2019 Kia Forte EX Limited

Insane bang for the buck is the new Forte’s forte

Words by: Adam Allen


So you get lots of stuff, eh?

The Kia Forte EX Limited- our tester you see here- is the range topper and comes with a bewilderingly long list of kit for a compact car. Yet as much as we like being spoiled, we think the EX is the sweet spot of the lineup and should garner the lion’s share of sales. Kia would agree- they anticipate that 50% of Forte’s will be sold as such. Although a few clicks in your browser will allow you to pour over the Forte’s lengthy roster of standard kit no matter the trim level, allow us to list some of the stuff you get for around $21 grand (the EX’s pricing- our tester commands more dough) Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, LED headlamps, wireless cell phone charging, high beam assistant for those headlamps and a glut of safety kit and driver assistance aids. Let’s just say it has everything you could ever want and call it a day. Seriously, they’re not messing around when they say the Forte is stacked.

Got it. So this is the Spawn of Spectra?

For reasons we can’t pinpoint that sounds kinda creepy but yes, the Forte’s genetic makeup contains Spectra genes even if the two are extremely far removed. Look, if you were Bernie Madoff’s long lost cousin would you want to broadcast it to the world? Indeed, the Forte definitely has, um, humble roots- but that was when Kia was a wholly different company, getting by on the lowest common denominator in pricing rather than serving up the impressive fully realized compact as you see here. While the Forte and Spectra may share share a bloodline, it wouldn’t fair to judge the Forte based on its ancestor’s mediocrity.

Hasn’t Kia taken a few steps back with the Forte? Just taking a glance at the spec sheet here…

We always get a bit rankled when a successor doesn’t advance the game forward relative to its predecessor. Take the Porsche 718, a car we adore. Despite our unabashed admiration, nowadays they are fitted with a flat four engine that makes more power and torque than ever before but sounds very underwhelming in the process. They should have stuck with the lovely six cylinder engines but progress dictates more speed while using less fuel as emissions criteria get tougher, something had to give. Which leads us to the Forte’s spec sheet: we didn’t like what we saw, on first blush. A 2.0 engine that makes less power than before? And you’re saying the transmission is now a CVT? The fact that the old multilink rear suspension was turfed in favor of a twist beam axle appeared to be the final straw. That said, after a week of living with it, we tried resisting warming to the changes but eventually just gave up. Kia’s decision to make these amendments may have crossed a few enthusiasts, but it’s clearly the right move for this car. The engine more than keeps up with traffic, and the CVT…well, it just doesn’t feel like one. Gone are the days where service advisors will have to convince angry customers that their transmissions are not ‘broken’ and they were designed to work that way in the first place. Kia calls theirs IVT (I for intelligent) and the name isn’t just marketing gloss; it performs with a level of excellence you hardly ever encounter with typical CVT transmissions. Lastly, what the rear suspension gives up in sophistication of design it makes up for with ride quality characteristics that Kia really stressed over. It’s decidedly more on the firm side of the spectrum but never harsh or crashy and suspension events and body motions are tamped down and discipled. Besides, if carving up a strip of tarmac tops your priority list the Forte isn’t for you anyway. Despite the appearance of a downgrade in dirty bits the Forte is a very rewarding car to drive.

Just how rewarding is it?

Kia has used the motto “The Power to Surprise” in various ads and TV commercials and if you need an example of truth in advertising, look no further. At this point in Kia’s history, its customers know that it can build cars with incredible value as well as cars that are satisfying to drive. Thing is, it used to be you get one or the other, but these days we’re starting to see a combination of the two and the Forte is a good example of that. You get a list of features that you just don’t see in most of its competitors and now it can give the segment’s best a run for their money in fun-to-drive factor. It may not quite be ready to fully dethrone the VW Golf/Mazda3/Honda Civic trifecta but it’s getting darn close.

What might go wrong?

We could complain about the not-so-cutting edge mechanical bits that are new to the program, except we’ve already demonstrated that while they might not look good on paper they truly work well in the real world. Instead, we’ll gripe about the coal bin inspired blackness of the cabin- note to Kia that a little color would jazz things up smartly and would be especially welcome in our Limited. We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t pine for more horsepower and a manual gearbox (which can be had on the lower trim models) or kvetch about slick LED lighting fore and aft that must be saddled with incandescent bulbs for the turn signals- the past and present meet under puzzling circumstances at the Forte’s bow and stern.

Should I buy a Kia Forte?

Like the Genesis G70 we tested recently, Kia is still aglow with winning the 2019 Best Small Car in Canada and 2019 Best Large Car in Canada (that one goes to the Stinger, another Kia we’re fond of which happens to share a platform with the G70) awards wards in their respective categories by we auto scribes from coast-to-coast. If you put much stock in the opinions of us and our colleagues- and of course why wouldn’t you?- then yes, you should buy a Kia Forte. As learned and wise as we fancy ourselves, don’t take our word for it. Take a Forte for a spin after you’ve had a go in its rivals and the underlying excellence will reveal itself.

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited– Specifications

  • Price as tested: $28,065
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger Compact Sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
  • Engine:  2.0 litre inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  147 @ 6,200 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 132 @ 4,500 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,317 kg (2,903 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 9.9L/100km (24 mpg)