2019 Kia Forte EX Review

2019 Kia Forte EX - The 2019 Kia Forte EX is an affordable substitute for a costlier sports sedan


Price: $21,990

Pros-Racy look. Roomy.  New generation model. Sharp handling. Supple ride. Upscale interior. Fuel-thrifty. Safety features.

Cons-Still not a prestigious nameplate. Seductive $3,210 Launch Edition option. Rather artificial steering feel. Very heavy hood.

Bottom Line-A likely bargain sports sedan.

The new third-generation 2019 Kia Forte might be considered a good substitute for costlier compact sports sedans, although Kia only hints that is so.

The new 2019 front-drive, four-door Forte isn't "all new," as Kia claims, because it has the same 2-liter, 147-horsepower four-cylinder as its predecessor. However, the engine works better because it's hooked to Kia's responsive new chain-driven CVT automatic transmission with a responsive console manual-shift feature. A six-speed manual transmission is offered only on the entry FE model, which goes for $17,690, but the FE can be had with the CVT for $18,590.

The CVT acts much like a conventional automatic, and the Forte EX scoots from 0-60 m.p.h. in about 8 seconds without excessive power because it isn't all that heavy at 2,762-2,903 pounds. Passing punch on freeway/highways is good.

A driver can switch between "Normal, "Sport" and "Smart drive modes via a console switch. Sport mode made the Forte EX react much like a sports sedan, although it also handled fast curves well in Normal mode. "Smart" switches between Normal and.Sport. Sport mode didn't hurt the supple ride much, although it's always on the firm side.

The quick steering is rather firm in all modes, but feels somewhat artificial. The anti-lock brakes were controlled by a pedal with a linear action. New subframe designs help improve lateral responsiveness, and reworked suspension geometry provides a quick, nimble behind-the-wheel feel.  

 Estimated fuel economy is 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on highways. Kia says 87-octane or "higher" octane gas can be used.

Other Forte models are the LXS, S and top-line $21,990 EX, which I tested with the $3,210 Launch Edition option. It includes a more upscale 320-watt sound system, navigation system, power sunroof, wireless phone charger, forward collision-avoidance, assist parking-distance warning, smart cruise control, rear spoiler and 17-inch graphic alloy wheels.

My test can also had the striking $295 Snow White Pearl paint. However, it might look pretty good in the $295 Black Pearl paint or $195 Current Red paint.

If you want to pass on the Launch Edition option, note that the EX is well-equipped. Standard are electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, AM/FM/MP3 with 8-inch touchscreen, rear camera and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

The EX also has a power driver's seat, leatherette seating surfaces with heated/ventilated front seats, push-button start, blind-spot collision warning, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic collision warning. Small, rear-quarter windows enhance rear visibility despite thick roof pillars.

The new Forte looks sleek with its long hood and short rear deck that lends it a fastback-like shape.There's a new signature "tiger nose" grille and aggressive black lower valance. But alas, there's only one non-chromed exhaust outlet. Chromed duals would add to the car's sporty look. The Forte is 3.2 inches longer at 182.7 inches than its predecessor, which allows more rear legroom and cargo space in the trunk. Cargo room is decent and becomes impressive when rear seat backs flip forward via easily reached trunk releases. More headroom results from hiking the overall height to 56.5 inches, and the Forte is also a bit wider at 70.9 inches.

Large door openings allow easy entry to the quiet, conveniently designed interior, which has large, supportive front seats. Leg room is 38.8 inches up front and 37.5 inches in the rear, so average-size adults fit comfortably in back. The rear area has a large, sturdy fold-down center armrest with twin cupholders. The upscale cockpit has lots of simulated stitching, soft touch materials, leather-grain dashboard plastic and a fair amount of storage areas. The backlit gauges can be read quickly, and the climate control system has manual controls for those who don't want to use the color touchscreen.

The Forte EX is very attractive and has a 100,000-mile warranty. But Kia still lacks the upscale nameplate of more-established rivals despite building pretty impressive cars. But then, are you buying a car or a nameplate?

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.