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Vital Stats

2.0L I4
173 HP / 154 LB-FT
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,857 LBS
14.9 CU-FT
24 City / 36 HWY
Base Price:
As Tested Price:
Forte 2.0 Keeps Kia Competitive In The Compact Crop

Looking back just a few years, America's compact segment was filled with bland, uninteresting cars that traded largely on low prices and high fuel economy. In today's landscape, though, things couldn't be more different – this class now boasts some of the most attractive cars on the market, not to mention features and technologies once reserved for luxury cars.

Filling Kia's role in this important market, the 2014 Forte has helped make the South Korean automaker a contender among compact cars with the sedan launching earlier in the year and the Koup and Forte5 hatchback hitting dealers soon. When the Forte first launched in 2010, it was a much-needed replacement for the Spectra, but it still had lingering drivetrain refinement issues. In the end, the model didn't really move the needle for Kia, let alone the segment. Now the second-generation Forte sedan has arrived in an effort to bolster the company's lineup, a portfolio that includes impressive models like the Optima, Sorento, Soul and even the subcompact Rio.

Compact buyers can range anywhere from first-time drivers to empty nesters, so these cars are required to fill a variety driving needs. To test this out, we strapped into a fully loaded 2014 Kia Forte EX for a long-distance drive that took us from Jacksonville, FL to Atlanta, GA – a 700-mile jaunt that gave us a good mix of interstate and urban driving. 2014 Kia Forte2014 Kia Forte2014 Kia Forte

Kia has equipped the 2014 Forte with a stylish cabin with soft-touch materials throughout.

Kia has made a name for itself recently by bringing new levels of vehicle design to the segments in which it competes, which is why it's surprising that if anything, the Forte's design might be its sole stumbling point. Don't get us wrong, the styling is balanced and handsome enough (especially when compared to the first-gen Forte) but it lacks the originality of its sister car, the Hyundai Elantra. Even so, there are plenty of strong points, including the boomerang-shaped crease along the bodyside and the sloped nose with its signature Tiger Nose grille and large headlights. Stepping up to the EX model brings a little more flair by adding features like HID headlights with LED daytime running lamp swooshes, LED taillights, 17-inch wheels, power-folding mirrors and chrome exhaust finisher.

The biggest difference between modern compacts and those from just a handful of years ago tends to center on their interior appointments. For Kia's part, it has equipped the 2014 Forte with a stylish cabin with soft-touch materials throughout, including the instrument panel and padded door armrests. As great as the materials are on this Forte EX, though, the plasticky faux carbon fiber trim around the driver's cockpit is a bit on the cheesy side, and the plastic inserts on lower portion of steering wheel are downright awful – disappointing given that the thickness and feel of the steering wheel is otherwise excellent.

2014 Kia Forte grille2014 Kia Forte headlight2014 Kia Forte wheel2014 Kia Forte taillight

The touchscreen navigation system is easy to use and offers outstanding graphics and resolution.

Longer and wider than its predecessor, the 2014 Forte has a slightly roomier interior – something especially noticeable from the rear seats. Front occupants are afforded the most room, of course, and the seats offer a surprising amount of adjustment, while the second row provides enough head, leg and hip room to fit three adults abreast, at least for short rides. If needed, the rear seatbacks fold, but they really don't add as much to the Forte's practicality as one might hope, since they aren't able to fold completely flat – they're mostly useful for long, bulky items. Between the roomy rear seat and abundant trunk space, though, the Forte's cabin proved more than comfortable and roomy enough for our weekend-long family road trip.

Stepping up the luxury in Forte EX, our tester included Kia's $2,600 Premium Package that adds a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and perforated leather seats (heated front and rear – the driver's side is also cooled), along with push-button start. Additionally, the $2,300 EX Technology Package bundles navigation, HD radio, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 4.2-inch LCD in the gauge cluster. Kia's touchscreen navigation system, in addition to the EX's standard UVO connectivity, is easy to use and offers outstanding graphics and resolution.

2014 Kia Forte interior2014 Kia Forte front seats2014 Kia Forte rear seats2014 Kia Forte trunk

Forte has surprising ride comfort and puts out plenty of power to prevent the car from feeling cheap and underwhelming.

Being the Forte's sportiest trim level, the EX replaces the base 148-horsepower 1.8-liter engine with a 2.0-liter direct-injected inline four-cylinder putting out 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque – about the same power figures as the previous Forte SX that used a thirstier 2.4-liter engine. Thanks in part to the smaller powerplant, this 2014 model is actually lighter than the 2013 Forte SX, and its fuel economy has improved, too, with estimates of 24 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Unlike the outgoing generation, though, the EX is only offered with a six-speed automatic transmission – if you're looking for a manual gearbox, you're stuck with the base LX. For now, it doesn't sound like there are any plans to put the upcoming 2014 Forte5's 201-hp turbo engine in the sedan, which is a shame because it could have the makings of an affordable small sport sedan.

That kind of extra power surely wouldn't go unnoticed, but as we found out during our road trip, the EX might be the perfect blend of what compact buyers want and need. On the practical side, the Forte has surprising ride comfort and puts out plenty of power to prevent the car from feeling cheap and underwhelming. An Active Eco button helps improve fuel economy slightly, albeit at the predictable cost of throttle response.

2014 Kia Forte engine

A well-tuned front strut, rear torsion-beam suspension makes the car surprisingly agile.

On the fun side, though, the Forte has a well-tuned front strut, rear torsion-beam suspension that makes the car surprisingly agile without the penalty of a rough ride. It's not a sport sedan as-is, but it isn't meant to be. The Forte's ride and handling isn't without complaint, however – the driver-selectable steering modes (used on numerous Kia and Hyundai models) are gimmicky, adding weight but nothing in the way of feel or quickness. And the amount of road noise that makes its way into the Forte's cabin can be intrusive – a bit disappointing in light of how quiet some compacts' cabins have gotten recently.

Overall, though, the Forte is engaging to drive and comfortable to ride in. Just as importantly, it's efficient. At the end of our trip (which included a healthy mix of long interstate runs and plenty of city stop-and-go driving) we averaged an impressive 33 mpg, proving that this sporty, fully loaded sedan still delivers when it comes to one of the biggest reasons people buy small cars.

2014 Kia Forte rear 3/4 view

The difference between mediocrity and greatness can come down to nitpicks.

There's no shortage of compact cars to choose from these days – even luxury automakers are redoubling their efforts in this segment – but traditional economy car players like Kia aim to prove that you don't have to spend big money to get a great small car. Avoid checking all of the option boxes, and you can get behind the wheel of a 2014 Forte for just under $16,000 – our heavily optioned EX rang in at an as-tested price of $25,515. Like many other loaded compacts these days, that's a pretty high price to pay, but you're also getting loads of content you'd historically find in cars costing tens of thousands of dollars more.

Thanks to the improving overall quality of small cars in general, the difference between mediocrity and greatness can come down to nitpicks at times, and the gripes we can muster for the 2014 Forte are limited. Only in today's highly competitive market could the 2014 Forte be considered average looking or occasionally noisy, and just about everything else it does, it does exceptionally well. The Forte's name is derived from the musical term for "loud." In that spirit, the 2014 Forte definitely has what it takes to make its presence heard – Kia has successfully turned up the volume among America's compact cars.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Biggest problem with this 2nd gen Forte. The front end design and interior design. Give us more Optima-ness and this would really be a winner.. in terms of styling-wise.
        • 1 Year Ago
        It's on Ward's 10 best list for interiors among Lexus and other brands. So many will disagree with your statement there. Also, it is based on the Elantra platform, so it can't stray to far from the proportions of that chassis with regard to style.
          • 1 Year Ago
          This is the same ranking that stats the mazda6 has a good interior even though critics peg that as its biggest weakness. I personally like the Forte's interior.
          • 1 Year Ago
        • 1 Year Ago
        Not sure I understand your comment, since to my eye, the Forte exterior looks almost exactly like an Optima, just a little shorter.
          • 1 Year Ago
          Hardly. This Forte is soft, blobbier, and far more derivative than the edgier, more unique Optima.
      Genial Black Man
      • 1 Year Ago
      The exterior styling is mature, as is some of the interior bits. I find the passenger side of the dashboard and the door sills to be goofy, as the wavy pattern ruins an otherwise clean look.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Happened to just rented one of these yesterday. What I liked: good throttle response, smooth shifting automatic What I didn\'t like: steering too light, engine was coarse with hard acceleration, loud tire / road noise, cheap interior plastics, large gap around airbag cover on steering wheel. This is all compared to my \'12 Focus.
        • 1 Year Ago
        the tire and road noise was a big let down for the Forte
          • 1 Year Ago
          Yuck, can't wait until GY retires those, or at least updates them. They've been essentially unchanged (outside of OEM reqs) for over a decade.
          • 1 Year Ago
          That's probably because Kia likes to use Nexen tires which are garbage. I have no clue why any OEM would ever use them on their vehicles.
          • 1 Year Ago
        • 1 Year Ago
        Interesting observations. What's also interesting is that several of your complaints are the same details that are praised in other reviews. What is the take-home message there? Your mileage may vary? In any case, I think it's universally agreed upon that the OEM tires are crap, and they're probably responsible for the road noise to a large extent.
      • 1 Year Ago
      What is wrong with AB's image downloads? All are .jpg-1 format. Anyway, I like the design of the exterior, even if it's less dynamic, overall, than the Optima. The interior is marred only by those weird ripples on the passenger side. As for the way it drives, well...my judgment will have to wait until I actually get behind the wheel for a test drive.
      A. W. Lawson
      • 1 Year Ago
      The overall shape puts me in mind of the current Dodge Dart....
      • 1 Year Ago
      looks like a corolla in the front and fusion in the back. way to go KIA.
      • 1 Year Ago
      You couldn't PAY ME to drive a Hyundai product. Ugly cars with the WORST reliability on the market, cheaply made, with inflated mpg and hp figures.
        • 1 Year Ago
        How would you know that they are cheaply made if you've never owned one? You can't name one car that I wouldn't be able to find a sore spot.
          • 1 Year Ago
          Don't try to use logic here. Some people just blindly hate car brands for some reason. Even they have no actual experience with them.
      Cain Gray
      • 1 Year Ago
      No matter how great these cars look, or how they perform, I still can't get over the fact that it's still a Kia. And those stupid %%#^@! commercials, "I wanna see ya in a Kia!" make me want to shoot myself.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cain Gray
          • 1 Year Ago
          • 1 Year Ago
          • 1 Year Ago
          Cain Gray
          • 1 Year Ago
          These commercials are all over the southern US. They are terrible, and do nothing for Kia.
      Nick Allain
      • 1 Year Ago
      For another $400, you could have a base WRX. I'll take the latter.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Nick Allain
        The Forte starts at $17,000 for a base model. This one has: Navigation, Heated and Cooled Front seats, Heated Rear Seats, Heated Steering Wheel, Rear A/C Vents (In a Compact), Voice Activated Infotainment (One of the Best), Dual Zone Climate Control, Adjustable Steering Effort, Power Folding Outside Mirrors, Approach Lamps, Push Button Start, Memory Seating, and more. Many of those features can't be found on an Impreza OR a Legacy. These features on a larger car would easily put it at over $30,000 in a heatbeat, but it is classified as a midsized car due to it's massive interior. Only the Sentra had a bigger backseat in a recent comparison. So you are comparing a car with near luxury appointments to a car that is a stripped out "beater" with a turbo. Right....
          • 1 Year Ago
          To each his own - If that's the kind of car you want, you're not even looking at a Forte anyway. They aren't really in the same class.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Nick Allain
        Way to bring an apple to an orange fight.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Does the warranty cover rusting and front axle issues?
        • 1 Year Ago
        Does -insert car brand here- warranty cover -insert "common problem" read on the internet here-
      • 1 Year Ago
      Weird/ugly interior, especially with the rippling on the passenger side dash.
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is an example of played-out design. The rising window line is so passe and so extreme here it looks ridiculous on the pictures. The only trace of originality is the partial chrome accent on the side windows which is still relatively rare. The front is OK except for the silly Kia grille, and the rear looks like a Ford Focus. At $26k, a loaded Civic has a nicer interior and a less bouncy-toy ride. As a Korean alternative, the Elantra has a more original exterior design. Kia's own Optima is also more interesting at its lower trims.
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