Class: Compact Car
Color: Steel Gray
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.
Miles driven: 280
Observed fuel economy: 28.6 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 27/35/30 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $23,490 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: GT2 Package ($2200), carpeted floor mats ($155)
Price as tested: $26,840
The great: Fun to drive, excellent dollar value, easy on the gas
The good: Logical control layout, comfy front-row seats, attractive cabin
The not so good: Pronounced engine quake at low speed and idle
Not only is Kia’s Forte secretly popular, it’s also secretly fun to drive. Popular? The compact-sedan market is dominated by two players: the delightful Honda Civic, and the very-popular Toyota Corolla. Together, the cars accounted for more than half a million U.S. sales in 2021.
The battle for third place in the segment is a brutal clash between the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, and Nissan Sentra, each of which notched between 115,000 and 130,000 sales during the same period. The likable but somewhat pricey Mazda 3 trailed the compact-car pack, with just 38,000 sales to its credit. If you’re surprised that the Forte sells about as well as the Elantra and Sentra, you’re not alone. That’s why we say it’s secretly popular.
As for fun, In GT form the frisky Forte is a legitimate and more-affordable alternative to the spunky Civic Si, though not entirely without its faults. We’ll get back to the GT in a minute.
Available only in sedan form, the Forte was freshened for 2022 and treated to revised exterior styling and upgraded tech and safety features. If you’re wondering about the 2-door Koup, it was quietly dropped from the Forte lineup way back in 2016.
The Forte lineup ascends though base LX, LXS, GT-Line, and GT trim levels. There are technically two GT trim levels, one which includes a 6-speed manual transmission, the other a nifty 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
All but the GT models are powered by 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder mated to a CVT automatic transmission. Opt for the GT, and you upgrade to a 201-horse turbocharged 1.6-liter four. Also, you can enjoy the general look and feel of the GT with the standard engine by going with the GT-Line. Consumer Guide recently spent time with a GT automatic in Steel Gray.
Underway, the Forte GT transitions a little less fluidly than the Civic Si, and perhaps feels a little less balanced and a little more like a front-wheel drive car. That’s not to say the FT isn’t fun to drive, it is, and we’re inclined to describe the little Kia’s handling peccadilloes as “character” rather than flaws.
The GT seems to have all the grip a commuter might ever need, and the steering is natural feeling, firm, and accurate. The brakes feel good, too. Not great—we could do with a little less initial sponginess—but good.
If ever a small car cried out for a manual transmission, it’s the Forte GT. The small turbo mill revs freely, and works very well with the dual-clutch auto. Still, it would be fun to come out of a corner in a gear of our own choosing. The engine itself, though well-suited to spirited driving, is surprisingly throbby at idle and in low-speed driving. We’ll call this a character flaw.
We saw almost 29 mpg in pretty-much regular driving. We suspect our fuel economy might have been better if the Forte GT wasn’t as much fun to drive as it is.
Inside you’ll find a tidy but sporty cabin featuring the Kia-typical excellent control layout. The seats are firm and supportive, and road, wind, and engine noise are well squelched at constant speed and on the highway.
In case you were thinking about going with a crossover instead, know that the Forte boasts a useful 15.3 cubic feel of trunk space. Also, a bit of pricing news: the GT2 package, as seen on our test car, becomes standard for 2023, along with a roughly commensurate base-price increase.
Regarding the Civic Si: it’s a joy to drive, and it’s a little more polished than the Forte GT. That said, it also costs more, and may actually be—dare we say it?—a little too refined. Consumer Guide evaluated a manual-transmission 2022 Si early this year that came to just under $29,000. That’s about $2500 more than our test Kia. We might go with the Civic, but if you appreciate good value and a little more “character,” be sure to test drive the rewarding Forte as well.
2022 kia Forte GT Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)
2022 Kia Forte GT
2022 Kia Forte GT