As much as the general automotive media doesn’t want you to believe it, automakers are still pumping out a wide selection of enthusiast-minded, relatively inexpensive daily drivers that aren’t outright sports cars. Take, for example, the new Honda Civic Si, the Hyundai Elantra N and Veloster N, the Subaru WRX, and so on. Kia, Hyundai’s partner not in crime but in recent leaps of success, even builds the excellent, reasonably-affordable Stinger. To our dismay, the 2022 Kia Forte GT is not one of these cars.
Here’s the thing…
Problem number one is the price. The 2022 Kia Forte starts at $23,490. This isn’t an issue itself, perhaps representing a good value for a decently-built car with a little spice in its step. The questions start with our tester’s GT2 package which added $2,200. The option box adds a good assortment of niceties: Power driver’s seat, forward collision avoidance assist, smart cruise control, heated and ventilated front seats, reverse parking sensors, power sunroof, Harman/Kardon audio, and SynTex seating materials. We could do without the electronic parking brake, however. All-in-all it’s a lot of kit for the coin. But Kia touts a “track-inspired driving experience,” and the problems worsen.
When you think of the aforementioned phrase, you likely envision the kind of car that makes you want to go driving for no reason other than to do exactly that. The Forte GT isn’t that.
1.6L of turbocharged mediocrity
201 horsepower sounds like a fair, semi-competitive number when you consider the Honda Civic Si has had right around this for the last decade-plus. But where the Honda is willing and responsive, Kia’s engine sounds like marbles in a coffee can. It’s perpetually happier cruising around at low RPM than it is an able partner when you look to wring it out. The DCT is a good unit on paper yet takes longer to shift than we’d expect. And while the sport-tuned exhaust sounds good in a tunnel with the turbo noise supplementing the volume, it drones endlessly at speed.
If nothing else, it at least helps drown out the persistent road and tire noise. Of all of the cars we’ve tested lately, the Forte GT has by far the most excessive volume. It incessantly emanates through the cabin, whether around town or on the highway. The tires howl, and the road surface echoes up through the interior. It’s exhausting on a long drive, and the stereo isn’t good enough to negate it. Here, the Forte GT betrays its descriptive designation.
Where’s the spice?
The biggest problem is that the Forte GT just doesn’t feel sporty. Rather, it feels like an economy car with a ton of tech and features that overpromises on its sporting capabilities and doesn’t so much as under-deliver as it does barely get off the ground.
The best thing we can say about the 2022 Kia Forte GT is that the car comes incredibly well-equipped for a vehicle at its price. Or, at least it does before you start adding options. The Forte GT is $23,490. Kia actually charges more for the manual car, at $24,490. Still, it’s a lot of coin for the car. But then the options hit. The tester had the GT2 package which adds $2,200. It brings with it a ton of niceties and luxury items for a car under $30k. Heated and ventilated front seats, LED overhead lighting, power sunroof, Harman/Kardon audio, and so on are all fantastic. Carpeted floor mats cost $155. With these choices, the test car’s final price came to $26,840.
This is within spitting distance of the $27,300 Honda Civic Si. The Si has better build quality, an excellent shifter, and drives much sportier. The Subaru WRX is only marginally more expensive, too. We’d go so far as to say the extra few grand for the Hyundai Elantra N or Veloster N is well worth the money. All of these outclass the Forte GT on the performance front by a country mile.
…there isn’t any.
The Forte GT’s performance, or lack thereof, is a major issue. In fact, its dynamics in all drive modes are difficult to palate. In auto/comfort mode, the automatic transmission does the worst fuel-saving immediate upshifting of any vehicle in recent memory. In sport mode, it allows you to play with the paddles but still doesn’t feel sporty. The steering tightens up and nothing else happens. The engine sounds like it hates its own existence, grumbling along and making noises that modern engines don’t usually make. The exhaust sounds bad and drones unnecessarily, only overwhelmed by the excessive road noise at low speeds which become almost unbearably loud on the highway. It’s dreadful. A manual transmission is available, and those looking at a Forte would do well to get the stick as the “Intelligent Automatic Variable Transmission” is utterly dreadful.
If nothing else, we did manage 35.2 MPG over the long road trip. It gave us time to realize that the interior is solid. Materials are decent and we appreciate all of the tech and safety and luxury kit in a car this inexpensive. The seats provided long-haul comfort in almost 600 miles of road tripping. However, CarPlay *and* Android Auto crashed repeatedly to the frequency that we couldn’t keep trying to use it. Hopefully, the kind of thing a software update or USB port replacement would fix, but inexcusable if not.
More red accents than red mist
There isn’t much better when you look around more. The fake center-lock wheel rings are bad. The red trim on the grille is tacky. The overall look isn’t bad, but it isn’t good. With Hyundai using the red trim on its N models, doing so on a non-performance variant version of a Kia economy/compact sedan feels like a misstep. It doesn’t need the red trim.
If it sounds like we’re being harsh on the Forte GT it’s only because we know Kia is capable of so much more. Vehicles like the Telluride, EV6, Carnival, Sorento, Stinger, and K5 are all truly good or excellent vehicles that stand out in their class as high-value, quirky options that we’re happy to recommend. We truly wish we could say the same about the Forte GT. Unfortunately, it’s outclassed by everything it competes with and isn’t particularly deserving of the GT badge. We appreciate that Kia builds the Forte and the Forte GT but look forward to what the next generation or iteration of the model and designation brings. There’s more left on the table.
Kia can do better
The 2022 Kia Forte GT over-promises and under-delivers. In a packed field of fantastic choices, it’s hard to recommend. It easily got us from A to B without issue and achieved excellent gas mileage but not much else. It also has a class-beating warranty which matters if you’re buying one for long-term ownership.