2019 Kia Forte: Does the New Brand-First CVT Spoil the Show? [Review]

This well-equipped Kia comes in at just over $26,000

2019 Kia Forte review
Kia has redesigned the 2019 Forte with a sharper face and more tech. [Photos: Kia]


The third generation Kia Forte launches as an all-new vehicle for the 2019 model year. The new styling takes on some of the design cues and persona inherent in the Kia Stinger GT’s look. Kia Product planning guru, Orth Hedrick outlined the Forte’s similarities to the Stinger, which Kia feels contributes to a sportier vehicle with enhanced premium appeal. Some of the noteworthy exterior changes include the horizontal light trim strip between the taillights, the sweeping rear end treatment, detached rear turn signal indicators, and the gloss black front and rear splitters. But the similarities end there as the Forte doesn’t even come close in terms of the Stinger’s performance and handling attributes. But then, it isn’t supposed to.

Visually, the new Kia Forte displays a fastback coupe look. That’s becoming fashionable in most car designs, despite the Kia’s four-door sedan configuration. The chrome trim cabin glass surround with the blacked out B and C-pillars help establish its overall look. The 2019 Kia Forte sports a high beltline, long hood and short rear deck with its modest overhang. It’s also 3.2 inches longer, increasing rear legroom. 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space ranks the Forte among the best in the segment.


The 2019 Kia Forte comes in four trim levels. There’s the base FE, followed by the LXS, S and EX. There will also be a limited-production EX Launch Edition model, which I drove. Standard fare across the lineup includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, dual-zone automatic temperature control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, a six-way adjustable front passenger seat and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Standard safety features for all trim levels include Hill Start Assist Control, a tire pressure monitoring system, Forward Collision Avoidance and Lane Keep Assist.

Kia Forte pricing ranges from $17,690 for the base FE trim with the manual gearbox to $21,990 for the top-of-the-line EX model. Add $3,210 for the Launch Edition Package, which adds a power sunroof, Harman Kardon premium audio system, LED headlamps, smart cruise control, navigation and Park Distance Warning. An exclusive Fire Orange exterior finish, darker finished wheels and a pronounced rear decklid spoiler is also available. Add another $895 to all models to cover Destination and Handling costs.


Power for the 2019 Kia Forte comes from a 2.0-liter inline-four engine that delivers 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. That energy reaches the front driving wheels via an Continuously Variable Transmission rather than a conventional automatic. For those wishing to stick to a 6-speed manual gearbox, it’s available only on the base FE trim. LX, SX and EX models all get the CVT.

Driving the 2019 Kia Forte was, overall, a pleasant experience. The 2.0-liter engine was readily responsive, despite only having 147 horsepower to work with.

The ride quality was firm, yet comfortable and stable. The handling characteristics offered an improvement over previous model Fortes – bordering on sporty. The selectable drive modes (Smart, Normal and Sport) allow you to cater the driving style a bit. I preferred Sport Mode, as you would, since it provided the most responsive qualities.


The 2019 Kia Forte is an attractive, efficient, practical and fun-to-drive sedan that also provides versatility, whichever trim level you choose. Kia builds their compact sedan alongside the smaller Rio at the company’s manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2019 Kia Forte EX Launch Edition

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $25,200
Price as Tested:
Engine: 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated I-4 with Multi-point fuel injection
Drivetrain (Layout): Transversely mounted front engine, front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Suspension: Front: MacPherson Strut with coil springs and twin-tube shock absorbers

Rear: Coupled Torsion Beam axle with twin-tube shock absorbers

Brakes: Power-assisted four wheel discs (vented front)
Tires: Kumho Majesty Solus P225/45 R17
Fuel capacity: 14.0 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 30 City / 40 Highway / 34 Combined MPG


Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 182.7 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Height: 56.5 inches
Turning Circle: 34.8 feet
Curb Weight: 2,903 pounds