By KBB.com Editors
Kia has been working hard to bring its small cars up to the standards set by Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Unfortunately for the Big Three of Japan, the Korean car maker has already met or exceeded many of its own goals and shows now sign of resting. Need proof? Behold the 2011 Kia Forte. With styling that is far more daring than the new Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sentra, the Forte certainly has plenty of youth appeal. And, with three variants (sedan, five-door and a stunning little coupe) the 2011 Kia Forte has all the bases covered. While not as advanced as the Ford Focus, the Kia Forte is also not as pricey, with a fully-loaded sedan topping out around $25,000. And, while the Forte's handling still has some ground to cover to play on the same field as the Mazda3 or Volkswagen Jetta, most owners will find the balance of ride, acceleration and handling more than sufficient. Improved build quality, better resale and elevated consumer perception have also helped Kia move into the mainstream, but in the case of the Forte, its low price, generous content level and impressive powertrain warranty are still the best reasons to buy this car.
If the 2011 Kia Forte's sharp looks, tech-savvy suite of electronic goodies and low sticker price aren't enough to seal the deal, its great fuel economy and 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty certainly will.
Two six-speed transmission choices are new for 2011: a six-speed manual and a six-speed Sportmatic automatic with manual shift mode. A new navigation radio is offered on the mid-level EX and top-level SX trims, while a five-door model joins the Forte Sedan and Koup.
Driving Impressions From a driver's standpoint, the 2011 Kia Forte feels right at home on long stretches of highway, but push it hard in the curves and the suspensions limitations quickly become...apparent. While the Forte doesn't break free from the challenges put before it, it doesn't feel as buttoned down as a Mazda3 or VW Jetta. What's missing is that harmonious connection between the steering, the transmission and pedal feel, something Kia is getting better at, but still has a way to go. We'd also gladly sacrifice some of the SX trim's ample horsepower for a tad more low-end torque and better off-the-line acceleration. Still, under normal driving situations and even slightly sporty ones, the 2011 Kia Forte feels pretty darn stable. On the open road, the Forte is quiet and comfortable, with very little wind, engine or road noise making its way into the cabin. About the only real complaint we can find has to do with the larger-than-average blind spot that can make backing out of parking spaces a bit dicey. We suggest the optional navigation system with its rear backup camera as a remedy.
Comprehensive Audio System
Every 2011 Kia Forte boasts a flexible AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite audio system with USB and auxiliary ports. When matched with the upgraded speakers, it's among the best sound systems in the segment.
An option reserved for most high-end models, Kia makes Bluetooth connectivity standard on every 2011 Kia Forte.
It's no longer good enough to offer a flashy exterior without an equally appealing interior. After all, we do spend the majority of our time inside the car looking out. Kia seems to have gotten the message, abandoning its drab interiors and cheap plastics for a higher quality finish and a dash design peppered with funky shapes, tasteful silver-accented trim pieces and cool colored lighting. The 2011 Kia Forte's interior is huge for this class, offering almost as much interior volume as a Nissan Maxima. Such a large trunk is another surprise in the compact-car arena and one more reason the 2011 Kia Forte impresses us. We applaud the standard Bluetooth connectivity and iPod integration, but feel as though a bit more attention could be paid to the seats, which lack support for the lower back and thighs.
Comedian Billy Crystal once famously quipped "It is better to look good than to feel good." In the case of the 2011 Kia Forte, you get a little bit of both. With styling that truly stands out from the compact-car pack, the Forte, especially in coupe form, is a head turner. From its signature Kia grille/headlamp combination to the bold character line the extends from below the side mirror to flow rearward as if drawn by the wind, the 2011 Kia Forte really is a little piece of rolling automotive art. Up-level trims add even more distinction with such items as sport side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a rear spoiler and an available body kit. But, even the base LX trim shuns the poor-man stigma so commonly associated with entry-level models, providing color-keyed mirrors and door handles, and attractively styled wheel covers.
Kia is proud to boast that even the most basic 2011 Kia Forte includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod integration, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SIRIUSXM four-speaker stereo, color-keyed manual side mirrors, 60/40 split rear seat with folding armrest, a tilt steering wheel, and an impressive array of safety equipment including six airbags, and electronic traction and stability control. Unfortunately, if you want such simple pleasures as power windows, remote keyless entry or cruise control, you'll have to pony up a bit more cash and move up to the EX or SX trims. Here you'll find a six-speaker AM/FM/MP3/SIRIUSXM audio head unit, heated power side mirrors, and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel. Unique to the SX's standard equipment list are 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and sport-fabric seats. The Koup (yes, that's how Kia spells "coupe") models feature standard 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels.
Options for the 2011 Kia Forte are limited to the EX and SX trims and include a number of packages as well as some standalone features. The Forte EX offers a Premium Package that adds alloy wheels and a power sunroof, as well as a Technology Package that includes navigation with SIRIUS real-time traffic updates, a rear backup camera, automatic climate control, smart-key entry with push-button start, fog lights and automatic headlamps. The Forte SX offers the same package without the fog lights and auto-on headlamps, since both of these are already standard on the SX. Other options for the SX trim include leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The front-wheel-drive Kia Forte offers a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can be matched with a six-speed manual or six-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission. On top-line, sport-tuned SX trims the standard engine is a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine. The 2011 Forte's new automatic transmission has a manual shift mode and is standard on SX and EX Sedan and Five-door models, and available on the Koup. The mid-trim EX is also offered with a Fuel Economy Package that includes the five-speed automatic plus Motor Drive Power Steering, a load-managing "smart" alternator, low-rolling-resistance tires and unique aero enhancements to boost its EPA numbers to 27/37 mpg and deliver class-leading city/highway combined fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon.
2.0-liter in-line 4
156 horsepower @ 6200 rpm (SULEV: 154 @ 6200)
144 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm (SULEV: 139 @ 4600)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/36 (automatic), 25/34 (manual), 27/37 (Economy Package),
2.4-liter in-line 4 (Forte SX)
173 horsepower @ 6000 rpm (SULEV: 165 @ 6000)
168 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm (SULEV: 161 @ 4000)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/32 (automatic), 22/32 (manual)
By trilingual on Monday, August 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfortable, good highway car"
Cons: "Mediocre gas mileage, a bit too low-slung"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Overall, the 2012 Forte EX is a great car and I've been very pleased with it. In addition to local, around-the-neighborhood driving the car has been on a couple of long distance road trips and it performs beautifully. It's quiet on the highway, comfortable, and has sufficient power to pass slower vehicles easily and get up to speed quickly when entering the highway. Both long trips were in the summer and the a/c works very well and keeps the car comfortable, even in very hot weather. The Sirius radio is a real asset on long, cross-country drives. The only downsides are that the car's gas mileage doesn't seem to be as good as my previous Corolla's, and the front end design is a bit problematic because the hood is raked so steeply that it's impossible to know exactly where the front of the car is when you are trying to park and avoid hitting something in front of you. The car also is lower than my previous Corolla, so when driving into a head-in parking spot the front end often doesn't fully clear the curb and there's a loud "scrape" to remind you that it's a low vehicle! These are relatively minor quibbles but are design flaws that I hope have been fixed in newer models. From a maintenance standpoint the car has been completely trouble-free!"
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Ron on Sunday, August 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Saw this car a year before I bought one. Also looked at Chevy Cruze and Volks. Jetta. Styling was a major reason I chose the Forte Koup. Three years later I still enjoy looking at it. Absolutely no problems; still runs great with good gas mileage. I get enough power and torque to keep me happy. If I was trading now I would go to Kia again."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Chuck on Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice looks, reliable, good mpg. Great audio sys."
Cons: "Touchy throttle."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I bought the "High MPH" option, with low rolling resistance tires. Those tires did yield about 36mpg, but wore out quickly (about 22Kmi) & were terrible in the snow. I now have regular tires on the car & get about 33mpg avg driving. The car rides well & can easily stay with traffic. Love the sound system, although I don't subscribe to the satellite service. The BlueTooth phone interface is nice. I like the rear fold-down seats for hauling long things. A couple of minor driving issues; 1] The initial acceleration from a stop is very aggressive. The car tends to jump with very little pedal push. Makes smooth starts touchy, especially when teaching my son to drive! 2] The electric pwr steering doesn't return to neutral position as reliably as my previous vehicles did. This makes constant steering adjustments necessary to stay on course. I view those issue as minor in relation to the overall reliability & quality of the car."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Rich on Monday, July 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Standard features"
Cons: "Ride with the OEM tires was not that great."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Love the standard features on the Forte Koup - shiftable automatic transmission, four-wheel ABS disc, great looks & style, good gas mileage, etc. Car has been very reliable without a single hiccup so far. I do keep maintenance up on the car as I want it to last."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Baker on Friday, July 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "All +++++"
Cons: "Power is good, for Gas savings!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This is an excellent vehicle for those who have thrift in mind and yet want all the features in more expensive models. Gas economy is excellent, 27.5 in city driving, Highway driving 30 with the air on, can go to 33 without air or even better. Mechanically I have owned it for three years as good as the day I drove it out of the show room. In the city it's good and on the highway it performs well. Ride is good, sensitive steering electric power steering is very responsive. Once you go to Cruise control gas savings go up even with air on. Sound system could be a bit better but it is good. Great car mini limo for less cost. Great for young people as a starter, but you will always appreciate it's cost savings no matter what you own in the future!"
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By GTEPro51 on Tuesday, July 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, Traction, Interior"
Cons: "Reliability, Transmission Systems"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"This car is great for handling in the summer and rain months, however, don't drive in the snow, especially in Chicago. My car has had three (3) transmissions, that's right, three transmissions. The first was a leak in the sealing, causing fluid to leak at a decent rate. The second was replaced because a ground blew, and the car remained in 3rd gear, even when in park or reverse. I've had 9 tyres replaced, because the camber continues to return to a poor state. I've tried to "baby" this car, but, I've spent more in repairs after the 36,000mi/3yr warranty at intial in 2010, than I've paid for used cars at 90K miles. This one has about 57K miles on the car, and the transmission is going again. I don't even live or drive in the city, so she gets proper gear shifting. Good interior I would say."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful