2019 Kia Forte EX: Where Cheap And Good Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Have you looked at the sticker prices on cars lately? Yes, Mildred, they are getting ridiculous! The average MSRP for a new car is almost $38,000 and the average transaction price is right at $35,000. For many, buying a new car may seem out of reach. Leasing comes with its own thirty-yard dumpster full of issues.

While something like the 2019 Kia Forte coming in for review might not seem all that interesting, in fact, it really is. The question being, can you buy a reliable, good quality vehicle that won’t cost you a ton of money to run? Yes you can, and this Forte is a pretty solid choice. Let’s look at why.

The place to start is the price. The basic Forte in FE trim and no options starts at just under $19,000 with delivery. The vehicle in for review is a top-level EX with only two options, the Snow White Pearl, plain at $295 and with carpeted floor mats for $125. With delivery, the MSRP was $23,305, or about 60% less than the average MSRP of a new car!

Value Play

This is no stripped out $hitbox. This is a nicely equipped vehicle with most of the modern amenities. Forte has an eight-inch infotainment screen which comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  Heated AND cooled front seats, dual zone auto climate control, smart key with push button start, forward collision, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic, blind spot warning and heated outside mirrors are also included. Items that five years ago were reserved for mid-luxury are available now in a very affordable package.

Fuel economy is another big win for the car. The EPA estimates are 30 mpg city, 40 highway and 34 combined. I saw very close to those numbers driving in single digit temps in January.

The interior quality is very nice. The seats were comfortable and materials are among the best in class. Rear seat room was good, not fantastic, but at 5’10” I could sit behind myself without any issues. One thing Kia get very right with their center stack is the use of buttons, knobs, and switches. It is very easy to tactilely find what you need to adjust, stereo, temperature, etc. without taking your eyes off the road. No need to search through menus or reach for a touch screen.

The 2.0-liter engine in the Forte is rated at 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It is backed by a CVT transmission. Power in the engine is fine. It is not great, but it is perfectly fine for the intended use case. The CVT transmission was better than I expected. CVTs behind low torque four-cylinders usually don’t fare well (I’m looking at you Toyota C-HR), but I had no real complaints. That in itself is high praise.


Does the Forte have any misses? A couple. First,, remote start is not standard on the EX trim level, it’s a $295 option. Secondly, the Kumho tires that came on this car were garbage in cold and snowy conditions I drove in. ABS kicked on with the lightest touch on the brakes, and the understeer was horrendous. It’s good the Forte comes with a traditional hand brake, as it was needed more than once to make a turn.

Those are really all the faults I could find with the Forte. It rode well, was comfortable on the highway runs. Forte had a quiet interior and did everything you could ask for an entry-level car. OK, the steering was over boosted but I think I can name on one hand all the cars whose electric steering isn’t.

The value equation for the Kia Forte is very high. Yes, dealing with the Kia Showroom experience leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, if you pause for six seconds when the salesperson tells you the price, they will likely drop $2,000 off the price right then and there.

Final Thoughts

In 2019 it’s refreshing to see a nice car at a reasonable price. Sure, you can buy a nicer car at the same price either pre-owned or certified pre-owned. However, for a large number of people, they want to buy without having to worry about what the previous owner did or did not do to keep and maintain the car. Kia vehicles also come with a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty along with a 5 year/50,000 mile basic warranty along with roadside assistance.

If you look at Kia’s sales numbers, the Forte being a sedan and not a crossover means that it’s largely ignored, and that is a shame. The person who overlooks the Forte and heads right for the crossover is likely missing out on a better overall vehicle with better fuel economy at a better price. If I had a friend or family member who just wanted something simple and basic, I’d have no issues steering them to the Forte.

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3 responses to “2019 Kia Forte EX: Where Cheap And Good Aren’t Mutually Exclusive”

  1. outback_ute Avatar

    Spot on with the review apart from the math at the beginning (60% of the price or 40% less than). I think I last drove a Kia when the last generation was fairly new and that compared well with a Toyota Corolla. The low power engine without direct injection is a better long term bet IMO too, without the risk of carbon build-up in the intake. I’m not so worried about CVTs any more so long as you drive them sensibly.

    The car is slightly differently specified in Australia, with a 6-sp auto instead of the CVT, and to get the equivalent equipment you’d be in the GT trim with a 1.6T but spending 50% more than the base trim. Because the price rises so much more as you go up the range here I’d go for the base with optional safety pack (which also upgrades the steering wheel and shifter), and the only one available with manual – not that it would be the automatic option (pun intended), would have to weigh up the fun vs traffic factor

  2. Zentropy Avatar

    My only complaint is the same as with nearly every other vehicle– the availability of a manual transmission is restricted to the base model, if at all. Comparing the base F spec to the EX, there are over 20 features (several that many wouldn’t want the car to be without) in the top spec that aren’t even available in the base. The long list of upgrades are a relative bargain at $4200, considering you’re getting a nicely-equipped car for $23K. Why not offer the EX (and other trims) in a manual but keep the price the same (the CVT is normally a $900 upgrade)? I’d even be willing to special-order the car and wait a few weeks, but instead, I’ll just pass entirely.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      The manual take-rate is definitely a “chicken and egg” situation. Low sales because not many options available because low sales.

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