The 2021 Kia Forte starts at $17,890 in the U.S. and $17,895 in Canada, freight and delivery charges excluded.
Features for the price, good fuel economy, alluring design.
Wide front pillars create blind spots, reliability record needs improvement, annoying lane keep assist.
A consumer shift to crossovers and a global pandemic isn’t stopping the 2021 Kia Forte from being the brand’s best-selling vehicle in both the United States and Canada. What that means is that new-car shoppers on a budget—or not—view the Forte as a compelling choice for its mix of design, features, performance and fuel economy.
Redesigned for the 2019 model year, the Forte is available solely as a four-door sedan in the U.S., with FE, LXS, GT Line, EX and GT trim levels, while the Canadian market gets LX, EX, EX+, EX Premium, GT and GT Limited variants. Consumers in Canada can also choose the Forte5 hatchback in EX, GT and GT Limited trim. All are carried over without any significant changes for the 2021 model year.
There are two engine choices in the 2021 Kia Forte. Most trim levels are equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.0L inline-four that develops 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, matched to a continuously variable automatic transmission, or what Kia calls IVT (the I is for Intelligent). Base trim levels can also be selected with a six-speed manual.
Meanwhile, the GT and GT Limited editions benefit from Hyundai Motor’s ubiquitous turbocharged 1.6L four which, in this application, generates 201 horsepower as well as 195 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. The turbo mill can be connected to the six-speed manual or a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated gearbox. Each Forte rides on a front-wheel drivetrain.
Base variants of the 2021 Kia Forte in the U.S. don’t stand out as far as comfort and convenience items go, they do include active safety features, including forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist as well as driver attention warning. In Canada, the product planning team preferred equipping every Forte with heated front seats, leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob, among other things. On both sides of the border, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration come standard.
Pricing ranges from $17,890 to $25,785 before freight and delivery charges for the 2021 Kia Forte in the U.S. In Canada, the Forte sedan’s MSRP ranges from $17,895 to $29,245, while the Forte5 is priced from $22,295 to $30,245, freight and delivery charges notwithstanding. It competes with the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, the Hyundai Elantra, the Nissan Sentra, the Subaru Impreza, the Mazda3 as well as the Volkswagen Golf and Jetta.
What The 2021 Kia Forte Does Well
- No surprise here: the Forte offers a good amount of features for the asking price. Mid-range trims offers 17-inch alloy wheels, navigation, UVO connected services, a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, an intelligent key, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
- When matched to the automatic IVT, the 2.0L engine can be quite efficient. The U.S.-market Forte FE boasts a combined city/highway rating of 35 mpg, while the Canadian-spec Forte is one of the most frugal cars in the compact segment with a combined average as low as 6.9 L/100 km.
- The 2021 Kia Forte can attract customers with its bang for the buck quotient, but also for its alluring design inside and out.
- Kia’s infotainment system is easy to use, with big button zones on a fairly reactive touchscreen, in addition to plenty of physical audio and climate control buttons to quickly access the system’s main functions.
What The 2021 Kia Forte Doesn’t Do Well
- The Hyundai Motor group, which rounds up Hyundai, Kia and Genesis, offers a lane keep assist system that’s just too sensitive. It beeps as soon as we’re not dead centered in our lane, and keeps nudging the wheel, which becomes irritating.
- The Forte GT and GT Limited trims are obviously the sportiest ones of the bunch, and they do offer good performance and handling. However, they don’t quite give the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Jetta GLI a run for their money, which we consider the best performance compact cars on the market.
- The 2021 Kia Forte’s windscreen is steeply raked, which improves aerodynamics. However, that means the driver must cope with a headliner that’s really close to his or her head, and the seat cushion can’t be lowered enough to be comfortable. The windscreen angle also results in fat front pillars, which limits outward visibility.
- The Forte could be more reliable. Consumer Reports gives the compact Kia a rating of 1 out of 5, citing problems with the transmissions, the drive system and the in-car electronics as the biggest culprits. The Civic, the Corolla and even the corporate cousin Elantra fare better in this regard.
What We Tell Our Friends
The 2021 Kia Forte has what it takes to attract compact-car buyers, even though many of them are turning their attention to small crossovers. It’s one of the rare passenger cars that haven’t seen its sales take a nosedive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s not perfect, and it won’t dislodge the Hyundai, the Toyota and the Honda that outperform it on the sales charts anytime soon. However, it’s an easy car to live with and looks good doing that, and its popularity is well deserved.