2019 Kia Forte – First Drive

Mont-Tremblant, QC: When Kia Motors first began selling their cars in North America in the mid-1990’s, nobody thought the small Korean brand would amount to much. Kia’s sister company, Hyundai, hadn’t faired very well either and at that time, had no way of ever challenging Honda or Toyota. Rather than bowing out and admitting defeat, Kia Motors invested more talent and funds into the brand, resulting in one of the most astonishing turnarounds in automotive history.
The Kia Forte made its debut in 2008, with the tag line, “What’s your Forte” that resonated with buyers a many. It was a very cool looking car, and with the Koup variant, the brand was on the rise. Now into its third generation, the Forte has evolved further, enough so to compete with the Civic and Corolla. Can it go head-to-head with the leaders of the pack? To find out, we were invited to the areas of Ottawa and Tremblant to find out.

Whereas the automotive industry seems to be shifting towards the SUV/crossover designs, readers will be surprised to know that last year, the Forte was Kia’s highest volume seller, ahead of its SUV siblings. The Forte has become the face of the brand, and for good reasons.
Upon first glance, there are hints of bigger brother Stinger in the Forte’s styling. Up front, the tiger nose grille, coupled with X-shaped Daytime Running Lights (DRL’s) and prominent air ducts make the car look wider and more menacing. The long hood, high belt-line and short rear deck give the Forte a sportback look. It’s arguably the best looking in the bunch: not as aggressive as the new Civic or bland like the Sentra, this compact really appeals to a wider spectrum of buyers.

Readers will also be happy to know that the 2019 Forte is larger, by 80mm, than the current model, allowing for extra interior room. Even with the car being bigger, the cherry on the top is the fuel efficiency has been improved by about 17%, something we’ll talk about later.
Buyers also won’t be disappointed with the car’s interior, which will again be vaguely familiar. The turbine vents, inspired by the Stinger, give the feeling of a sporty car. Both front and rear passengers enjoy a good amount of room and the Forte comfortably seats five. I tried both the front and rear seats and was thoroughly satisfied with legroom and shoulder room. The use of materials is actually very good, with softer materials used above waist level and harder plastics below. What’s more is that a leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, even on the base trim! If you’re carrying cargo, don’t fret: the trunk is huge for a compact car. We easily stored our suitcases, backpacks and still had lots of extra space.

Another important aspect, and not just for millennials, is that the new Forte comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both of which display nicely on the standard 8” touchscreen. In all honesty, if you haven’t used the interface of your cell phone (Android or Apple) in your car, you’re missing out on a lot and thankfully, the Forte has this pointed check off. Kia also mentioned that having this option is one of the top four things buyers want in a new car.
The drive route for the 2019 Forte began in Ottawa and landed us in Mont-Tremblant. There’s something about driving through these areas during the fall season because everything looks just beautiful, a fitting backdrop for the Forte.

I said before that I find the 2019 Forte to be the best-looking car in this segment, and the drive is just as good. Occupants don’t feel cramped at all and the car proves to be stable, yet agile at the same time. The new suspension setup on the Forte is a little on the firm side, something I like and what many buyers are looking for. Now that doesn’t mean it’s harsh, but more on the sporty side and feels well connected to the road. Couple that with a steering that doesn’t have a vague centre and you’ve got a car that is very fun to drive. Did I mention that it’s quiet as well? From straightaways to twisty, winding roads, the new Forte came through without a glitch.
With increasing demands for better and better fuel efficiency, many manufacturers have moved to a continuous variable transmission (CVT) vs the traditional gear system. Basically, rather than hard gears, a CVT has a pair of variable diameter pulleys, joined by a belt. As the pulleys move closer or further apart, it changes the ratio of the gears, and thus, the transmission’s ratio.

An advantage of the CVT is better fuel economy, but it comes with a trade-off, a loss of driving excitement. But, like it or not, they are here to stay. Kia began working on their own version of the CVT, labeled the IVT (Intelligent Variable Transmission), in 2016 and their goal was to make it the best in the business. Did they succeed?
Well, I’ve driven many cars that have a CVT and yes, they have become better over time, but still aren’t great. Kia’s new IVT is probably the most impressive of the bunch, so much so that I would argue that anyone taking this car for a test drive would think it had hard gears. This car’s CVT uses a flexible chain, which we’re told is better than the conventional belt. The end result is that the car is very responsive, but as mentioned before, 17% more fuel efficient. As in other Kia models, the new Forte’s transmission has 3 modes – Normal, Sport and Smart – that will enhance the steering and responsiveness of the car.

Even though the base 2019 Forte starts at $16,495, Kia is betting that the hot seller will be the EX trim, which gets you a lot for $20,995. For example, there’s wireless charging, 16” alloy wheels, LED headlamps, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. Of course, you still get the leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and a bunch of other standard features.
While many people think that sedans are on the way out, there are some that are keeping their presence and the 2019 Forte is one of them. Kia’s new tagline, a compact, not a compromise is a spot-on description of the new Forte. Anyone looking at buying a compact definitely needs to take this car for a test drive because trust me, it will surprise you.



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