The Kia Forte just kind of disappeared, didn’t it? After the much-ballyhooed launch of the second-generation model in 2015, this compact sedan/hatch has seemingly vanished on our shores. You don’t see it very often on the road, either—probably because its direct competitors include juggernauts like the Honda Civic, the Mazda 3, and the Toyota Corolla Altis. It’s an unenviable position for a Korean upstart to be in.
In fact, the last story we published about the Forte on TopGear.com.phwas back in 2016, a year after the launch. That is, until sketches of the third-generation model emerged ahead of this year’s North American International Auto Show. The teaser images showed promise, so we were excited for what lay ahead.
And here we have it, the latest Forte. In terms of design, the car retains its predecessor’s youthful looks, but in a sleeker package inspired by the Stinger. Peter Schreyer and his team have clearly attacked the blueprints with gusto here, creating a more athletic and fastback-like silhouette. Hood creases give rise to a muscular facade, and the signature tiger-nose grille now looks more menacing. The headlamps are also inspired by the Stinger, while the rear trim that connects the taillights are similar to the one in the Sportage.
Inside, cabin length has been increased by 81mm for additional legroom and cargo space. Speaking of cargo, there’s nearly 428 liters of available capacity. Headroom and overall width have also been increased ever so slightly. The dashboard’s horizontal theme aids in this effort and provides a cleaner, more spacious look. The stiffer chassis, according to Kia, also reduces cabin noise apart from sharpening the driving dynamics.
Handling is further enhanced by Kia’s Motor Driven Power Steering or MDPS system, which reduces artificial steering feel and friction. A reworked suspension makes the car more nimble, while improvements to the brake and the throttle yield a “smoother initial response at tip-in and a shorter stopping distance” compared with the second generation.
Onboard tech includes a standard 8in touchscreen equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, integrated into the dash within the driver’s line of sight. A neat feature is the available wireless charging tray on top of the center stack for compatible Android phones as well as the iPhone 8 and X. Meanwhile, safety features come courtesy of Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems suite, which includes blind-spot collision warning, lane-keeping assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, and smart cruise control.
Powering the all-new Forte is 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill that features Atkinson-cycle technology and a cooled EGR system to help with fuel efficiency. Output figures sit at 147hp and 179Nm, and Kia claims fuel consumption of 14.88km/L, which is a shade over 1km/L better than the previous engine. Transmission options include a six-speed manual and a CVT. With the latter, Kia has worked to address the rubber-band feel and noise issues that customers have brought up in the past.
“The compact-sedan segment is highly competitive, but with all the improvements the new Forte brings to market for the 2019 model year, it is more than prepared to take on the toughest that the segment has to offer,” said Orth Hedrick, Kia Motors America’s vice president for product planning, during the model’s launch. “As one of our top-selling models, the all-new Forte follows some large footsteps, but enhancements in styling, packaging, and content make it even more attractive to drivers seeking a compact sedan that can accommodate their versatile lifestyle.”
Sales in the US start later this year, though no word yet on when the Forte will reach this side of the globe. Would you like to see it make a strong statement here? And do you think this third-generation model can compete with the Japanese big boys?
With talks looming about a takeover of the brand in the country, will we finally experience the Forte and other Kias in all their splendor? We hope so. ■