First Drive: 2019 Kia Forte

Ready to compete with small-car standbys: Civic, Corolla, Cruze

by on Sep.18, 2018

Despite the segment shrinking, Kia is plowing ahead with small cars with an all-new 2019 Forte sedan.

Given, the popularity of sport-utility vehicles, crossovers and pickup trucks, selling the traditional small car in the U.S. has become a very tough gig as evidenced by Ford giving up on cars and the Volkswagen Beetle is going away.

Meanwhile, cars such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze have gotten better and offer an increasing number of features that shoppers in this segment could only dream about as recently as five years ago

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But that hasn’t discouraged Kia, which is launching an updated version of the compact third-generation Kia Forte this fall. Kia has built its reputation by building smart, stylish small vehicles and now has great ratings from J.D. Power’s critical initial quality survey to assure first-time buyers.

The 2019 Kia Forte boasts a stylish exterior, an interior that looks as if it could belong on a more expensive model and a full portfolio of the latest technology, including driver-assistance features. The Forte delivers ample, if not overwhelming power, and nicely balanced ride and handling that performed well in the rolling hills outside in Pittsburgh where Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio come together.

(New Kia Telluride debuts at NY Fashion Week. Click Here for the story.)

The Forte handled a variety of road surfaces offered by the difficult terrain in the border regional along the Ohio River as well as on the hilly stretches of freeway that are the norm in this part of the country without any problems.

With the new Forte, Kia is looking to compete with small car standbys like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Chevy Cruze.

In recent years, Kia has earned a reputation for offering vehicles with sleek, clever designs that have caught the eye of consumers and industry insiders. The Forte with its fastback shape and creases in the hood contribute to the Forte’s muscular appearance while the re-designed tiger-nose grille and revised lower valance enhance its overall character.

Standard projection or available full LEDs can be had on the headlamps modeled on those used on the Stinger, while turn-signal indicators are mounted near newly designed air curtains that improve aerodynamic performance.

The fastback shape also gave Kia’s engineers an opportunity to expand the occupant compartment in several key areas so passengers are treated to a comfortable space no matter how long the journey. Overall length has increased by 3.2 inches to 182.7 inches, allowing for more rear legroom and additional cargo in the trunk and a track or width that increases by .8 inches.

The dashboard is simple and straight forward and helps foster the impression of additional space. The horizontal emphasis used on the instrument panel also helps avoids clutter with clean lines and minimal buttons sitting below an 8-inch color touch screen. The first touch point in the 2019 Forte, the steering wheel, also offers the driver not only a comfortable grip but also a feeling of the car’s solidity.

(Click Here for more about Kia’s global reorganization plans.)

The overall design also gave the vehicle slightly larger door openings making it easier to get and out of the Forte. At the same time, there is also has excellent visibility and stronger and more lightweight seat frames that provide a more comfortable seating position with increased lumbar support and denser seat foam, which offers more support on a long drive.

The Forte's exterior got a styling update as did the interior which features access to plenty of new technology.

The design is supported by a stiff structure, which with the Forte’s revamped and fortified suspension, also improves the driving dynamics and road handling ability of the car. In addition, it was obvious on the road that steering and the brakes have also been improved to give the Forte impressive driving dynamics as well as protection in a crash.

Forte’s long hood covers a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with Atkinson Cycle technology and a cooled EGR system. Typically applied to hybrid and electric vehicles, the Atkinson Cycle and cooled EGR technologies are designed to help boost fuel efficiency in a variety of situations.

The engine produces 147 horsepower and 132 foot-pounds of torque. The new powerplant can be paired with a standard six-speed manual or an all-new available Intelligent Variable Transmission that will make its way into the Kia line-up in the future.

The Forte also comes with Kia’s “Drive Wise” features are now standard, including forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning, smart cruise control, blind-spot collision and rear cross-traffic collision warning.

The Forte comes standard with an 8-inch color touchscreen with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that’s integrated neatly on the dash and within the driver’s line of sight. With select smart phone devices, the system also has the capability to read SMS texts aloud through Bluetooth.

(To see more about Kia’s latest version of the Niro, an EV, Click Here.)

Sales of small cars have slipped in recent years certainly but with the prices of a new vehicles climbing, the might well be poised for comeback. The combination of desirable features, power, road dynamics and overall comfort makes the 2019 Kia Forte a worthy competitor with the Civic, Corolla and Cruze.

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