Kia redesigned the Forte in 2014, and the results were impressive. Here’s a car in any of its three iterations — sedan, hatchback or coupe — that offers a fair price, peppy acceleration, generous standard features and a comfortable cabin with quality materials. Regardless of which body style you prefer, you’ll likely find the Forte to be one of the most attractive cars in its segment.
The 2016 Kia Forte keeps that ball rolling with nothing but mild tweaks to trim levels and packages. We’re particularly impressed with the level of standard and available equipment. The base LX trim level offers Bluetooth and USB connectivity as standard, while traditionally high-end options such as xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, and selectable steering assist are available. Even a ventilated driver seat and heated rear seats are on the Forte’s option sheet.
Whether you opt for the 2016 Forte sedan, four-door hatchback or two-door coupe (Koup), you’ll enjoy a handsome, contemporary design.
There are three different engines for the 2016 Kia Forte, two of which offer competitive power and acceleration. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes the Forte one of the quickest cars in the segment, while an even stronger, turbocharged 1.6-liter four is available on SX versions of the coupe and hatchback. For those who place economy above excitement, however, none of the Forte powertrains offers exceptional fuel efficiency.
There are plenty of excellent choices for a compact car this year. The Mazda 3 is a class leader thanks to its sophisticated blend of comfort, athleticism and impressive real-world fuel economy. Also notable are the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Golf or Jetta. All are well-rounded and come with competitive levels of refinement and comfort. But with its roomy interior, upscale features, strong engine lineup and sharp styling, the 2016 Kia Forte remains a very credible choice when you’re shopping for an affordable sedan, coupe or hatchback.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Kia Forte is available as a sedan in LX and EX trim levels. The two-door coupe (Koup) is offered in both EX and sportier SX trims, while Kia’s Forte four-door hatchback (Forte 5) comes in LX (new for 2016), EX and SX trims.
Standard features on the LX sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional for the LX is the Popular package, which includes automatic headlights, cruise control, upgraded interior upholstery and trim, a rear seat armrest, a rearview camera, a 4.3-inch touchscreen and six speakers. There’s also the Popular Plus package that includes the above equipment and adds 16-inch alloy wheels.
Upgrade to the EX and you’ll enjoy all of the above plus the more powerful 2.0 liter engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, LED running lights, power-folding outside mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, adjustable steering effort and a cooling glovebox.
For the EX, there’s an optional Premium package with a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 7-inch touchscreen, a navigation system, Kia’s Uvo eServices telematics and HD radio.
A touchscreen interface and a ventilated driver seat are some of the upscale features available on the 2016 Kia Forte.
On top of that you can add the EX Premium Plus package with LED taillights, a 10-way power driver seat with ventilation, driver memory settings, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control (with rear seat air vents), an upgraded gauge cluster and heated outboard rear seats.
From a features and equipment standpoint, the EX hatchback and coupe essentially mirror the sedan. SX versions include those features but add a turbocharged engine, larger front brakes, 18-inch wheels and unique front and rear styling. The EX and SX’s Premium Tech packages essentially provide the optional features found in the Premium and Premium Plus packages.
Powertrains and Performance
The Forte LX is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 145 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. Power runs to the front wheels through a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA’s fuel economy estimates for the Forte LX sedan are 31 mpg combined (26 city/39 highway) with the automatic. The LX manual returns 30 mpg combined (25/37).
The EX gets a 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque (148 lb-ft with SULEV emissions). On the sedan and hatchback, this engine comes only with the six-speed automatic, but on the coupe, you can also get it with the manual transmission. Forte EX sedans rate 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway), but we were impressed with the 32 mpg that a Forte EX achieved on our Edmunds evaluation route.
EX hatchbacks and automatic-equipped EX coupes also rate 28 mpg combined, but have slightly lower highway figures. Manual-shift Forte EX coupes come in at 27 mpg combined (24/33).
The SX versions of the Forte Koup and Forte 5 have a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. On both body styles, you have a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Kia Forte SX hatchbacks rate 24 mpg combined (21/29) with either transmission. For the Koup, fuel economy estimates stand at 25 mpg combined (22/29) with the manual and the same 25 mpg combined (22/30) with the automatic.
For all Forte engines, the above EPA fuel economy estimates are decent, though some rival compacts can eclipse them by a few mpg, particularly those with specialty eco-themed models.
In Edmunds testing, a Kia Forte EX sedan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, while a Forte SX Koup with a manual transmission did the sprint in 7.0 seconds. Both times are quick for the compact car segment.
Every 2016 Kia Forte comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional on LX and standard on EX. The optional Uvo eServices telematics bundle includes roadside assistance, emergency crash notification and secondary driver (i.e., teenage) monitoring features that include notifications when curfew, vehicle speed and vehicle location limits are exceeded.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Forte EX sedan came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, while a Forte SX Koup turned in a 118-foot effort. Both are slightly better than average for this segment.
Government crash tests of the 2016 Forte sedan saw it earn a five-star rating (out of five), with four stars for overall frontal-impact protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Forte its highest score of “Good” in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test as well as its side-impact, roof-strength and whiplash protection (seatbelts and head restraints) tests. In the agency’s small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, however, the Forte received the second-lowest rating of “Marginal.”
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Kia Forte is much more than just an economy car stuffed with gadgets. Boasting a handsome cabin furnished with quality materials in the higher trim levels (EX and SX), the Forte gives premium-brand compacts a run for their money. In addition, the Forte’s high-tech features are well-designed and easy to use. Its touchscreen interface, with large, logically positioned virtual buttons, is one of the better examples of this technology.
Seat comfort front and rear in the sedan is very good, and even 6-foot adults should be comfortable sitting in back. The Koup’s backseat is also spacious enough for average adults, and reasonably easy to access. The Koup’s driver seat, however, is mounted a bit high, enhancing visibility for shorter drivers but compromising headroom for those who are taller.
The Forte sedan offers very generous cargo capacity, with a trunk capacity of 14.9 cubic feet, while the Forte 5 hatchback boasts 23.2 cubic feet with the rear seat up. The Koup provides 13.3 cubic feet of trunk space, a strong number for a compact coupe.
The 2.0-liter, 173-hp four-cylinder in the 2016 Kia Forte EX is one of the more responsive engines you’ll find in this class. Although the output doesn’t translate to blazing acceleration, the Forte EX is certainly quicker than the norm. From an aural standpoint, however, the 2.0-liter can both sound and feel somewhat buzzy during hard acceleration. The available 201-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter engine makes for an even livelier experience in both the hatchback and coupe, transforming the Kia into a genuinely speedy little car.
The 2016 Kia Forte coupe and hatchback have a strong available turbo engine that provides some of the best acceleration in this class.
The automatic transmission provides smooth shifts, and it’s surprisingly responsive with downshifts during typical passing and merging situations. The slick-shifting six-speed manual for the SX versions is pleasant to operate and makes the most of the turbocharged engine’s power.
Most shoppers in this segment will likely be satisfied with the Forte’s overall ride quality. But the Forte’s suspension is occasionally a bit firm and unrefined. Rougher roads produce a somewhat busy ride, whereas rivals like the Focus, Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf feel relatively isolated over broken pavement. They’re also typically more precise when negotiating turns. The Forte feels steady on winding roads, but it’s not particularly engaging.