By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.3
While many critics complain that some Japanese car companies have been resting on their laurels a bit too long, the Korean manufacturer Kia has been working overtime to improve its product line. Reveal after reveal shows Kia now has the upper hand over Honda and Toyota, at least in the areas of innovation, styling and fuel economy. One such example is the 2012 Kia Forte compact car, a Civic-sized competitor with loads of cool features demanded by today's young drivers, a versatile model range including a 5-door hatchback and sporty coupe, and a price point designed to give the competition fits. Designed to lure customers from such stalwarts as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze, the 2012 Kia Forte has its share of pros and cons when placed beside each of these cars. Still not as fun to drive as a Mazda3 or VW Golf, nor as upscale in feel as the Focus or Cruze, the 2012 Kia Forte compact sedan and coupe (Kia spells it "Koup") nevertheless offer a lot of value for the money, not to mention the standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
If you're looking for an affordable compact car with styling and features well beyond its humble $16,000 asking price, one of the three 2012 Kia Forte compact cars is bound to catch your eye. Those worried about long-term reliability should take comfort in Kia's continually improving reliability ratings, as well as its impressively long warranty.
While some may find the 2012 Kia Forte's looks to be enticing (especially in coupe form), the Forte's overall performance and handling are not as solid or refined as that of the Mazda3, Ford Focus or VW Jetta.
The 2012 Kia Forte sedan and hatchback see a 1-mpg improvement in city fuel economy and 2-mpg increase in their highway figures, boosting overall mileage to 26 city/36 highway when equipped with the 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission.
Driving Impressions On the open road, the 2012 Kia Forte is the master of its domain – so long as the road to that domain remains straight and level. Toss in a...few curves, however, and the base car with its smaller engine and wheel/tire combo isn't as much fun to drive as the more powerful EX and SX trims. Even in its most aggressive SX suit, the Forte won't deliver the kind of seat-of-your-pants cornering found in the Ford Focus or Mazda3, and its manual transmission is nowhere near as refined. 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. To gain the impressive fuel-economy figures posted by both the LX and SX trims, Kia engineers have to give up a bit of low-end torque, something we would gladly switch around if given the chance. Don't get us wrong, the Forte is not horribly slow nor devoid of feedback to the driver, it's just that the sporty exterior had us hoping for a bit more performance. There is much to like here, and most drivers will appreciate the 2012 Kia Forte's quiet cabin that permits very little wind, engine or road noise to make its way in. About the only real complaint we can find with the Forte's cabin is the high rear deck that can make backing out of parking spaces a bit dicey. We suggest the optional navigation system with its rearview camera as a remedy.
Comprehensive Audio System
Every 2012 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 2012 Kia Forte. Are you listening, Honda?
Customers have been complaining for some time now about the boring interiors of compact cars, and Kia has obviously been listening. The 2012 Kia Forte sedan is given a visually appealing dash and seat setup, with lots of colorful instruments, a big LCD screen for the audio and plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. There is a lot going on inside the Kia Forte's cabin, with multiple folds in the dash and numerous controls on the attractive 3-spoke steering wheel making the Forte feel more like a little Audi than an entry-level compact car. 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. But, there is more than just interior decorating going on here, there's also a volume story to tell. Despite its small size, the 2012 Kia Forte sedan (and to a lesser degree, the coupe model) provides a surprisingly large cabin, with more interior volume than a Nissan Maxima. The big back seat offers lots of legroom, but headroom is cut short due to the low-slung roofline. On sedan models, the trunk area is also quite large and on the 5-door hatch, the rear seats can be folded flat to create a wagon-like cargo hold.Exterior
In the herd of the compact sedan/coupe/hatchback, the 2012 Kia Forte's styling falls somewhere mid-pack. Not as modern or aggressively styled as the Ford Focus or Mazda3, the Forte easily outshines the dated Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra, and even the new Honda Civic. Although the Forte Koup steals the show, the sedan and hatchback both share the signature Kia grille and headlight design as well as tout handsome wheel choices. Base model cars don't look the part, rejecting the unpainted bumpers, mirror caps and door handles of lesser cars and replacing them with properly painted parts for a more harmonious exterior statement. High-end Forte trims include such nice touches as sport side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and an available body kit and rear spoiler.
Kia is proud to boast that even the most basic 2012 Kia Forte sedan includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod integration, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM 4-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 6-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. The LX trim comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, as do both the EX and EX Koup. All other Forte models and trims feature a 6-speed Sportronic automatic with manual-shift mode.
Options for the 2012 Kia Forte are limited to the EX and SX trims and include a number of packages as well as some stand-alone features. The 2012 Kia Forte EX sedan offers a Premium Package that adds alloy wheels and a power sunroof, as well as a Technology Package (sedan/hatchback/coupe) that includes navigation with Sirius real-time traffic updates, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, smart-key entry with push-button start, foglights and automatic headlights. The Forte SX offers the same package without the foglights and auto-on headlights, 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 4-cylinder engine that can be matched with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission. On top-line, sport-tuned SX trims the standard engine is a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine. The 2012 Forte's new automatic transmission has a manual-shift mode and is standard on SX and EX sedan and hatchback models, and available on the coupe. The mid-trim EX is also offered with a Fuel Economy Package that includes the 6-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 mpg.
2.0-liter in-line 4
156 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm (SULEV: 154 @ 6200 rpm)
144 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm (SULEV: 139 @ 4600 rpm)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 (manual), 26/36 (automatic), 27/37 (Economy Package), 24/33 (manual, coupe), 25/33 (automatic, coupe)
2.4-liter in-line 4 (Forte SX)
173 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm (SULEV: 165 @ 6000 rpm)
168 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm (SULEV: 161 @ 4000 rpm)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/32, 22/32 (manual, Koup), 23/31 (automatic, Koup)
By doompdoomp on Tuesday, March 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price, features, warranty, stylish,"
Cons: "Honestly don't have any complaints"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I sold my Ford Explorer for a more gas efficient car in 2009. I looked at all types of sedans, and settled on the first edition KIA Forte. I was a bit hesitant as some would say that they wouldn't trust KIA. I did a lot of background research and all signs pointed to a revamped, high quality, high value car. Over 4 years in, that is exactly how I feel about it. My brother bought one as well. Neither of us has had any problems with it. It is a terrific value in my opinion and beats other more expensive cars in style and features. Plus I'm 6'1 and it has a lot of leg room. LOVE IT!"
By ZachS on Monday, January 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 64,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to Drive, Price, Value"
Cons: "Road Noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car was a great choice for my true "First Car" I am the first owner and very happy with the quality and value of my Kia Forte Koup"
By Jayhawg61 on Monday, December 30, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have owned this car for a year now, and have driven it to Florida twice in one year. The ride is very comfortable, and it handles great! Seats are comfortable for me but because of low ceiling a taller person may find the car "cramped". Overall this cars quality and value are excellent in my opinion, and you get more bang for the buck with this car. Lots of accessories and technology come with this car. Id buy it again if I had to do it again."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Crazeemandie on Wednesday, December 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Affordable, great standard features,"
Cons: "Plastic doors scratch easily on interior"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Forte! It comes standard with Bluetooth, great gas mileage, a great sound system, nice stow away spots for things like sunglasses and 4 cup holders in front (and two in back), with a spacious interior and trunk. It looks great inside and looks like the Audi's did in the late 2000's because the designer from Audi moved over to Kia. It drives very well and is sporty and fun. All around great vehicle and I don't think you can find anything better for the price tag."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By JimInLexKy on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 87,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive and looks sporty"
Cons: "Gas mileage is not as rated"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"This was the first Year for this KIA model. Overall its a good car, but have seen too many little issues become apparent over time. I think in the four years since I have owned this model KIA has done many improvements. I would recommend this car as a first time car and would buy another if the price was still below other marketed equivalent models."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Chad on Wednesday, November 06, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"It looks good inside and out, pretty quality materials, roomy, convenient, great reliability. My only knock is I want more power in my engine and a quieter ride (get rid of the road noise). Very efficient fuel wise. I like the Forte now just give me more power and the quieter ride and we are all good."