2018 Kia Forte5 SX: Punchy, Spacious and Fun, But Lacks Great Fuel Economy [Review]

2018 KIA Forte5 SX
[Photo: Kia]


The slick-looking 2018 Kia Forte5 SX is fun to drive and spoils occupants with a reasonably upscale interior and plenty of standard equipment. It’s a five-door hatchback with above-average occupant roominess and a large cargo area, especially with the rear setbacks folded down. Adding to the practicality factor, the hatch also reveals a low, wide cargo opening.

There are lower-priced Forte models with less power, but the turbocharged SX provides the most punch. Even better, it’s available a six-speed manual transmission. Weirdly, though, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic comes standard, while the manual is a $2,200. That may not be a major loss for manual enthusiasts, however. After all, you might as well have some fun if you’re in a sporty hatchback.


The Forte5 SX’s smooth turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. It works well with the manual, which has short, crisp throws. However, the slight separation between first and third gears occasionally led me to kill the engine when starting out because it’s easy to accidentally start out in third gear. Also, While the shifter throws are short, the clutch motion isn’t. It does take some getting used to.

The Forte SX moves out quickly in first gear and has good highway performance. Even better, spirited acceleration doesn’t cause more than a mild drone from the smooth engine. I couldn’t detect any significant turbo lag either, a problem endemic to turbocharged cars across the range.

Despite the smooth, crisp performance from the engine, it does carry one down side. Estimated fuel economy of the Forte5 SX with the manual is only so-so at 23 mpg. That’s not great for a compact car, although the highway figure is decent at 29 mpg.

The front-drive Forte5 SX acts much like a small sports sedan, with fast accurate steering and decent road feel. Electronic stability and traction control as well as a sport-tuned suspension and stability management system keep the body flat when snaking through curves. The supple suspension soaks up  road imperfections without jolting occupants, and the anti-lock brakes stop the Forte5 SX quickly and securely.

2018 KIA Forte5 SX interior
[Photo: Kia]

Comfort and Convenience

The Forte5 SX has prominent chromed dual exhaust outlets. And a red stripe across the lower front of my test car added a discreet racy touch. The car has a front end with a somewhat rakish dip. There’s a power sunroof with a shade, and outside mirrors with turn-signal indicators fold against the side glass to prevent parking lot damage.

My test car’s quiet interior was definitely upscale, with red stitching on its black interior and soft-touch materials. Kia provides leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats, and controls were laid out for easy use. The 7.0-inch touch is easy to use, and provides Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support.

The power driver’s seat provided good lateral support, and felt comfortable for longer trips. Cupholders were conveniently placed, and there were plenty of storage areas throughout the car. Safety equipment includes an array of airbags as well as standard traction control, stability control and electronic brake force distribution. However,  Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are all optional equipment.

2018 Kia Forte5
[Photo: Kia]

TFLcar’s Take

The solidly built 2018 Kia Forte SX has good doses of practicality and lively performance. However, while you’d expect this to be an economical hatchback, its fuel economy should be higher.


On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $23,995
Price as Tested: $26,995
Engine: 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated I-4
Drivetrain (Layout): Transversely-mounted
Horsepower: 164 hp @ 6,200 RPM
Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut w/ monotube shocks

Rear: Coupled Torsion Beam axle (CTBA) w/ monotube shocks

Brakes: Front: 11.0-inch ventilated discs

Rear: 10.3-inch solid discs

Tires: Nexen Classe Premiere P225/40 R18 all-season
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 23 City/29 Highway/25 Combined MPG


Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length:  171.3 inches
Width: 70.1 inches
Height:  57.1 inches
Turning Circle: 34.8 feet
Curb Weight: 3,058 pounds