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 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."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Double L on Tuesday, September 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "A VERY GOOD PRICE AND SO EASY TO DRIVE."
Cons: "I BELIEVE IT IS THE BEST CAR IN ITS PRICE RANGE."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"THIS KIA IS COMFORTABLE AND SO EASY TO DRIVE. FRONT AND BACK SEATS ARE EQUALLY COMFORTABLE. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST CARS I HAVE DRIVEN AND OWNED... GOOD JOB ON THIS ONE."
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By waukatt1 on Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 98,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Nearly 100k and not a single problem. It's peppy, it's pretty, it's pleasing, it's problem free, it's perfectly priced."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
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!"
6 people out of 9 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