By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 8.8
With luxury amenities, a sporty demeanor, two available engines, and 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe, or 5-door hatchback bodies, the 2015 Kia Forte is almost a brand all by itself. You can go inexpensive with the base Forte sedan, saving yourself money while never feeling shortchanged. If you like sporty driving, there's the Forte Koup, a 2-door model with an optional turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that makes more than 200 horsepower. Then there's the Forte hatchback, which combines the practicality of a small wagon with the turbo engine of the Koup. Put together, the Forte lineup is a strong competitor against established names like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. One thing's certain: The Forte makes picking a good compact car that much harder.
The Forte offers a little something for everyone. There's a practical 4-door sedan, an even more practical hatchback, and a sporty 2-door. It also offers plenty of high tech features, and a very generous warranty.
While the Forte sedan, hatchback and 2-door Koup look sporty, enthusiasts will note that the looks can be deceiving. Also, despite low base prices, the Forte's price escalates quickly as you add options, making them not quite the bargain their starting prices might suggest.
KBB Expert Ratings
After a complete redesign last year, the 2015 Kia Forte lineup gets slightly better fuel economy in LX and EX sedans. Additionally, the rear backup camera is now optional as part of the $900 UVO package, rather than a standard feature on EX models.
If you're a hardcore enthusiast driver, considering a 2015 Kia Forte sedan for its sporty design and available 173-horsepower engine – or the Koup and Forte5 hatchback and their available...
... 201-horsepower engines – you might be disappointed. The Forte has good power and a decent suspension, but it's not as fun to drive as competitors like the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Jetta. However, if you're among the 99 percent of buyers who just want a solid daily driver, the Forte in sedan, coupe and hatchback are all excellent choices. There are multiple features to coddle driver and passenger alike, and there's no doubting that the Koup and Forte5, with their more powerful turbocharged engines, have plenty of scoot, even if their overall driving dynamics aren't on par with cars like the Honda Civic Si or Volkswagen GTI. Regardless, the Forte lineup is a solidly economical choice as a daily driver.
UVO is Kia's integrated telematics and infotainment system, offering a host of cool capabilities, many of them voice-activated. Two neat tricks are how UVO automatically calls 911 using your Bluetooth-connected smartphone if an airbag deploys, and how it lets you send a navigation destination from your computer to the car.
The 2015 Kia Forte leverages its electrically assisted power steering to allow drivers three different steering modes between Comfort, Normal and Sport steering modes. Comfort mode feels the least artificial, making small corrections easier and mitigating some of the compromise of efficiency-enhancing electric steering.
Inside the 2015 Kia Forte, you'll find a heavy helping of tech, a side of comfort, and a hint of whimsy thanks to touches like the vertical ripples on the passenger-side dash. It's all very well done. The back seat is on the large size for its class, and it offers the uncommon option of rear-seat heating. Speaking of heat, a heated steering wheel is another Forte option. The trunk is among the category's roomiest, measuring almost 15 cubic feet, and if that's not enough, there's the Forte5 hatchback and its 23 cubic feet.
While the 2015 Kia Forte isn't as flashy as the Hyundai Elantra – its corporate cousin – the Forte will look better over the long run because of it. We like the addition of LED accents in the headlights, and the 2-door Forte Koup and hatchback Forte5 add more style to the lineup, but without undermining the conservative aesthetic. Here, Kia's healthy addiction to category-first features manifests itself in power-folding exterior mirrors, puddle lamps and illuminated door-handle pockets.
The least expensive 2015 Kia Forte LX sedan starts comes standard with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, air conditioning, and a split-folding rear seat, all for a starting price of around $16,600. That car also comes with steel wheels, a manual transmission, and without many of the class-leading features. The 2015 Forte Koup and Forte5 start at the EX level, offering more standard equipment like aluminum-alloy wheels and remote keyless entry, albeit at higher prices: $19,400 and $20,500, respectively. A full complement of active and passive safety features are standard on every Forte.
While Kia has earned a reputation for offering a lot of car for a little money, it's important to remember that a fully loaded 2015 Kia Forte sedan can easily pass $26,000, although that does get you a very nicely equipped car that includes dual-zone climate control, navigation, leather seats, and Kia's UVO infotainment system. A loaded Forte Koup is about the same price, but includes Kia's 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 201 horsepower. The Forte5 hatchback comes in even higher, pushing $27,000. Higher trim levels also include features like push-button start, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats.
The 2015 Kia Forte sedan comes with a choice of two engines: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder available only in the LX and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder available in the EX sedan. That 2.0-liter engine serves as the entry-level engine in the Forte Koup 2-door and Forte5 hatchback, while both of those cars have an available 1.6-liter turbocharged engine making 201 horsepower. A 6-speed automatic transmission is either standard or available across the board, while a 6-speed manual is also available on select models. For 2015, Forte fuel economy improved slightly on most models, although it still trails many of today's compact cars.
1.8-liter 4-cylinder (Kia Forte Sedan LX)
148 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
131 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37 mpg (manual), 26/39 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter 4-cylinder (Kia Forte Sedan EX, Koup EX, Forte5 EX)
173 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
154 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/33 mpg (manual Koup), 25/34 (automatic Koup), 25/36 mpg (Sedan), 25/33 (Forte5)
1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (Kia Forte Koup SX, Forte5 SX)
201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg (manual Koup), 22/30 mpg (automatic Koup), 21/29 (Forte5)
While Kia vehicles aren't the price leaders they once were, their better quality, additional features and improving resale values make them better purchases in the long run. The bare-bones Forte LX sedan's $16,600 starting price is one of the lowest in the category, but few of those get made. A more realistic option and better value at a hair over $20,000 is the Forte EX sedan, which compares favorably against rivals like the Civic EX. The Forte Koup and Forte5 hatchback start at the nicely equipped EX trim level, at about $19,400 and $20,500, respectively. However, neither comes standard with the turbocharged engine, which adds $2,000 to the Koup 2-door and $1,200 to the Forte5. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. On the resale front, the Forte models are expected to have below-average residual values.