Car of the Year Car Reviews

Kia Forte: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

Sporty looks, not driving experience

Sporty looks, not driving experience

WE LIKE Sharp interior and exterior design

WE DON’T LIKE Underwhelming CVT, lazy handling

The redesigned Kia Forte improved its looks inside and out, and like many Kia models, it comes loaded with lots of features at a reasonable price.

Most judges noted the Forte’s crisper exterior, which Angus MacKenzie described as “mature and upscale design, cleverly riffing on established Kia design cues without looking like a cookie-cutter car.”

Inside, many liked the cool circular air vents, which Frank Markus described as “Mercedes-Benz-like.” Mark Rechtin compared the interior to “a budget Audi A4.” The little shelf located under the temperature controls houses the optional wireless charging pad and is a clever touch. It’s nice to see automakers designate a space for your phone.

Our EX Launch Edition tester packed premium features such as perforated leatherette seating, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control, a host of driver-assist features, LED headlights, a Harman Kardon audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That’s good value for $26,415 USD.

Unfortunately, it all ends with one glaring issue: the transmission. Judges’ notes on the new CVT are not kind, and for good reason. It’s harsh, loud, and lackluster. Said MacKenzie: “The CVT transmission sucks the life out of the powertrain.” Further ruining your commute is a stiffly sprung suspension, which jostles and bashes you relentlessly over even the most minor imperfections.

That punishing ride would be forgivable if the car lived up to its sporty vibe. But it has ho-hum handling dynamics. “It’s so weird,” Rechtin said. “Kia is supposed to be the youthful, sporty brand, but its powertrain and suspension are mediocre and do not match the brand’s image.”



2019 Kia Forte EX
Base Price/As tested $22,885/$26,415
Power (SAE net) 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 8.7 sec
Quarter-mile 16.7 sec @ 85.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 123 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.86 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.7 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 30/40/34 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission 2.0L Atkinson-cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4/Cont variable auto
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 2,933 lb (61/39%)
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Length x Width x Height 182.7 x 70.9 x 56.5 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 112/84 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.57 lb/mile