2017 Kia Forte

Starting MSRP: $16,490 - $21,200

Estimated MPG: 25 city / 34 hwy

2017 Kia Forte Review

Compact cars are often sought out by those who want basic transportation at an affordable price. The 2017 Kia Forte is certainly affordable, but there's nothing basic about it. This capable Kia rewards buyers with assertive styling, enjoyable handling and a satisfying assortment of features and amenities.

By Warren Clarke
Last Updated 12/07/2016

The 2017 Kia Forte is a compact car that’s available as a sedan or hatchback (Forte5).

For 2017, the base Forte sedan receives a new four-cylinder engine and a revised six-speed automatic transmission, while the Forte hatchback adds an optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. All Fortes receive technology updates, add available driver assistance systems and get sheet metal upgrades including a new front bumper and grille. Sedan models welcome a new trim: the S, which is equipped with a sport-tuned suspension.

The Forte sedan comes in LX, S and EX trims, and hatchbacks come in LX, EX and SX trims.

Exterior

Exterior
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There was a time not so long ago when affordable compact cars came with sheet metal that reflected their low price tags. The Kia Forte is proof things are different these days. This Kia delivers upscale good looks you'd expect from a car costing thousands more.

Our Forte sedan had an athletic stance that gave it the appearance of being perpetually poised for action. In front, a tiger-nose grille separated sloping headlights, and the car wore a confident and determined expression. In profile, the sedan's lines were fluid and aerodynamic, with an abbreviated hood and a long, gracefully arched greenhouse. From the rear, the Forte looked blocky and substantial, with a pair of sleek, newly redesigned taillights.

Base Forte sedans feature 15-inch steel wheels, projector low-beam headlights, body-color door handles and heated, power-adjustable side mirrors. We tested a midrange Forte S, which comes with upgrades such as 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear deck-lid spoiler, LED daytime running lights and headlights with auto on/off functionality. Top-of-the-line EX models add features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and LED taillights.

Interior

Interior
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The 2017 Forte sedan and hatchback both seat five adults, and our test sedan featured a spacious cabin with ample headroom and generous legroom for both front and rear passengers. While rivals such as the Mazda3 offer similar legroom, the Forte provides headroom that's among the best in the class, making it a great choice for taller drivers.

Our sedan's seats were supportive without being too firm. The driver’s seat is easily adjustable, and this makes finding an optimum position behind the wheel a straightforward task.

Our Kia Forte sedan featured a deep storage bin under the center armrest, and there was also a covered bin under the dash. Both the sedan and hatchback offer impressive cargo capacity. The Forte sedan's trunk provides 14.9 cubic feet for your belongings, while the hatchback offers 23.2 cubic feet of cargo room with all seats in place and 56.4 cubes with the rear seats folded.

Base LX sedans provide standard features such as woven cloth seat trim, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-way-adjustable driver’s seat. S sedans like our test car step things up a notch by adding sport black-cloth seats with contrast stitching and a soft-touch dash and upper door panels, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, a chrome parking-brake button and a map pocket on the back of the front-passenger seat. EX sedans add heated leather seats and a rear center arm rest.

In terms of both design and the quality of materials used, our Forte's cabin was dressed to impress. The plastic found on the doors and the dash had a pleasing texture, and the interior had a modern appeal.

Performance

Performance
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For 2017, Kia Forte LX and S sedans come with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine providing 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, while EX sedans come with a 2.0-liter inline four offering 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on LX sedans, and a six-speed automatic is standard on S and EX sedans and optional on the LX.

The EPA rates the Forte LX sedan with the manual transmission at 25/34 mpg city/highway. With the automatic transmission, the LX and S models get 29/38 mpg, while EX sedans get 25/33 mpg. These are strong numbers, but rivals such as the 2016 Mazda3 sedan get better fuel economy.

Our Forte sedan delivered good power for all highway and city driving maneuvers. The four-cylinder engine was peppy and energetic, offering eager acceleration. The six-speed automatic transmission provided shifts that were smooth and well timed.

Thanks to its sport-tuned suspension, the ride quality in the Forte S we tested was firm but not unpleasantly so, with a satisfying sense of connection with the road. Steering was responsive, and handling all around was quick-witted and engaging. The car's brakes inspired confidence and wasted no time in bringing the Forte to a standstill.

Technology

Technology
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S and EX trims come with an UVO3 infotainment system utilizing a 7-inch touch screen display. For 2017, this system adds Apple CarPlay (with late availability) and Android Auto smartphone integration. These platforms allow drivers to use the vehicle's touch screen to send text messages, access driving directions, stream music and much more.

A four-speaker sound system with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio is standard the Forte LX sedan, while S and EX sedans get a six-speaker audio system. Voice-activated navigation is optional on S and EX models.

Our test car was equipped with the Technology package, which includes a 4.2-inch LCD meter cluster, push-button start, auto up/down front windows and driver assistance features such as blind spot detection, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Adding the Technology package also brings in exterior elements that include fog lights, LED taillights and side mirrors with LED turn signals.

Safety

Safety
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The 2017 Kia Forte sedan earned a perfect five stars overall in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests.

Standard safety features include front, seat-mounted and side-curtain air bags, as well as hill-start assist, a rearview camera, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control. Driver assistance features such as forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning are optional on S and EX sedans. Blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert are available on all Forte hatchbacks.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2017 Kia Forte sedan has a base price of $16,490 with the manual transmission and $17,500 with the automatic, not including an $850 destination charge. S models start at $19,200, and EX models are priced at $21,200.

That's a lower starting price than you’ll find with rivals such as the 2016 Volkswagen Golf and the 2016 Mazda3, and it points to the Forte's exceptional value. We'd recommend stepping up to the S trim, since this allows you to access features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. With the Forte S, you're also able to add optional driver assistance features for safer travels.

Overall

Overall
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Years ago, buyers seeking economically priced compact cars had to settle for the bare basics, but the 2017 Kia Forte is proof we have entered a golden age in affordable transportation. The Forte easily transcends expectations many buyers still carry regarding this humble segment. It looks great, offers strong fuel economy and is equipped with the latest technology features. This car's low price tag brings no compromises.

Other picks to consider include the sporty Mazda3, the sleek Hyundai Elantra and the polished Volkswagen Golf. However, if your mandate is value, it's hard to improve on the hard-working Kia Forte.