New 2019 Kia Forte Review: Boosted MPG & Technology, But At What Cost?

2019 Kia Forte sedan
2019 Kia Forte sedan

The 2019 Kia Forte sedan is all new and packed with the latest infotainment, safety, and fuel efficient technologies. The engine is practically the same, but the transmission is all new to get about 10% better economy. Kia calls it the Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), also known as a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). How does the new sedan drive with the latest transmission and safety tech? Find out right here.

2019 Kia Forte

Kia says the updated styling was inspired by the successful Kia Stinger. I do not see much resemblance between then, but the new Forte is an aggressive and attractive compact sedan. Check out that headlight design and the lower grille up front. It has a familiar Kia face but the lower valance is downright sporty. I see a fit of Infiniti Q50 sedan there. The rear of the car has a red reflector element that connects the two fancy tail lights. It resembles Audi design and also makes the car look bigger and more premium.

The new Forte FE base model comes with 15-inch steel wheels, but other models can be optioned with 16 and 17-inch alloy rims.

Power & Economy

The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine has been revised with a cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and oil-cooled pistons for further efficiency gains. The power output remains the same as before at 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. The big story is the IVT that replaces the outgoing 6-speed automatic transmission. Together, the new powertrain gets a very good EPA rating of 31 MPG city, 41 MPG highway, and 35 MPG combined. This is very close to best in class, although the Honda Civic has a 36 MPG combined rating. This is a significant improvement of 3 MPG over the outgoing Forte sedan. How does it drive? I will explain a little later.

2019 to 2018 Kia Forte MPG comparison

Those who like a more affordable car and a manual transmission will like to hear that the 6-speed manual transmission is still available. The Forte FE with the manual starts at $17,690 (before $895 destination charge). Though, the manual Forte gets a much lower EPA rating of 27 MPG city, 37 MPG highway, and 31 MPG combined. I did not have an opportunity to drive a Forte with a manual. Note: FE is the new base trim level of the car that is focused on efficiency.

The Forte FE with the IVT starts at $18,590 (or $900 more than the manual).


The new Forte is build around a body structure that is similar to the Hyundai Elantra, but this one improves stiffness by 26% with about 54% usage of advanced high strength steel. Kia says that noise, vibration, and harshness have been improved, and I can attest to this during my first drive. The cabin feels quieter at speed, something that is also aided by thicker front side glass (now 4mm thick).

The car still rides on the same 106.3 inch wheelbase, and interior legroom stands at 42.2 inches in the front and 35.7 inches in the rear. Suspension geometry has been revised to more effectively absorb rough roads, but also to improve the handling. The rear suspension is a coupled torsion beam axle, not an independent suspension system.


standard Apple CarPlay

You probably already noticed that the base 2019 Forte sedan is more expensive than the outgoing model. A big part of the price increase are the added standard features that may surprise you. Every new Forte comes with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with or without navigation). Every new Forte comes with a suite of drive assistance features (Kia calls it ADAS): forward collision avoidance, driver attention warning, lane keep warning/assist, and more. Every new Forte comes with a dual-zone HVAC system, and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto.

The new Forte has an optional adaptive cruise control system, but it’s the system that works only at speeds above 20 MPH. Blind spot monitoring is also available.

Kia saw a definite need to include easy smart device connectivity and driver safety/assistance technologies, so they did it as standard equipment at a slightly higher price.

320 watt 8-speaker Harmon Kardon premium audio system is now also available on the Forte EX.


NHTSA and IIHS safety ratings are not yet available for the 2019 Forte sedan, but Kia expects to get the highest possible ratings. The outgoing 2018 model has IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, so the expectation is reasonable. Including driver assistance features is a step towards getting those highest ratings.


The new Forte gets a bigger trunk with the maximum volume of 15.1 cu-ft, which ties it for best in class. The Forte LXS and above get 40/60 split folding rear seats that further aide to utility of this compact sedan. The front center console has been made taller and longer for more comfort. The rear seat bottom cushion is now 5mm higher, once again in the name of better comfort.


The 2019 Forte shines with improved driving dynamics and steering feel. Indeed, it’s not a sports sedan, but it stays relatively flat through higher speed corners without much understeer (or plowing). The steering recalibrated, and it has a nice and heavy feel in Sport driving mode.

The IVT transmission still exhibits common CVT behavior in Normal mode. There is a small delay after you put your foot all the way down on the accelerator. It almost feels like a turbocharged engine that is building boost, but there is no turbo under the hood. There is also a slight delay after you come off the throttle (the car continues to accelerate for a split second).
Sport mode improves the IVT experience, especially by allowing simulated up and down gear shifts with the flick of the gear lever. It behaves like an 8-speed automatic, and holds the gear the driver selects (even right near redline). If only Kia found a way to add steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, then the Sport mode would be straight up fun with this balanced chassis.

Brake feel is predictable and linear, which is just right for a compact sedan like this.

Price & Value

Wireless charging

Which the 2019 Forte increases in starting price, it’s still in the middle of the pack as far as competition is concerned. There are cars like the Nissan Sentra and Chevy Cruze that have lower starting prices of approximately $17,000. There are also cars that are more expensive. The Toyota Corolla starts at $18,700, and the Honda Civic starts at $18,940.

While many manufacturers are moving away from sedans in favor of crossovers, the Forte is still Kia’s best selling vehicle. It should remain this way as this new 2019 model is reaching dealerships now. There will be a special EX Launch Edition model available starting in November 2018. This car will come in a special orange paint job, and it will be a fully optioned car with wireless phone charger and price of $25,200.

Check out more of our impressions in the video below: