2019 Kia Forte Review


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2019 Kia Forte Overview

The Forte was Kia’s first attempt at truly creating a competitive compact car that didn’t have to justify its existence with a much lower price than other products. The first two generations certainly helped to solidify that reputation, and as market expectations of compact cars grew, the Forte’s presence grew right along with them. This year, Kia introduces all-new third-generation Kia Forte for the 2019 model year, a vehicle with the design and content substance to match many larger cars.

The new model’s styling bears only the faintest resemblance to the outgoing second-generation model. Up front, there’s a new, tidy version of Kia’s “Tiger” grille motif, which is flanked by upswept headlights and a three-section lower grille area with plenty of gloss black. The turn indicators are prominent along with the inset fog lamps. The X-shaped light signatures on the optional LED headlight units should also make quite an impression going down the road. The sides of the new Forte are clean and mostly undisturbed, and the roofline adopts the modern trend of a fastback profile. At the rear, the design echoes the front with some of the same trapezoidal elements and optional LED tail lights. At this time, Kia hasn’t mentioned anything about a new Forte5, which is the 5-door hatchback variant of the Forte.

The car’s interior is part of a series of tasteful, well-appointed interiors from Kia that punch above their weight. There’s a strong horizontal theme across the dashboard, disrupted only by prominent elements like the instrument cluster, the aircraft-inspired circular side vents, and the touchscreen infotainment display. Kia says it widened the Forte by 0.7 inches and that it can be felt most readily in the expanded interior. The seats appear sporty and well-bolstered, and the optional perforated leather takes things up another notch.

Kia redesigned the previous Forte’s 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, which now uses a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system for improved fuel economy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet released official numbers, but Kia estimates 35 miles per gallon in mixed driving, which is an improvement of about three miles per gallon over the old model. The reworked engine delivers the same 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and is paired with either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The Forte comes in the same three trims: LX, S, and EX. LX starts things off with 15-inch steel wheels, an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic projector-beam headlights, a 6-way manual driver’s seat, USB jacks, dual-zone climate control, 4 speakers, and an XM radio. S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, fog lights, gloss-black bumper accents, chrome exhaust tips, a monochrome instrument cluster LCD, split-folding rear seats, and drive mode select.

Finally, EX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, mirror-mounted turn indicators, additional exterior chrome, leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped gearshift knob, navigation, and 6 speakers. Options for the EX include LED headlights, a sunroof, a wireless charging system, a color instrument panel LCD, LCD interior lighting, and a 320-watt Harmon Kardon sounds system.

As far as safety is concerned, the Forte comes with dual front and front side airbags and curtain airbags for all outboard positions. There’s also a standard reversing camera. Forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist come standard with the S while EX tacks on lane change assist, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic detection and offers automatic high beams, rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control as add-ons. The 2019 Forte has not yet been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the 2018 model was awarded the Top Safety Pick + designation. Therefore, there’s no reason the new one should fare any worse.

Kia has openly stated that it is committed to sedans even as the market shifts toward crossovers, and this new, full-featured, well-designed Forte is proof. That said, the Forte could benefit from a hotter version with flashier styling and a more powerful engine. That combination may, like the outgoing Forte, potentially come in a "Forte5" hatchback. In the interim, there’s plenty to enjoy about the 2019 Forte sedan.


Kyree is new to the automotive journalism scene, but has voiced snarky public opinions about cars for quite some time. When he's not drooling over the latest European luxury sled, he's designing web experiences or writing backend code.

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