The 2020 Kia Forte5’s base price in Canada is $22,545.
The Forte5 GT is the hottest luke-warm hatchback.
Good drive, and power, but not great.
Countless car fans became as obsessed as they are because of sporty compact cars. Whether you were born in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, sports compact cars have had an impact on you, love them, or hate them. Kia and Hyundai have been at the exclusive segment for some time and the Kia Forte5 GT is one of the best they’ve ever produced.
As a matter of reference, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo and N are, without a doubt, the best. The Genesis Coupe was a valiant effort but it was more a Ford Mustang rival than a Volkswagen Golf GTI or R challenger.
Don’t think of it as a hot-hatch – you’ll be surprised
This brings me to how the 2020 Kia Forte5 GT needs to be approached. Thinking that it is a GTI, or Civic Si competitor is overloading expectations. Assuming that it’s a bargain well-appointed and spacious compact commuter will leave you in awe.
The principal reason why the Forte5 GT is not a hot-hatch is due to the blatant absence of a manual transmission – a true sport compact hot-hatch must be offered with three pedals and shifter that travels an “H” pattern. Admittedly, the 7-speed dual-clutch unit in the car is skilled and responsive. It’s not perfect but it’s close enough to VW’s DSG to be acceptable. On the other hand, the turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine is surprising. Its 201 horsepower comes in at 6,000 rpm but the kicker is the torque – 195 lb.-ft. of it from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. It’s immediate and eager. The Forte5 GT feels faster than it is.
Handles nice, lacks finesse
Putting that aside, much of the driving experience was not taken far enough, while one, possibly too far. The brakes, although larger in upfront over the Forte5 EX, are disappointing. Pedal travel is far too long, and even once the binders clamp down on the discs, too much pressure is required from the driver to come to a full stop. Then, there’s the electric steering. Most Hyundai and Kia products suffer an unacceptable amount of on-center play, or lag if you will. Toggling through drive modes does little to improve this annoying miss-step.
What was taken too far is the car’s ride. As best as I can describe it, Kia took their lovely platform, better than decent chassis tune and dialed in graininess and harshness. It does nothing to improve the driving experience. Despite this, however, the dampers are well-calibrated for a near-ideal balance between sharp handling and comfort. I guess Kia removed a layer of refinement in order to make it more youthful. Not the best of ideas, nor is the dreadful synthesized engine noise.
Attractive and spacious
Styling-wise, the Forte5 is a fine-looking hatchback. Although, like the harshness, Kia designers should have backed off on the gloss-black add-ons, or at the very least, selected nicer 18-inch wheels. This reminds me of the Stinger…
Onboard, the 2020 Kia Forte5 GT is treated to a plethora of features. For $27,395, it includes the sport seats which are heated, a heated steering wheel, UVO connected car services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-inch screen, all of it laid out with near-perfect ergonomics. The GT Limited, at $29,995 throws in useless, in my opinion, items like navigation, smart cruise control, heated rear seats, synthetic leather, and front cooled seats. I’d use the $2,600 to buy some nicer wheels.
Being aboard the Forte5 GT is good. The rear bench is wide and spacious, well suited for two adults or a pair of kids’ seats. The trunk is large, capable of handling 741 litres (about 26.2 cu. ft.) with little difficulty. Upfront, there’s plenty of room for appendages and the seats are very supportive and comfortable.
If you want a hot-hatch, get a real hot-hatch
At $27,395, the 2020 Kia Forte5 GT embarrasses the Volkswagen Golf GTI ($30,845) and the Honda Civic Si ($30,290) with its level of amenities and features. If you’re going into the Forte5 GT with value and performance in mind, you’re golden. If you want a hot-hatch, you’ll be better served by the 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo which is only $154 more. If you want a true hot-hatch, the only one that really remains is the Golf GTI. It’s more refined, powerful, and special.
Final note: The Kia Forte5 is not offered in the US. However, a 6-speed manual transmission is available with the Forte GT sedan. There are no manual gearboxes with Forte GTs in Canada.