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#4

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $15,900 - $21,900
Invoice: $15,599 - $20,658
MPG: 25 City / 36 Hwy
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Kia Forte Performance

Reviewers agree the 2014 Kia Forte has a comfortable ride, a smooth-shifting automatic transmission and sufficient engine power. They say the Forte feels like it is solidly built, and while one critic writes that it isn’t as nimble as the Ford Focus or Mazda3, the Forte is still reasonably fun to drive. One test driver also appreciates that the Forte is largely free of unwanted road noise and engine vibration.

  • "Kia personnel referred to ‘spirited performance,’ but in truth, there was nothing about the Forte's dynamics that rated as really noteworthy. The car's handling is competent and comfortable, and the structure is solid. But the Forte doesn't deliver a memorable driving experience." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Forte's cabin is surprisingly quiet for a car that belongs in the compact segment, with hardly any vibrations felt through the steering wheel, floor panels, or pedals." -- Motor Trend
  • "Not quite as nimble as a Ford Focus or Mazda 3, but the 2014 Forte EX is more than competent and fun to drive." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Forte sedan comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with this engine, and a six-speed automatic is optional. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 173 horsepower is available, which comes with a six-speed automatic. Koup and hatchback models come standard with the 2.0-liter engine, while a 201-horsepower, turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is optional. This engine is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. With the base 1.8-liter engine and an automatic transmission, the Forte sedan earns an EPA fuel economy estimate of 25/36 mpg city/highway. Models with the 2.0-liter engine get slightly lower estimates, at 24/36 mpg with an automatic transmission. These estimates are about average for the class.

One reviewer who tested the Forte sedan with the base engine says it delivers sufficient power to help the car get around, but little more. Most critics tested models with the 2.0-liter engine, and report that with this engine, the Forte feels sufficiently powerful. Multiple test drivers report that the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly.

See full 2014 Kia Forte specs »

  • "Good, basic motivation is the EX's 1.8-liter 4-cylinder calling card." -- MSN
  • "The gearbox is a smoothing-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. This all translates into steady acceleration and more-than-adequate merging power on the highway." -- Tampa Tribune
  • "We drove the EX, which features a 2.0-liter directed-injected four-cylinder. ... It winds quickly through its rpm range and never seems out of breath, even as we head toward higher elevations." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The zestier engine pulls well from low rpm and is mostly unobtrusive, however runs to redline return coarse noises. The transmission shifts smoothly, although the manual mode won't challenge a dual-clutch gearbox for fun." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Kia offers a driver-selectable steering system that changes steering feel and heft between comfort, normal and sport settings. One reviewer says this system doesn’t add a whole lot to the driving experience, though it noticeably adjusts steering wheel effort, with sport mode being too heavy and comfort being not heavy enough. Overall, critics say the Forte feels comfortable and solid going down the road. Some say the Forte isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for driving excitement, but the Forte’s handling and ride comfort should be fine for most drivers. One reviewer is pleased with the firm, linear feel of the brake pedal.

  • "A stiffer chassis and recalibrated rear torsion beam allowed the Forte to float over hard impacts while delivering a smooth and balanced ride." -- Motor Trend
  • "Bend the new Forte into a curve and you'll find it strikes a good mix between ride and handling. It doesn't have the steering precision or suspension communication the Ford Focus boasts, and midcorner bumps can upset the rear a bit, but overall it does a nice job of soaking up harsh hits with at least some back-road playfulness on tap for more enthusiastic drivers." -- Edmunds
  • "Cornering is marked by safe, predictable front-drive behavior, with good grip and only modest body lean. However, the new EX-standard FlexSteer system seems of marginal value. Though its three settings make a noticeable difference in steering effort, Comfort feels too light and numb, while Sport almost feels too heavy." -- Consumer Guide
  • "There are three (Comfort, Normal, and Sport) steering settings; we like the latter's overall heft, but that's the only silver lining. The brake pedal is firm and responds linearly, and it seems Kia's going 'BMW style' on throttle-pedal design with the Forte's floor-hinged unit." -- Car and Driver
Review Last Updated: 5/13/14

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