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.
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.
See trim levels and configurations:
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 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.
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.
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