2013 Kia Forte Sedan - FROM $15,400
The 2013 Kia Forte is outclassed by newer competitors, but it still has a lot to offer in terms of value and style.
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Kia Forte gets additional acoustic insulation and upgraded leather for the steering wheel. New available features include LED running lights and power-folding mirrors.
Compact cars have gone from ho-hum to holy cow in a remarkably short time. When the Kia Forte was introduced, we were impressed by its sharp styling, quality cabin, agreeable driving dynamics and generous features list. Then the bar dramatically leapt upward as a slew of newer sedans were introduced that matched or greatly surpassed the Forte's previously praiseworthy attributes.
As such, the 2013 Kia Forte is easy to overlook even though it remains a perfectly acceptable compact car. It's still one of the few that offers three different body styles: a sedan, a four-door hatchback and a coupe. The Forte's features list also remains a bright spot, since Kia has only increased the amount of stuff you can cram into this relatively diminutive car. And in a sign of modern priorities, power locks and windows might not be standard, but Bluetooth, satellite radio and an iPod interface are.
Under the hood, the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine may not achieve that flashy 40-mpg highway number touted in the ads of rivals, but at 37 mpg, it's still properly efficient. If you're willing to sacrifice some mpg for a little mph, the SX trim delivers handling on par with anything in the class. The ride can be unpleasantly firm, though, which isn't the case for some of its newer competitors.
As for those competitors, the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda 3 should be your prime targets. Each provides a substantially nicer cabin, a more refined driving experience and its own fresh take on sharp styling. Their engines are more sophisticated, and even if they don't boast quite the same bang-for-your-buck, their features lists are overflowing with items you wouldn't normally associate with compact cars.
Given this, it should come as no surprise that Kia is fast at work creating a new-and-improved Forte ahead of the usual schedule. Until that car arrives, the 2013 Kia Forte is a decent choice if the right deal comes along, but you should know you'll be settling for something more ho-hum than holy cow.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Kia Forte is available in three body styles: sedan, four-door hatchback ("Five-Door") and coupe (or "Koup" as Kia calls it). The sedan is available in LX, EX and SX trim levels, while the Five-Door and Koup are EX and SX only.
Standard equipment on the LX includes 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. There are no options for the LX.
The EX includes all of the following plus full power accessories, keyless entry, power-folding mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, map lights, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls. The Five-Door and Koup get 16-inch alloy wheels standard, whereas the sedan gets them as part of the Premium package, which also includes a sunroof. The Eco package adds to the EX electric power steering, a different alternator, low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic enhancements for improved fuel economy.
The Forte SX adds a more powerful engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, automatic headlights, foglights, LED running lights, steering wheel paddle shifters for the automatic transmission, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and metal-finish interior trim pieces. The Koup SX gets gloss black exterior trim pieces. The Leather package adds to the SX leather upholstery, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The Technology package available on both EX and SX adds keyless ignition/entry, chrome exterior door handles, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a navigation system and real-time traffic. The EX version also gets the automatic headlights, foglights and LED running lights.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Kia Forte LX and EX are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. In certain states, the engine is certified as a Super-Ultra-Low-Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) and as a result produces 154 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined for an automatic-equipped sedan or hatchback. The coupe and manual-equipped cars are just a hair worse. The Forte Eco package bumps efficiency to 27/37/30.
The SX gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 173 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. In SULEV form the engine is rated at 165 hp and 161 lb-ft. The 2.4 gets the same transmission choices as the 2.0-liter. In Edmunds performance testing, an SX hatchback with an automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is on par with similarly powered cars. The Koup is a bit quicker. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23/32/26 with the automatic and marginally less with the manual.
Every 2013 Kia Forte comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a Forte SX coupe came to a stop from 60 mph in an above-average 118 feet. An SX hatchback stopped in 122 feet, which is average.
In government crash testing, the Forte sedan and hatchback received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, frontal protection and side protection. The coupe has not been rated. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Forte sedan the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Kia Forte's interior is a fairly comfortable place, with good room up front and backseats with legroom that, while not great, is about par for the category. One notable exception is the coupe's rear seat, which is a tight squeeze by anyone's standards. The quality of the interior is certainly acceptable, but it's a noticeable step down from what you'll find in a Focus, Elantra or Volkswagen Golf. Some Forte test cars we've sampled have also suffered from haphazard construction. On the upside, interior controls are very user-friendly.
Both the coupe and sedan have a good amount of cargo room, with 12.6 cubic feet and 14.7 cubic feet, respectively. The hatchback version is even better, with 19.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats that expands to 44.2 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down to make a flat load floor.
The 2013 Kia Forte benefits from an increase in acoustic insulation for 2013, but this is still a car that lacks the refinement of its newer competitors. Its ride and handling also lack a certain sophistication. You either get doughy handling and a comfortable ride with the LX and EX, or sharp handling and a harsh ride with the SX. You don't need to make such sacrifices in a Ford Focus or Mazda 3.
The Forte's engine choices might also not be as sophisticated, but nevertheless deliver competitive power and fuel economy regardless of whether you opt for the 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter. Obviously, the latter is stronger. We highly recommend the automatic transmission, as the manual is both unpleasant and difficult to use.