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#9

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $15,890 - $21,890
Invoice: $15,587 - $20,647
MPG: 25 City / 37 Hwy
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Kia Forte Performance

Some critics say the 2015 Kia Forte offers solid power and is enjoyable to drive, while others think the Forte’s various engine choices are not as enthralling as some competitors’.

  • "Versatile, sporty and fun to drive, the Forte trio deals the final one-two knockout punch with an extremely affordable starting price and a standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty." -- AutoTrader
  • "On the road, the Kia feels as if it's trying to drive as sporty as it looks, but a few things let it down in the fun-to-drive department." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Forte has good power and a decent suspension, but it's not as fun to drive as competitors like the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Jetta. However, if you're among the 99 percent of buyers who just want a solid daily driver, the Forte in sedan, coupe and hatchback are all excellent choices." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2015 Kia Forte sedan comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 145 horsepower. This engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic is optional. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 173 horsepower is also available in the sedan, and it comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. 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. Both Koup engines come standard with a six-speed manual, while the hatchback engines come with both manual and automatic six-speed transmissions, depending on the trim. The EPA reports that the base 2015 Forte sedan with a 1.8-liter engine and automatic transmission earns up to 26/39 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class. The more powerful 1.6-liter models earn less however, at 22/30 mpg city/highway for the Koup with the automatic transmission.

Auto writers say the various engines available in the Forte are powerful for the class, but none are bursting with acceleration. Some critics say the Forte’s automatic transmission prioritizes fuel economy over performance, resulting in many unnecessary and annoying gear changes. Reviewers note that Fortes with the manual transmission are more fun to drive, but that it is not as refined as the manual transmission in rivals.

  • "The little 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 is willing, with plenty of power, but it isn't much fun to rev out, sounding rough and noisy. The six-speed automatic transmission is quick to downshift on throttle command, but it's so eager to zip back up to top gear that brisk driving (or even just getting up a mountain road or passing slower traffic) results in continuous shifts up and down -- and the subsequent noise and frustration of dropping two or three gears over and over again. That repetition, combined with the not-so-sonorous engine note, grew tiring after several miles." -- Motor Trend
  • "The 173-hp four-cylinder in the 2015 Kia Forte EX is one of the stronger engines you'll find in this class. This output doesn't translate to blazing acceleration, but in general, the EX is quicker than the norm. The only downside is that the 2.0-liter sounds and feels a bit buzzy during hard acceleration. The available 201-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter engine makes for a lively experience in both the hatchback and coupe and is one of the strongest engines you'll find in the class." -- Edmunds
  • "The transmission occasionally hunted and upshifted early, however, suggesting that the car is tuned for favorable fuel economy, not outright performance. If you're seeking a more sporty drive, opt for the SX's turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission. Both are a cut above what we've experienced in previous Kia products, although the manual is still not as refined or precise as a Mazda or Honda manual." -- AutoTrader
  • "The turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter inline-4 is rated at 201 hp, but you really need the standard, six-speed manual transmission to get the engine busy enough to impress you. When it's hooked up with this particular car's six-speed automatic transmission, the whole business sounds like a sound-effects loop for Storm Chasers." -- Automobile Magazine

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel drive 2015 Kia Forte is available with a driver-controlled steering system, which adjusts steering effort for Comfort, Sport and Normal driving modes. Some reviewers say that the Forte feels numb in all three modes. Other critics note that the Forte is not as engaging to drive as some rivals. Still, reviewers think that the majority of car buyers in this class will be happy with the secure handling offered in the Forte.

  • "Handling is safe and predictable, but not exactly sporty or engaging - those seeking a fun drive should probably look elsewhere." -- Left Lane News
  • "We felt that the electric steering system's FlexSteer setup offered varying levels of numbness; the comfort setting was too light, the sport setting too tight, and the medium setting passable in terms of effort but lacking feel overall, which sometimes led the car to wander in its lane at highway speeds." -- AutoTrader
  • "Steering feel has traditionally been a Kia weak point and it continues to be in the 2015 Forte5. Again, it should be noted that steering feel isn't a top consideration for many consumers in this segment, but from an enthusiast perspective, it leaves the car feeling a little flat. Kia has, however, added a variable effort system to the Forte, which changes the weighting. Unfortunately, that does nothing for actually determining grip levels at the tires' contact patches. Though the Kia rides comfortably enough, it doesn't have the body control or response of some of the sportier offerings in this segment." -- Motor Trend
  • "Most shoppers in this segment will likely be satisfied with the Forte's overall ride quality. But the Forte's suspension is occasionally a bit firm and unrefined. Rougher roads produce a somewhat busy ride, unlike rivals like the Focus and Mazda 3, both of which have a more isolated ride over broken pavement. Those cars are also sportier when going around turns; the Forte feels steady, but not particularly engaging." -- Edmunds
Review Last Updated: 9/17/14

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