2020 Kia Forte

2020 Kia Forte Review: Mini Stinger Packs A Turbocharged Punch

by Aiden Eksteen

After a substantial redesign for 2019, the Kia Forte is forging on strong. Spurred on by Stinger-inspired styling and a newly available turbocharged engine developing 201 horsepower paired to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, Kia's finally ready to take on the established compact sedan elite. But that's a tough task, with the Honda Civic and Mazda occupying the segment, and the base 2.0-liter engine's mere 147 hp and CVT automatic, which might not be up to the task. Still, the Forte impresses, and while it's not quite a segment leader yet, with prices ranging from $17,790 to $22,290, there's loads of value, high levels of safety, and bucketloads of style, all wrapped up in an affordable package.

Read in this review:

2020 Kia Forte Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Forte?

For 2020, the Forte lineup is diversified with two additional trim lines. The Forte GT-Line brings with it a sporty aesthetic including 17-inch alloy wheels and a sporty body kit, while the performance-tuned Forte GT is offered for those who seek a little more punch, packing a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine developing 201 hp, sport-tuned suspension, and a choice of either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed DCT. The old Forte S has been discontinued from the lineup for the 2020 model year. There is now an EX Special Edition Package available for the Forte EX, which equips the model with a premium Harman Kardon audio system, wireless charging, voice command navigation, two-tone red Sofino seat trim, a power sunroof, and a gloss black rear decklid spoiler.

Pros and Cons

  • Comfortable seats
  • Decent fuel-economy
  • User-friendly infotainment
  • Relatively spacious trunk
  • Feature-packed
  • Turbocharged GT packs a performance punch
  • Sluggish base engine and CVT gearbox
  • Relatively stiff ride quality
  • Not as athletic as many of its rivals
  • Back seat isn't as spacious as rivals

Forte Exterior

The Kia Forte's exterior styling is inspired by the aggressively sporty Kia Stinger. The base model, the Forte FE, rides atop 15-inch steel wheels with covers, the Forte LXS rides on 16-inch machined-finish alloy wheels and the new Forte GT-Line on 17-inch alloy wheels with a graphite finish. The Forte EX also has 17-inch alloy wheels but with a machined-finish; the performance-based Forte GT boasts 18-inch alloy wheels in the same finish. All but the GT comes fitted with projector low-beam headlights, the GT with LED headlights, while LED daytime running lights and front fog lights are standard as of the GT-Line. Gloss black exterior elements are present on the GT-Line and GT twins, including a trunk lid spoiler. The GT-Line boasts a single-exit exhaust, with the GT upgrading to a sharper dual-exit finisher.

2020 Kia Forte Front View Kia
2020 Kia Forte Side View Kia
2020 Kia Forte Side View Driving Kia
See All 2020 Kia Forte Exterior Photos

Dimensions

After last year's redesign, the Forte looks bigger than ever, but still retains dimension on par for the compact segment. Its overall length measures 182.7 inches, which makes it only 0.8 inches longer than the Hyundai Elantra. Both vehicles measure identically in every other aspect: a 106.3-inch wheelbase, overall height of 56.5 inches, and width without the side mirrors at 70.9 inches. Both vehicles ride with a ground clearance of 5.3 inches as well. The Forte is around 100 pounds lighter than the Elantra on average, though, with its curb weights ranging from 2,707 lbs on the manual FE up to 3,079 lbs for the DCT-equipped GT.

Exterior Colors

There are eight exterior color options for the Forte with availability dependant on the model chosen. Clear White, Gravity Gray and Aurora Black Pearl are the only two hues available to all models, the latter carrying a $295 additional charge. Silky Silver can be chosen at no cost, but only from mid-range trim levels. Currant Red is available for the LXS, EX, and GT at an extra cost of $195 and Snow White Pearl for the EX and GT only at an extra cost of $295. The GT-Line and GT have exclusive availability to Fire Orange, the striking hue suiting the sportiness of the two trims by accentuating the chrome and black accents and the aggressive front fascia. Deep Sea Blue is also reserved for upper-level trims, and is also particularly striking.

  • Currant Red
  • Snow White Pearl
  • Aurora Black
  • Gravity Grey
  • Clear White
  • Silky Silver
  • Deep Sea Blue
  • Fire Orange

Forte Performance

The Kia Forte is one of the slower vehicles within the class; 147 hp and 132 lb-ft from the 2.0-liter four-pot motor is enough to accelerate the CVT-equipped Forte from 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Although the Hyundai Elantra is a lot slower off-the-line at ten seconds to 60 mph, the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 are quicker, reaching the 60 mph mark in seven seconds or less. The Forte equipped with the 1.6-liter turbo four-pot motor is a quicker option, accelerating from 0-60 mph in a prompt 6.6 seconds. It's here where the top-end Elantra, featuring a 1.6-liter turbo mill, proves a little faster, though, accelerating from 0-60 mph within a time of 6.5 seconds, a split second faster than the Forte.

Like the Forte, most vehicles in this class are available only as front-wheel-drive sedans. For those in all-weather states who want the improved traction of an all-wheel-drive sedan in this class, you can look to the Mazda 3 Sedan with its available AWD, while the Subaru Impreza offers nothing but.

2020 Kia Forte Front View Driving Kia
2020 Kia Forte Side View Driving 1 Kia
2020 Kia Forte Engine Kia

Engine and Transmission

There are two engines available in the Forte lineup, although all but the GT are equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with peak outputs of 147 hp and 132 lb-ft. It's mated to a six-speed manual gearbox in the FE, and a CVT automatic (which is optional for the FE) in all others. The engine itself is rather listless, and the CVT, while great for fuel-efficiency, only makes throttle responses and power delivery even slower. Unfortunately, the manual gearbox is available only in the base-spec model - it does lower fuel-efficiency slightly, but is well worth it for the added engagement and throttle control.

The GT is equipped with a more powerful 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with peak outputs of 201 hp and 197 lb-ft, which are directed via a default seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox or an optional six-speed manual gearbox. This engine packs a lot of initial punch with either of the gearboxes in play, and while there is some turbo-lag, it's nothing too serious - pulling away from a stop is met with ample forward thrust and the power is delivered in a robust, yet smooth, manner. Getting up to highway speed is easy, and initiating high-speed overtaking maneuvers requires little effort.

  • Engines
    1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, 7-Speed Automatic, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Forte is one of the most well-resolved compact sedans in the class; while its ride is a little on the stiffer side, it does manage to effectively absorb most rough road surfaces and undulations. However, more prominent road imperfections do reverberate through the cabin quite drastically. At least the cabin remains exceptionally quiet when driving on smooth tarmac, and the slight engine drone you do hear is not entirely unpleasant.

The Forte isn't very impressive at all when it comes to handling though, it's certainly not as exciting as its sporty exterior styling suggests. There's very little feedback ceded from the steering and the on-center feel is considerably vague, although the weighting is suitable at any speed. While the stiff suspension means there's very little body roll around corners, mid-corner bumps tend to have an unsettling effect on the chassis. The GT's sport-tuned suspension does improve capability but only by a little thanks to updated dampers, while the bigger wheels don't aid ride comfort. The brakes are effective and provide adequate stopping power; responses are consistent and the brake pedal is easy to modulate in everyday driving conditions.

Forte Gas Mileage

With the various engine and transmission options, the Forte is a mixed bag for fuel economy. The FE trim presumably stands for Fuel Efficiency, because the EPA rates it the best of the bunch when equipped with the CVT automatic gearbox, returning estimates of 31/41/35 mpg city/highway/combined from its 2.0-liter motor. Other CVT-equipped trims with the base engine return 29/40/33 mpg, while the manual-equipped 2.0-liter models manage 27/37/31 mpg. The 1.6T on the GT is the least efficient, returning 27/35/30 mpg in DCT form and 25/32/28 mpg with the manual gearbox. Every model is equipped with a 14-gallon gas tank which, when full, accords the CVT-equipped Forte FE with a maximum drive range of around 490 miles before running empty. Only the Honda Civic is capable of matching the Forte's estimates, besting the Kia by a single mile to the gallon in each cycle.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.0 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 27/37 mpg
* 2020 Kia Forte FE Manual

Forte Interior

The cabin of the Forte exudes a sophisticated and refined impression with an appealing mix of high-grade materials embellishing most key visual and touch-points. The build quality is exceptional, panel gaps are all even, fixtures and fittings firmly attached, and no squeaks or rattles can be heard from anywhere within the cabin. Everything is also very ergonomically laid out, and the driver's controls are properly arranged and easy to gauge, as is the infotainment system and AC controls. The seats are positioned nicely and outward visibility is optimal for the driver. The Forte's cabin is, simply put, a pleasant place to be. The seats are comfortable and supportive even for long durations, and the comprehensive infotainment system is sure to keep passengers entertained.

2020 Kia Forte Infotainment System Kia
2020 Kia Forte Driver Seat Kia
2020 Kia Forte Steering Wheel Kia
See All 2020 Kia Forte Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

There is seating for up to five passengers in the Forte, albeit with a few limitations. Shoulder room in the rear may be tight with three occupying the bench, but most average-size adults should fit comfortably on the outboard seats. Head and legroom are otherwise ample throughout, and drivers and passengers of any physique will find more than enough stretch room up front; anyone over six feet tall may find a shortage of head and knee room in the rear. The backs of the front seats are also coated in hard plastic, which only augments that discomfort. The seat bases and backrests are otherwise nicely cushioned and contoured for all-day comfort and support. Ingress and egress are relatively effortless, the doors do open wide - which may prove restrictive in tight parking bays - but the seats are otherwise easy to climb into thanks to a moderate step-in height and seating position. Outward visibility is clear all-round and unhindered by any roof pillars or headrests.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

In every Forte, the dash is covered in a dark grey leatherette-like finish with simulated stitching and a gunmetal gray accent strip running through the mid-section. A polyurethane steering wheel is standard in the FE and LXS, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel featured as of the GT-Line upward. The FE and LXS's seats are upholstered in black woven cloth upholstery as standard. The GT-Line is fitted with sporty black cloth seats with Sofino leatherette side bolsters and white contrast stitching and GT-Line badging, while the seats in the EX can be upholstered with either black or black and gray two-tone Sofino upholstery. Black Sofino and cloth seat upholstery with red stitching is standard in the GT and optional for the EX, with pure Sofino upholstery optional for the GT.

Forte Trunk and Cargo Space

The Forte's 15.3 cubic foot trunk is relatively acceptable for the class, while with the Hyundai Elantra offers only 14.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, the Honda Civic offers an impressive 15.7 cu-ft. The Forte's 15.3 cubes is enough for about a week's worth of groceries for a small family. The back seats in all but the base model are 60/40 split-folding which can be utilized if more cargo room is required for larger items.

In-cabin storage solutions are rather limited: up front there are suitably sized door side storage pockets with bottle holder slots, there are two cupholders between the front seats, an open small-item tray ahead of the gearstick, and a reasonably sizable passenger-side glove box compartment. The door side pockets on the rear doors are bottle sized, there are another two cup holders in the center seat backrest, and only a single seatback map pocket behind the passenger's seat.

2020 Kia Forte Rear Passenger Seats Kia
2020 Kia Forte Side View 1 Kia
2020 Kia Forte Front Angle View Kia
  • Trunk Volume
    15.3 ft³

Forte Infotainment and Features

Features

Standard features in the FE include remote keyless entry, a polyurethane steering wheel, a tilt/telescoping steering column, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, fixed folding rear bench, and manual air conditioning. In terms of driver-assist technologies, the FE gets a rearview camera, cruise control, driver attention warning, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance. In the LXS, there are 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a Drive Mode Selector. The GT-Line gets a push-button start system with Smart key and Smart trunk; there's also an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power, heated side-view mirrors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. The driver-assist technology is extended with lane change assist, blind-spot collision warning, and rear-cross traffic alert. The EX ups the ante on creature comforts with heated and ventilated front seats, a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The GT regresses in features in favor of performance: the six-way manually-adjustable front seats are returned as is the manual air conditioning. It gets steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and high beam assist. The heated and ventilated front seats, lane-change assist, blind-spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert are also removed from the GT.

Infotainment

Evey Kia Forte is equipped with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen tethered to an AM/FM/MP3-compatible stereo; in the FE and LXS, the system is connected to a four-speaker sound system. In all other models, there is a six-speaker audio layout. A premium eight-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system is optional from the GT-Line, EX, and GT. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are standard in every model, along with Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free smartphone connectivity. A single USB port and auxiliary input jack are standard in every model, but the EX and GT are fitted with an additional USB port for smart device charging. Satellite radio is standard as of the EX model as is voice recognition, but HD Radio and navigation are only optional, and only on the EX trim. A wireless charging pad is available to add-on for most models, which, with selection, deletes the additional USB port.

Forte Problems and Reliability

The 2020 Kia Forte has not been subject to any major recalls as yet, but 2019 models were subject to a recall for incorrectly aimed low-beam headlights. The 2019 models also had numerous complaints, many pertaining to the engine and powertrain. New models regularly see teething problems, so it may be wise to observe if things improve for the 2020 model. Kia covers the Forte with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and an industry-leading ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Forte Safety

Safety results are a mixed bag for the Forte, with the IIHS awarding it Top Safety Pick + status while the NHTSA only awarded it four stars overall - most worryingly, however, is the warning flagged by the NHTSA for rear passenger safety in side-impact collisions, where the left rear door panel could potentially cause severe injuries to occupants in the back.

Key Safety Features

Every model comes outfitted with a consignment of six standard airbags, a rearview camera, cruise control, driver attention warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance. Only the GT-Line and EX are further outfitted with blind-spot collision warning, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic collision warning all of which are optional for the GT. Exclusively available to the GT is forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, reverse park distance warning, and smart cruise control, which can be optioned on.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Kia Forte a good car?

As a compact family sedan, the Kia Forte is one of the best vehicles out there: base models come equipped with a competent and impressively fuel-efficient powertrain, and there's a performance-based model available that comes equipped with a more powerful turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual gearbox option for maximum driver engagement. Safety ratings are a mixed bag, but the amount of standard driver assistance is truly impressive, and the Forte deserves its IIHS Top Safety Pick + certification, despite middling results from the NHTSA. Although there were some concerns over the drivetrain in 2019 models, the 2020 variant looks to have survived the teething issues, and Kia's class-leading ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty gives added peace of mind. While the Honda Civic might be a better driver's car, and a more spacious one too, the Forte is priced right and packed with equipment. Throw in the Stinger-inspired looks, and the Forte is a viable contender in the compact class - especially for those who refuse to go with the flow.

What's the Price of the 2020 Kia Forte?

With five trims and a budget starting price, the Forte is priced right with something for everyone. The base FE Forte starts at an MSRP of $17,790 for a manual-equipped model, with the fitment of the CVT transmission seeing this rise to $18,690. Next up is the LXS at an MSRP of $19,190, while the mid-spec GT-Line is priced from $20,390. EX models will set you back $21,990, while if it's outright pace you're after, you'll want the GT for $22,290 with the seven-speed dual-clutch or an extra $600 for the six-speed DIY manual 'box. Those prices exclude any tax, registration or licensing fees as well as Kia's $925 destination and delivery charge.

2020 Kia Forte Models

There are five models that make up the Forte lineup: the base-spec model, the FE, is equipped with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox by default, with a CVT automatic optional. The mid-spec LXS, GT-Line, and EX trims are solely equipped with the CVT. The performance-spec GT is equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo-four engine that's mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox available.

In the way of features, the FE is equipped with remote keyless entry, manual air conditioning, and six-way manually-adjustable front seats. In terms of safety and driver-assistance, there's a rearview camera, cruise control, driver attention warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance. The infotainment system is made up of an eight-inch touchscreen tethered to an AM/FM/Mp3-compatible stereo with a four-speaker audio layout. The FE rides on 15-inch steel wheels as standard.

The LXS gets a Drive Mode Selector with Comfort, Smart, and Sport drive modes as well as a few more necessities, such as 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and soft-touch dash and door panel trim. 16-inch machine-finished alloy wheels are standard on the LXS.

The GT-Line gets a push-button start system with Smart key and Smart trunk, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. The driver-assist technology is extended with lane change assist, blind-spot collision warning, and rear-cross traffic alert. The GT-Line receives larger 17-inch graphite-finish alloy-wheels and bespoke exterior styling elements including a trunk lid spoiler and gloss black exterior accents.

The EX is fitted with heated and ventilated front seats, a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The infotainment system is upgraded with satellite radio connectivity. The EX gets 17-inch machine-finished alloy wheels.

The GT loses the six-way manually-adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats, manual air conditioning, lane change assist, blind-spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert all in favor of some performance-tuned underpinnings. In addition to 18-inch alloy wheels, it has a sport-tuned suspension, sport side sills, a sport rear bumpers, dual tailpipes, sport front grille, special upholstery, and on the manual version you get a standard sunroof, Harman Kardon sound system, LED interior lighting, rear park sensors, and wireless phone charging. The DCT-equipped model also gets steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
FE
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$17,890
LXS
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$19,290
GT-Line
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$20,490
EX
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,090
GT
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,490
See All 2020 Kia Forte Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There aren't many specified packages available for the Kia Forte models and most of the available standalone options are simple convenience upgrades or basic accessories.

The EX Special Edition Package equips the EX with a voice command navigation system and an infotainment setup with SiriusXM and HD Radio connectivity, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, power sunroof, gloss black trunk lid spoiler, red two-tone Sofino seat trim, a wireless phone charger, and LED interior lighting for $1,500.

Available for the GT-Line is a $1,500 GT-Line Premium Package which comprises a power sunroof, LED interior lighting, a wireless phone charger, dual USB ports, an infotainment system functionality upgrade, and an eight-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.

There's a $2,200 GT2 Package available for the automatic GT, which includes a power sunroof, parking distance warning-reverse, blind-spot collision warning, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic collision warning, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, smart cruise control, an upgraded 4.2-inch color LCD display, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support, sport seats with Sofino seat trim and GT-exclusive stitching, heated and ventilated front seats, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, wireless phone charger, front center console sliding armrest, and LED interior lighting.

What Kia Forte Model Should I Buy?

The midrange GT-Line is the model of choice for this model year. Its main appeal is that it augments the Forte's sporty aesthetic with its bespoke styling. It's also equipped with the lineup's more fuel-efficient powertrain and, while positioned as a well-equipped mid-spec model, comes standard with a good selection of creature-comforts and driver-assist technologies, it also gains extended and exclusive access to a good selection of optional features. The GT-Line Premium Package is a recommended addition for the premium infotainment audio system upgrade, wireless charger, power sunroof, and LED interior lighting that it contains.

2020 Kia Forte Comparisons

Hyundai Elantra Hyundai
Kia Optima Kia

2020 Kia Forte vs Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is a corporate cousin of the Kia Forte and shares many of the Forte's underpinnings, subsequently, both vehicles deliver near-identical performance, fuel-efficiency, and handling dynamics, with the exception of acceleration with the Forte proving a little faster off-the-line. The Elantra comes standard with a few more creature comforts than the Forte, but the Forte's infotainment system makes it a little more appealing in that it comprises an eight-inch touchscreen with full smartphone integration at the base level as opposed to a five-inch display and no smartphone integration in the base Elantra. The Forte is a little more practical than the Elantra as well, offering more cargo room behind the rear seats. Because the Elantra costs around $1,200 more than the Forte at the base level, there's certainly more value to be had from the Forte. Its contemporary infotainment system sets it apart from many of its rivals, and, as a family sedan, it simply proves a little better than the Elantra all-round.

See Hyundai Elantra Review

2020 Kia Forte vs Kia Optima

The Kia Optima is the Forte's big brother, occupying the midsize segment - which means more luxury and more space. However, with a price overlap between higher-specced Forte and base-model Optima, there could easily be some confusion as to which you should buy. Within the overlap range, the Forte is certainly better-specified, loaded with safety and convenience features and offering a 1.6-liter turbo engine, while you have to spend around $4,000 more to get the same in the Optima. But because the Forte is smaller, its nimbler, and the GT version gets sporty suspension that makes it the more dynamically talented sedan. Instead, the Optima is more luxurious, with more passenger space, 0.6 cubic feet more trunk space, and a softer ride that deals with road imperfections better. From a value for money perspective, if you don't need the space of the larger Optima, the Forte is jam-packed with safety and convenience features; if you need the space and value comfort over athleticism, the Optima is a better bet.

See Kia Optima Review

Kia Forte Popular Comparisons

$17,890 - $23,090
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