We hope Kia takes our advice here.
We recently had the chance to drive the all-new third generation Forte, which offers amazing value and impressive features within the compact sedan segment. The 2019 Forte benefits from new Stinger-inspired looks, a comfortable ride, a well-appointed interior, and a new continuously variable transmission that is one of the best on the market.
While we were already quick to recommend the Forte, we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't yearn for a bit more from Kia. Alongside the new 2019 Forte, Kia will still sell the remaining stock of the 2018 Forte5 SX - a sportier hatchback model with a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine. Forte product manager Derrick Ty has hinted that this new generation will get a sportier model, but we wanted to take a moment to give our recommendations for what it should be like.
The previous Forte5 SX matched a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 201 hp to a seven-speed dual-clutch or a six-speed manual. Interestingly, the manual transmission was priced higher than the dual-clutch. Hyundai has recently introduced the Veloster Turbo and Veloster N, the former is available with a manual or dual-clutch while the latter is manual-only. Since Hyundai and Kia typically share transmissions, we expect the next Forte SX to offer the same wonderful six-speed manual that we enjoyed in the Veloster Turbo.
Unlike the Hyundai Elantra, which offered the 1.6-liter turbo engine on the Sport sedan and GT hatchback, the Forte5 hatch was the only Forte model available with the more powerful engine. Kia of Europe has teased a new Proceed, which could make it to the US as new Forte5. We sure hope so, because the teaser image and concept versions of the Proceed hatch look incredible.
Hyundai and Kia work in tandem when it comes to engines, transmissions, and platforms, but they also have somewhat of a sibling rivalry. We'd love to see Kia draw from Hyundai's N division and stick the 2.0-liter engine from the Veloster N into the Forte. In the US, this engine produces 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while Europe also receives a 247-hp version. A model with either of these powerplants would be a worthwhile alternative to the Volkswagen GTI, and using the latter would maintain the N brand as the most powerful in the Hyundai-Kia lineup.
One of the lone "cheap" spots on the new Forte is its torsion beam rear suspension. On an economy car like the Forte, it isn't such a big deal, but it does start to make a difference when you get in the realm of hot hatchbacks. An independent rear suspension makes a big difference when you are driving quickly over rough roads. If Kia wants its sportier Forte to be taken seriously, it should have multi-link rear suspension.
Kia has been making great strides in terms of steering feel. The new Forte had light, but accurate steering, which is fine for an economy car. For the SX, we'd like to see Kia add a bit of weight to the steering and engineer it to communicate more feedback to the driver. Hot hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI and Ford Fiesta ST have great steering feel, and we hope Kia can create a bit more feel with the Forte.
Our final suggestion is to come up with a better name for the sportier Forte. SX just doesn't convey that the car is significantly more sporty than a normal Forte, it just sounds like any other trim level. Hyundai also struggles to name its sportier models like the Elantra Sport, which could just as easily be a value trim as much as it could be a true hot model. We think Kia should go back to the drawing board and come up with a name that truly conveys that this is a sportier version of the Forte. If you have a better name in mind, let us know in the comments section.