by Gabe Beita Kiser
Safe on the road and for your wallet, the 2018 Kia Forte Sedan is more than just a budget-friendly commuter but also an effigy of efficiency and daily drivability. It is a compact four-door sedan positioned within the market as an affordable daily cruiser for the average family. The base-level LX trim has a price of $16,800 while the top-level EX costs just $21,700. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission are carried over from the previous model year, still providing the 2018 year model LX and S trims with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque while the upper-level EX trim receives 164 hp and 151 lb-ft. The base LX comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission with the option of an automatic. Like many of the Forte's compact rivals such as the Honda Civic and Chevrolet Cruze, it comes exclusively in front-wheel-drive.
All three Forte models receive a few minor upgrades and alterations coming into 2018. The base Forte LX is now equipped with cruise control as standard, and the available Popular Package has been updated to include UVO3 with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. The S trim receives a new 16-inch alloy wheel design, a sunroof has been added to the optional Technology Package, and the Premium Package has been discontinued. The EX is now fitted with rear cross-traffic alert as well as blind-spot detection with lane change assist.
On the market since 2014, Kia's design still remains fresh. The Forte LX rides on 15-inch steel wheels, the S on 16-inch alloy wheels, and the EX on 17-inch alloys. Fitted on all trim options are low-beam projector headlights that feature an escort function. The S and EX models additionally receive front LED positioning lights and automatic on/off headlights. The EX also gets front fog lights, rear LED taillights, and an LED high mounted stop lamp. Standard-fit on all models are power-adjustable, body-color and heated exterior mirrors, the S trim receives a rear decklid spoiler and 'S' badging and the EX gets 'EX' badging. A power sunroof is optionally available for all model trims.
The three Kia Forte trim options all share identical dimensions varying only in weight. The manual-equipped LX as the lightest model tips the scales with a curb weight of 2,811 lbs, the automatic transmission LX and S weigh in at 2,855 lbs, and the EX, as the bulkiest model, has a curb weight of 2,908 lbs. All models span a total length of 179.5 inches with a wheelbase of 106.3 inches; they all carry a full width of 70.1 inches and an overall height of 56.3 inches. Ground clearance on all models is 5.3 inches.
The Forte's color palette boasts ten options, with limited availability based on trim. For the LX model, there are seven exterior color options including Clear White, Silky Silver, and Deep Sea Blue. Snow White Pearl and Aurora Black Pearl are $295 options. Silky Silver, Garnet Red, Titanium Bronze, and Snow White Pearl are dropped from the S model's palette and replaced with Phantom Gray and Currant Red which the EX also receives along with Snow White Pearl. The Red Garnet paint option looks great on the base LX model. Both the S and EX look great optioned with either the Currant Red or Phantom Gray paint options.
The 2018 Kia Forte is no competitive track toy or any sort of performance hallmark, but rather a median symbol for efficiency and economic drivability. The fastest of the trim options is the EX which manages the 0-60 mph sprint in a class-average 8.5 seconds. The manual variant of the LX manages the mark in nine seconds flat while the automatic option and the S trim manage the same target closer to ten seconds. The Hyundai Elantra is a core class rival and shares the same underpinnings as the Forte, yet takes a lazy 9.7 seconds to reach 60 mph. The Honda Civic Sedan is a whole lot more energetic, managing the mark in an above-average 6.7 seconds.
Along with most class rivals, all the Forte trim options come standard with a front-wheel-drive system with no all-wheel-drive variants. The Subaru Impreza is equipped solely with an AWD configuration while the Mazda 3 offers FWD and AWD model variants.
All three Forte trims are equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-four engine. The LX and S trims receive outputs of 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, while by virtue of direct injection in the EX trim's engine, those outputs are increased by 17 and 19 respectively for a total of 164 hp and 151 lb-ft. The LX comes with a six-speed manual transmission by default with the option of an automatic while both the S and EX come standard with the six-speed auto.
The inline-four port-injected engine in the LX and S trims performs suitably for daily driving. The powertrain is calibrated for smooth and soft throttle responses rather than aggressive and speedy ones. Acceleration from a standstill is sedated, but still impressive, and power delivery is adequate throughout casual driving conditions. The direct-injection engine in the EX trim gives slightly more oomph. Otherwise, considering the car's commuter-friendly stature, it performs identically throughout casual driving styles, from pulling away from a stoplight to overtaking on the highway. The six-speed automatic transmission is also calibrated for economic and casual driving styles, delivering soft and smooth shifts throughout rather than quick, rev-happy changes.
Though no sports car, the Forte still manages to exhibit some handling prowess, it feels very agile, is always firmly planted to the road, and it handles corners and sharp turns with commendable poise. The chassis remains composed during spirited driving and experiences minimal body roll around turns. Unfortunately, its ride quality is slightly firmer than expected from a casual commuting vehicle. It deals with most road surfaces and undulations reasonably well, but more prominent road abrasions can permeate throughout the cabin more noticeably. However, the cabin does isolate exterior noise appreciably. Steering weight is suitable for daily use, and while the driver can alter the weighting through several drive modes, it doesn't alter the response speed or levels of communication. The brakes are responsive and provide adequate stopping power for a low-powered daily commuter.
The S and EX trims feature a Drive Mode Select that comprises three modes, Normal, Eco, and Sport. While Eco calibrates throttle responses to optimize fuel-efficiency and economical driving, Sport mode livens up throttle responses and adds weight to the steering, but only to a slight degree.
The LX equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission is the most fuel-efficient model along with the S, both returning EPA estimates of 29/37/32 mpg city/highway/combined. The six-speed manual LX returns EPA estimates of 25/34/28 mpg. Just like the S trim, the EX is by default also equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, it returns EPA estimates of 25/33/28 mpg. All are fitted with a 13.2-gallon gas tank, and all take regular unleaded gas. In mixed driving conditions and with a full tank of gas, both the automatic-equipped LX and S models offer a maximum driving range of around 422 miles.
The Kia Forte is a budget-friendly vehicle, and as such many of the materials utilized within the cabin are hard-touch plastics and are of a moderate grade. The overall build quality of the Forte is, however, top-notch; all fixes and finishes are firmly secured, and panel gaps remain consistent throughout. The interior is ergonomically laid out, the driver's controls and infotainment functions are all within easy reach, and consideration has been given to each passenger in terms of seating ergonomics. The seats themselves are spacious and roomy and are adequately comfortable for daily occupation. The front seats in the EX model feature heating as standard and the model receives further improved comfort by virtue of a standard-fit sliding center front armrest.
All 2018 Forte models seat a maximum of five occupants in comfortable, spacious, and supportive seats. The driver's seat is six-way adjustable and allows the driver to easily find an optimal seating position behind the controls with adequate all-round visibility. For such a compact vehicle, there is more than ample headroom and legroom throughout the cabin even for taller adults. Thanks to the wide-opening doors, seat height, and expansive interior room, ingress and egress to and from the sedan are effortless, making the Forte easy to live with on a daily basis.
The base LX trim can be upholstered in either Black or Gray Premium or Woven Cloth, the S trim can be optioned with only Black Sport Cloth, and the EX trim in either Black or Gray Leather. The S and EX are standard-fit with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and have the option to leather-wrap the gearshift knob. As a budget-friendly car, there are plenty of hard-touch plastics used to guard key touchpoints throughout the cabin. The S and EX models are outfitted with a soft-touch dash and front upper door panels as well as a chrome parking brake button as standard.
In all Forte models is 14.9 cubic feet of available trunk space, which is about enough room for two to three school bags, and a laptop bag. The rear seats are 60/40 split-folding which expand space to accommodate larger cargo items if need-be. That capacity is impressive considering the Forte's compact dimensions and is about on par with what core class rivals have to offer.
All door side pockets have bottle holder slots, and there are dual cupholders between the front seats along with a tiny storage console, a covered cubby, and a deep center storage console with a storage tray. Upfront is also an overhead sunglasses cubby and a moderately sized glove box. There are dual cupholders in the center seat backrest and a passenger-side seatback map pocket.
Along with the S, the base LX trim features standard air conditioning, a folding key, and power windows with driver's one-touch auto-down function. All three models receive rear-seat heater ducts, remote keyless entry with trunk opener, power door locks with a two-turn entry system as well as a tire mobility kit. As standard, the EX additionally receives a SmartKey, push-button start function, and a smart trunk, along with dual-zone automatic temperature control, power windows with driver and front passenger's one-touch auto-up/down function. It also receives an immobilizer and the option of an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The EX also comes standard with blind-spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. The front seats in all models are manually adjustable in six ways, while the EX model's front seats receive heating as standard and can be upgraded with ten-way power-adjustability.
The base LX model comes standard with an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM-enabled four-speaker audio system. The S and EX are equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen and six-speaker sound system along with the UVO3 eServices app suite featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Standard in the S and EX, this system is optional for the base model. All models feature SiriusXM satellite radio, USB and auxiliary input jacks, a 12V power outlet, and Bluetooth wireless technology. The system audio can also be operated via steering wheel-mounted controls. The EX also has access to the optional Navigation with HD Radio technology.
There have been no recalls commissioned for the 2018 year model of the Kia Forte to date; however, there have been numerous complaints lodged by drivers about a variety of vehicle issues varying from headlight to engine problems. J.D. Power gave the 2018 Kia Forte an above-average predicted reliability rating of four out of five based on the reliability of previous year models and the manufacturer's reputation in the market. Kia covers the Forte with a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty along with five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance and a ten-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty - only Hyundai matches this.
The NHTSA rated the 2018 year model of the Kia Forte with an overall crash-test score of five-stars out of a possible five. Along with the 2017 year model, the 2018 Kia Forte also received the top honor of Top Safety Pick+.
H3: Key Safety Features
At the base level, all Forte models are endowed with electronic stability control, hill-start assist, vehicle stability management, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and four-wheel ABS. The airbag consignment comprises dual front advanced airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags, taking the total number to six. The EX is equipped with an immobilizer, a blind spot detection system, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert as standard. Optional for the S and EX is an autonomous emergency braking system with pedestrian detection, a front collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, and a lane keep assist system with driver attention alert.
The 2018 Kia Forte Sedan is a well-devised budget-friendly vehicle with all the necessities required for proper daily drivability. The powertrain provides adequate performance for day-to-day driving and the chassis is involving but comfortable, even if erring on the harsher side of the ride quality spectrum. Though not the most fuel-efficient option within the market, the automatic LX and S trims still return decent gas mileage.
Its standard infotainment interface on the higher-level trims is intuitive and capable, the seats are comfortable and supportive, and the overall build quality of the vehicle is top-notch. For a compact vehicle, the Forte also offers a surprisingly favorable amount of trunk and cargo capacity along with ample in-cabin room. It received excellent crash-test safety ratings from both the NHTSA and IIHS and received an above-average predicted reliability rating, paired with class-leading warranty-coverage. When it comes to budget compact sedans, the Forte ticks all the boxes.
From last year's Forte models the 2018 year models increase in price by only $200, retaining the Forte's budget-friendly status within the market. The base Forte LX model equipped with the manual transmission is the cheapest trim option from the lineup with an MSRP of $16,800. The automatic model carries a sticker price of $17,900, the Forte S carries an asking price of $19,400, and the Forte EX an MSRP of $21,700. Those amounts are exclusive of tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Kia's processing, delivery, and destination charge of $895.
The 2018 Kia Forte lineup comprises three trim options, the base Forte LX, well-equipped S, and top-tier EX. The base Forte LX is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as standard with the option for an automatic transmission. Both the S and EX are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission by default. All models feature a 2.0-liter inline-four engine with outputs ranging from 147 hp to 164 hp.
The base LX model is the bare-bones option of the lineup; it comes outfitted with 15-inch steel wheels. The interior is cloth-upholstered, and the default infotainment system comprises an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio unit and a four-speaker sound system.
S models ride on 16-inch alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension and feature a rear-mounted decklid spoiler. Its cabin is adorned in sport cloth upholstery and features a soft-touch dash and upper door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and additional chrome trimmings. As standard, it also receives a seven-inch touchscreen display and six-speaker sound system along with Drive Mode Select.
In addition to all the above, the EX receives 17-inch alloy wheels as well as chrome interior and exterior accents. Its seats are adorned with leather upholstery, and the front seats feature heating as standard with ventilation available. It is also additionally fitted with a sliding center front armrest and dual-zone automatic temperature control. This model comes with keyless entry, push-button start, and a hands-free trunk lid. It is also equipped with blind-spot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert as standard.
There are no available packages for the Forte LX, only a vast selection of standalone accessories which, even if you selected them all, wouldn't get it to the same level as superior trims.
The Forte S has access to an S Technology Plus Package which costs an additional $1,700 and equips the S with autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. It also adds a power sunroof, leather-wrapped gear shift knob, and includes a smart key with push-button start and immobilizer.
Available for the Forte EX model is an EX Premium Plus Package which for $3,900 upgrades the EX with a power sunroof, UVO with Voice-Command Navigation System, SiriusXM Traffic, and HD radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, ventilated front seats, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support and integrated memory system, and a leather-wrapped gear shift knob. This package also outfits the EX with autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, high-intensity discharge, projector-beam headlights, and dynamic bending lights.
We recommend opting for the Kia Forte EX, which although the most expensive model in the lineup, is equipped with enough standard features to justify the premium. In addition to being comprehensively equipped with heated front seats, several advanced driver aids, and more, the EX is also the more powerful and thus the quickest model in the lineup. Considering the sedan's pricing position within the market and relative to comparative rivals, the price point of the EX trim is still a competitive offer. As such, we recommend going ahead and including the EX Premium Plus Package for all the added advanced driver assists and other comfort and convenience features.
The Optima is the Kia Forte's big brother, and as expected carries a higher price, along with greater performance from a larger engine. Its three-model lineup carries sticker prices ranging from $22,600 to $30,600. Performance-wise, the Optima takes the lead, beating the fastest Forte model to the 60 mph mark by almost a full second. There are a lot more potent engine options available with the Optima including a turbocharged inline-four that produces 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, offering far more capability than any of the Forte models and remaining equally as efficient. Both Kia vehicles have been rated with class-leading crash-test safety ratings and have both been given Top Safety Pick+ classifications by the IIHS. The Optima also offers a full cubic foot more trunk space and comes with a better array of standard and optional features. The Optima also has a larger and higher-quality interior - particularly for rear occupants. The Forte offers greater appeal as a budget-friendly vehicle with all the essentials an everyday commuter vehicle requires, which is why we would recommend it over the pricier Optima.
The Elantra is a corporate sibling of the Forte and shares the same platform, mechanicals, and similar pricing, with trims ranging between $16,950 to $22,900. The Elantra is quite a lot slower than the Forte with a 0-60 mph time of 9.7 seconds. It is however slightly more fuel-efficient with its most efficient model returning EPA estimates of 29/38/33 mpg. There are a few more engine options with the Elantra as well as a handful of standard and optional sporty features. It offers about the same amount of practicality with a trunk capacity of 14.4 cubic feet. Where the Elantra offers more is in its standard infotainment setup, particularly on the base model, which features a touchscreen display along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality where the base model of the Forte does not. Like the Forte, the 2018 year model of the Elantra also received a Top Safety Pick+ classification from the IIHS as well as top crash-test evaluations from the NHTSA. We feel that the Elantra offers greater value-for-money, especially at the base level along with comprehensive customization and personalization capability, making it the better buy.