The front of the car is easily the highlight. It pulls from the sensational Stinger for its angrier headlights with aggressive "X" motifs, along with big side intakes and a more shapely grille. The lower grille is very wide and looks menacing in black. Some added creases to the hood and fenders also provide a muscular look absent on the rounded current model.
What's disappointing is that the Forte's sides are rather boring. The only visual interest in the slab flanks are the soft shoulder line under the windows, and a crease at the bottom. Even the window line is a simple straight line, unlike the line on the current model that plunges low at the front and sweeps up to the back. Fortunately the tail brings back a modicum of style with nicely detailed lights, complete with a full-width section, and a nicely flared out rear bumper.
The new Forte is also a bit larger than the old model. It's 3.2 inches longer, and 0.7 inch wider. Kia says this provides the Forte with more passenger space and cargo space. Specifically, the trunk is 15.1 cubic feet, which is 0.2 cubic foot larger than the current model. Kia hasn't announced whether a hatchback will be offered with this new generation. Besides the extra space, the Forte's interior is much more attractive than the monochrome cocoon of the current model. It has more contrast in materials and colors, and a trim, wide-looking dashboard. It also features a standard 8-inch touch screen infotainment system. Wireless charging, a 320-watt Harman Kardon sound system, and some additional driver aids will be available as options.
Kia has only revealed one engine for the new Forte. It's a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder, now featuring a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system. It makes the same 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque as the current Atkinson-cycle model, but Kia is expecting it to get notably better fuel economy. The final numbers have yet to be revealed, but Kia is targeting 35 mpg combined. For reference, the current Forte economy king is the automatic-equipped Atkinson-cycle car that gets 32 mpg combined, along with 29 mpg city and 37 on the highway.
Some of the fuel-economy gains are likely due to the engine, but they may also be the result of Kia's first in-house developed CVT. The company calls it an "Intelligent Variable Transmission," but we're going to stick to the traditional CVT description. Kia says the transmission should be pleasant for those accustomed to traditional automatics since it simulates gear shifting.
Kia has revealed that the Forte will be available in LX, S and EX trim levels. If the company sticks to the current powertrain spread, that means there should be a higher-output 2.0-liter engine for the EX. Kia didn't make any mention of a sporty SX trim, either, which on current model has a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. Pricing also has yet to be revealed. All of these tidbits of information should be revealed close to the time the car goes on sale, which is later this year.