Our first chance to drive the 2015 Kia Forte came at our annual event in March, dubbed the Texas Auto Roundup, where we, and many other automotive journalist with the Texas Auto Writers Association, were so impressed we named it the 2015 Sub-Compact Car of Texas. It wasn’t an easy decision and the car had some stiff competition including the 2015 Toyota Yaris and the 2015 Chevrolet Trax. Of course now we have the car to drive for the full week, instead of 10 to 15 minutes, so let’s see if we made a big mistake.
The Forte was introduced in 2009 with its first generation offering both a sedan version as well as a sporty looking coupe. Later, in 2011, Kia brought us the first 5-door hatchback version. This was an important car for Kia as it was able to show off that the Korean automaker could produce reliable cars that looked good and were equipped with nice interiors. Fast-forward to 2012 where Kia launched the second-generation with a new, modern body style keeping it in line with the rest of the lineup and even more standard equipment inside.
Today the 2015 5-door that we are driving has been refreshed once again with a skinnier grille and larger opening in the lower facia giving it a little bit more of an aggressive stance. The headlights sweep up and over the front fenders adding to the dynamics of the front-end. Down the side is one strong, bold line that angles downward toward the front wheels giving the car an athletic stance. Around back you have standard LED tail lamps and dual, chrome-tipped exhaust poking out of the rear diffuser. It’s not the most aggressive looking compact hatch out there but it sure is close.
One of the original goals of the Forte even back in 2009 was to offer an affordable compact car that didn’t make you sacrifice on interior quality. They really started hitting this point in 2010 adding soft touch materials throughout the interior. Looking at today’s Forte in the SX trim, like we have, you would have no idea that Kia was ever a budget car company.
Inside this hatch you get black leather seats that can be both heated and cooled for the driver and passenger. Even the rear seats have heaters built in. All the surfaces you touch are either leather or soft touch plastic that could compete with the best in the business. You get a plethora of buttons and controls that are all laid out well and are easy to use. Kia’s UVO system helps keep you connected and controls your infotainment system, navigation system, rear-camera display, bluetooth connectivity, and connected apps. You can also get connected to the UVO app on your smartphone where you can get vehicle information, points of interest, roadside assistance, and so much more.
So you’ll really enjoy being inside this car driving but is it an enjoyable driving car? In EX trim you’ll get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that pushes 173-horsepower and 154-lb.ft. of torque. This is a decent option but with such a sporty looking vehicle you’ll be wanting something with a little more getup and go. Our SX trimmed Forte was equipped with the turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that pushes 201-hp and 195-lb-ft of torque. The naturally aspirated engine is going to deliver you slightly better fuel economy at 25-city and 33-highway while the turbo’d car will get 21-city and 29-highway.
The overall driving experience is still better with the 1.6-liter engine as you have more power to push you down the road. This isn’t a fast car by any means and it’s not even the fastest compact hatch you can get. It does feel athletic though. You get a sense that the car is ready to go and when you lay down your foot, it all comes to life.
So is this the car to buy for you? If you’re looking for a fun yet inexpensive hatch; it could be. The base EX trim starts at $19,690. Moving up to the SX puts your base at only $20,890 and our spec’d out SX had an MSRP of 26,210. I really enjoyed my time with this car more than I originally thought I would. It’s fun and sporty, looks good, and is comfortable and packed full of technology. There are still a lot of options out there that are great hatchbacks, decently inexpensive, and lots of fun to drive, that we just haven’t talked about yet. The Chevy Trax that we mentioned earlier is more mini-SUV but offers a lot for small families. The Chevy Sonic RS is still a cool car that we enjoy a lot. The Ford Focus or Fiesta ST are great fun although they’ll be a bit more expensive with less luxury. The Hyundai Elantra GT is one of my favorite looking hatchbacks on the market, and the Forte and Elantra share the same platform. So definitely take a look at those if you’re swaying on the Forte but if you decide the Forte is for you, well rest assured that you made a great choice.