KIA FORTE GT

The Forte is a Kia bestseller and is one of seven Kia models receiving top safety scores in insurance industry crash tests. Shown is the 2020 Kia Forte GT.

Kia has created a new design and improved its compact Forte sedan, hoping to gain traction with a lower base price than competitors like Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

MotorTrend Magazine named Forte the Best Small Car for 2019 and Forte – a Kia bestseller — is one of seven Kia models receiving top safety scores in insurance industry crash tests.

Last year, Kia won JD Power’s top brand score for initial quality in the Mass Market for the fourth straight year.

First introduced as a 2009 model, it’s Forte’s third redesign and like its rivals, it faces a decline in the public’s appetite for sedans with crossovers and SUVs current market favorites.

Our test drive was the EX, top trim above FE, LXS and S, optioned with the top $3,210 Launch Edition package.

It added a rear spoiler, 17-inch graphite alloy wheels and LED headlights outside, and inside premium audio features, leatherette heated/cooled seats, navigation, 8-inch touchscreen, sunroof and wireless phone charger. Also added were safe driving aids, such as dynamic cruise control, along with standard lane departure warning, as part of Kia’s new Drive Wise features.

The exterior mimics some of the Kia Stinger sports coupe design cues for a sleeker and more muscular appearance, and Forte is now longer, creating industry-leading small car cargo space plus more rear legroom. Wider, it now holds almost a gallon more fuel.

A new intelligent variable transmission (IVT) slightly improves mileage and quickens the sprint to 60 mph by split seconds, aided by a lighter curb weight. While IVT helped quell engine sounds inside the cabin, wind/road noise intrudes at higher speeds.

Handling was adequate with front wheel drive but the ride is stiff with a McPherson front strut with coil spring and coupled torsion beam in the rear. Rougher pavement created noticeable cabin jostling.

Forte is not quick from a stop, even in Sport mode. Normal and Eco are two other drive modes.

Kia’s Microsoft-powered UVO (Your Voice) in-vehicle infotainment system uses advanced voice and touch-activated features with decent voice recognition.

UVO can link to personal mobile devices and apps, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which replace the CD Player.

Rear seating is comfortable for average-sized adults.

Pulling levers inside the trunk lets rear seats flop easily to create a spacious cargo area above the spare tire. The trunk lid can be remotely opened. Visors extend. Kia has one of the industry’s best warranties.

LIKES: Design, price, standard features, handling, roomy.

DISLIKES: Slightly stiff ride, road noise, average acceleration.

BOTTOM LINE: Wallet-friendly and solid competitor in diminishing small car market.

Base price w/destination fee: $22,885 (as tested $26,220)

Vehicle curb weight: 2,762-2,903 lbs

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches

Length: 182.7 inches

Width: 70.9 inches

Engine specs: 2.0-liter, I-4, DOHC

Horsepower: 147-hp at 6,200 rpm

Torque: 132 ft.-lbs. at 4,500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, IVT

EPA rating: 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy

Range: 14-gallon tank, regular

Performance: 0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.