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 KiaUp on Thursday, December 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,400overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fast, cheap to get, nice looking."
Cons: "Bad value retention, bad suspension, bad paint."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Car is fast but very uncomfortable ride. I got for $12,373 on 10/2014 and now, 12/2014 has a trade in value of $8,521. So, I just have a loss of $3,852.30 in just about 40 days."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By Forte Newbie on Friday, December 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 117,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"After 4 years and over 110K miles. Did not open the hood, even once. My "guys" at GoodYear do all the oil change, lubes and other little check ups. Changed all 4 tires once . 2 Air filters. Nothing more done to the car. Extremely economical ratio dollar/miles driven. Gas mileage (mostly highway) 36-38 mpg in winter and exceeding 40mph in summer with smooth driving. Comfort: let's say it's not Cadillac. You get what you pay for. Sound System: Again, it's not a recording studio and with windows open, sound is really not at its best. Handling: Very easy and with stick shift, there might be a slight dead "timing" between Second and Third gear. Good acceleration in 5th Gear - even uphill."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Chris on Friday, November 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,836overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car as been great for how we use it. I've had it for over 3 years now and about 75,000 miles and have never had an issue with it. The only thing I would say is a negative is that the headrests jut forward to the point that long trips become somewhat straining on your neck. (works to flip the headrest backwards) Other than that it is at the top of its class. Good gas mileage, I average 32 mpg on a tank, 36-42 on long trips depending on the type of driving. Great value."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Disappointed on Thursday, November 20, 2014
I don't own this caroverall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "great air conditioning and heaters."
Cons: "Needed a lot of servicing per dept."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I am leasing this car. I got it in December 2011 and my lease is up March 2015. This car is awful in the snow, rain, any weather that is not sunny, really. It is too small. It is very uncomfortable, especially on long trips. The tires that came with the car only lasted about 15-20,000. I had to buy new tires on a leased car.. that makes no sense to me. I am not sure if it is just the dealership I used, but maintenance was crazy. Every time I went in for an oil change, the service department found other things that "needed to be done" that cost at least $100 more than expected. I had to get a "transmission tune-up" per the service department and after it was done, the car seems to shift worse."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By TRC on Monday, November 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 150,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "For the inexpensive cost, great value and ride."
Cons: "SX style not great in snow but great in AO weather"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Bought my 2010 Forte SX brand new off the lot and have put 150,000 miles (almost all freeway) on this. I have never had to have a major repair, while keeping up on the regular scheduled maintenance as recommended by the manufacture. Due to premium, sporty type of style of the SX, tire options are limited to higher performance with low tread life styles. Have had to replace tires more than enough times in the 5 years. Handles great in regular or wet weather, however, not great in the snow for being a FWD vehicle (again, tires are the real reasons). Front seats are not the most comfortable, but the overall ride makes up for the lack of cushiony seats. Style is great and interior design is up to date, even after 5 years of newer vehicles have hit the market. It's been a great car and other than basic maintenance, my Forte has not spent any real time in the repair shop or dealership."
6 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Mel on Monday, September 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, warranty, safety, MPG"
Cons: "Center hump in back not good with child car seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Only two small complaints I had about this car. No protection from door dings/shopping carts, and seat could get uncomfortable on long trips. Other than that, I. loved. every. single. thing. about. this. car! Regularly exceeded HWY MPG. Rated city MPG on specs fairly accurate."
5 people out of 10 found this review helpful