2020 Kia Forte
2020 Kia Forte
The 2020 Kia Forte deserves more praise than it gets. Kia has transferred the racy styling of its sleek Stinger to the humble Forte, making it look upscale. The cabin is a cut above your average compact car, with excellent material quality and great standard technology. And with fantastic gas mileage, standard automatic emergency braking, and a strong warranty, it’s a lot of car for the money.
For 2020 the Forte gets two new models, the GT and GT-Line. The GT is the sporty one, with a 201-horsepower turbo-4, dual-clutch transmission, and sport-tuned rear suspension and exhaust. The GT-Line has styling that makes it look sportier than it is. There’s also a new EX Special Edition package that adds some unique features and trim.
The standard inline-4 engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) are adequate for an economy car, with 147 horsepower, but the drivetrain won’t win awards for refinement. The firm steering generates some feedback, and the ride is decently damped.
The base FE model with CVT is a fuel-economy star, EPA-rated at 31 mpg city, 41 highway, 35 combined. With a manual transmission it gets significantly less, 27/37/31 mpg.The LXS and EX models manage 29/40/33 mpg, with the CVT.
With 50 more horsepower, and the dual-clutch transmission, the new GT gets 27/35/30 mpg; with the manual transmission it drops to 25/32/28 mpg, on regular fuel.
The NHTSA gives the Forte only 4 stars overall in crash tests, with three stars for the front passenger side and a footnote about rear passenger side crash safety despite a five-star score in that category. Those results are inconsistent with the IIHS’s testing, which saw fit to award the 2019 Forte a Top Safety Pick award for “Good” scores all around and great standard front crash prevention tech.
Standard active safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings with active lane control, and driver attention warnings. The other models add blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors. On the GT, however, those features are optional.
The base 2020 Kia Forte FE costs less than $19,000 including a $925 destination charge, with a 6-speed manual transmission. With the CVT it’s $900 more. Standard equipment includes a full suite of active safety equipment, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and multiple USB ports.
For just a few hundred more dollars, the LXS with nicer styling adds 16-inch alloy wheels, split-folding rear seats, soft touch door panels, and a drive mode selector.
For $21,315 the new GT-Line adds 17-inch wheels, black trim accents, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a flat-bottom steering wheel, keyless ignition, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.
For $22,915 the EX is the relative luxury model, adding heated and cooled front seats with synthetic leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, LED lighting inside and out, and more.
Finally there’s the new GT for $23,815. It has a 201-horsepower turbo-4 engine and standard 6-speed manual transmission, with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic available for $400. It also has a sport suspension and exhaust, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, and unique interior trim.
Kia’s excellent warranty covers the Rio for 5 years/60,000 miles, and the powertrain for 10 years/100,000 miles.
The 2020 Kia Forte looks more upscale than its price tag indicates, which is definitely a compliment. It borrows sporty cues from the Stinger, namely a swept-back windshield and handsome tail.
The new GT looks like it belongs on the track, and the new GT-Line is a pretender to that capability.
From the inside looking out, the Forte also feels more expensive than it is, with impressive material quality and cabin space. The instrument panel is cohesive and well-organized, with soft-touch plastic and matte silver trim on top models. The dash is dominated by a big 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and underscored by knobs and buttons.
A bit of lightness would be nice, though, as every interior shade is predominantly gray and black.
The front seats are height-adjustable. The spacious interior can accommodate a 6-foot passenger behind a 6-foot driver with comfort, something you can’t say about many other compact sedans. The trunk is also roomy, at 15.3 cubic feet.
Thanks to fairly thick side glass and noise insulation material, the Forte is quiet on the highway, far quieter than many rivals.
The base 2.0-liter inline-4 engine is underwhelming, with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual or CVT. The acceleration is sluggish and its lack of refinement shows when it’s pushed. However, the gas mileage is great, a worthwhile trade-off to many. But you need the CVT to get that 35 mpg, too bad it’s slow to respond and drones.
The ride is good for a compact sedan. It’s softly composed, especially on the 15- or 16-inch wheels. The handling is responsive and the steering has decent feedback, although the cornering isn’t engaging like the Mazda 3 or Honda Civic.
That brings us to the new GT, which we haven’t driven yet. It borrows its 1.6-liter turbo-4 from the Hyundai Elantra Sport, and brings 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Mated to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the GT offers good performance for an excellent price. A firmer multi-link rear suspension and dual sport exhaust system complete the package. We look forward to testing it.
The 2020 Kia Forte most definitely deserves consideration in the strong compact sedan field. The base model brings 35 mpg if that’s your priority, and the new GT model, with its small but potent turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission, is a sharp and distinctive economy sedan.
–by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection