warranty. We recommend spending a bit more money to get a lot more features, but even the hotter GT trim starts at less than $24,000.

Styling
The 2020 Kia Forte is a sharp-looking compact sedan with a high-quality interior.

The 2020 Kia Forte looks more upscale than it is, and for an economy car, that’s the ultimate compliment. For its sleek styling and excellent interior, we give it 7 out of 10 here. 

Kia recruited former Audi design boss Peter Schreyer in 2006, and the brand has been churning out some of the best-looking mass-market vehicles ever since. The Forte is no exception, borrowing sporty cues from the Stinger such as a sleek, set-back windshield and a handsome rear end design. In new GT guise, the Forte looks downright track-ready, and the GT-Line trim adds much of that flair to a less gutsy version of the Forte.

The interior is dominated by a big 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and underscored by secondary knobs and buttons. The overall dash design is cohesive and well-organized, and with round air vents and matte silver trim on some models, the Forte feels and looks more upmarket than its price would suggest. We could do with a bit of lightness though, as every interior option is some combination of black and gray with the occasional pop of color.

Performance
The 2020 Kia Forte receives a much-needed sportiness injection in the form of the GT model.

The 2020 Kia Forte finally has a gutsy GT trim to match its sleek styling, but most drivers will take home the base drivetrain, which doesn’t carry the exciting turbo-4. We give the 2020 Forte a 4 for performance.

Last year, we knocked the Forte down a peg for its underwhelming single powertrain option. The 2.0-liter inline-4 is still the powerplant you’ll find in most Forte models this year, making 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual or CVT. It’s sluggish to accelerate and unrefined when pushed hard but it does return good fuel economy.

Thankfully, the Forte gets a much-needed injection of sportiness in the form of the new GT model, which borrows a 1.6-liter turbo-4 from the Hyundai Elantra Sport for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Mated to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the GT lives up to its name, offering improved performance for a palatable price of under $24,000. An improved multi-link rear suspension and dual sport exhaust system complete the package. We’ll report back soon with driving impressions.
Otherwise, the Kia Forte’s ride quality is good for a compact sedan. It’s softly composed, especially on the smaller wheels offered (15- and 16-inchers). The steering has decent feedback, and handling is responsive, but the Forte’s not as engaging as class leaders like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3.

Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Kia Forte delivers on comfort and quality in a way that many economy cars have yet to manage.

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the 2020 Kia Forte for a more expensive car if the badges were all obscured, as it offers impressive material quality and interior space for a palatable price. Still, base models feel a bit too economical, so we give it 5 out of 10 here as such.

The Forte’s spacious interior can accommodate a 6-foot passenger behind a 6-foot driver with comfort, something nearly no other compact sedan can boast. A spacious interior is improved by height-adjustable front seats as standard, as well as an above-average trunk at 15.3 cubic feet.

Material quality is great, provided you choose a mid-tier model or above. The base Forte FE feels like the bargain model that it is, but more expensive versions of the Forte are nicely trimmed with soft-touch materials, matte silver plastic accents, and the occasional pop of color on sportier models.

Thicker side glass and noise insulation materials make for a quiet experience on the highway, far quieter than the old model and many of its competitors.

Safety
The 2020 Kia Forte features mixed crash test results but excellent standard active safety technology.

Safety scores for the 2020 Kia Forte are split, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, including a full suite of standard active safety features. We give it 6 out of 10 here. 

The NHTSA gives the Forte only 4 stars overall in crash tests, with three stars for the front passenger side and a footnote about rear passenger side crash safety despite a five-star score in that category. Those results are inconsistent with the IIHS’s testing, which saw fit to award the 2019 Forte a Top Safety Pick+ award for “Good” scores all around and great standard front crash prevention tech.

Speaking of which, the Forte includes automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings with active lane control, and driver attention warnings on all trims. Blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors are all standard on the EX and GT-Line—but optional on the GT.

Features
The 2020 Kia Forte is well-equipped as standard and near luxurious in top-tier forms, all for under $24,000.

The 2020 Kia Forte delivers on value from the bottom on up, but we’d spend a bit more to get a lot of extra features if it was our money. We give it 8 out of 10 here; it gets extra points for standard features, value, warranty, and infotainment, but loses a point due to the spotty availability of safety features.

Every 2020 Forte comes with a full suite of active safety tech, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and multiple USB ports for a base price of under $19,000 including a $925 destination charge. That’s for the base FE model with a 6-speed manual transmission (the CVT costs $900 more).

We’d start shopping with the LXS model, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels and improved styling, split-folding rear seats, soft touch door panels, and a drive mode selector for just a few hundred more than the FE.
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A new GT-Line trim adds sportier styling in the form of 17-inch wheels, black trim accents, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a flat-bottom steering wheel, keyless ignition, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts for $21,315.

The EX is the most lavish version of the base Forte, adding heated and cooled front seats with synthetic leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, LED lighting inside and out, and more for $22,915.

Our money would be on the new GT model, which adds improved sport suspension and exhaust to go along with its 201-horsepower turbo-4 for $23,815. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard while a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic is available for an additional $400. The top-tier GT also gets 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, and unique interior trim.

Kia’s excellent warranty covers the car for 5 years/60,000 miles, and the powertrain for 10 years/100,000 miles.

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Kia Forte is efficient even for a compact car, managing 28 to 35 combined mpg.

The 2020 Kia Forte manages impressive fuel economy thanks to its lightweight construction and thrifty base engine at the expense of excitement. We give it 6 out of 10 here.

The base FE model is a fuel economy star as its moniker would suggest, managing 31 mpg city, 41 highway, 35 combined. The manual-equipped model gets 27/37/31 mpg with the same engine, so we’d go for the automatic despite its more sluggish and droning nature. Automatic Forte LXS and EX models manage 29/40/33 mpg.

The new GT model isn’t as thrifty with over 50 more horsepower, but does manage decent fuel economy with a manual transmission (25/32/28 mpg) and even better with the dual-clutch automatic (27/35/30 mpg). All versions of the 2020 Forte require only regular fuel, and the average annual fuel cost is $1,400 or less for all models.


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About Udara Madusanka

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