The 2019 Kia Forte recently debuted at the North American International Auto Show, highlighting the Korean company’s efforts to evolve it into a more refined compact car. The Forte picks up design cues from the Stinger, which is probably a good call, given how well the Stinger has been received. The Forte is also Kia’s first car with the in-house designed and built Intelligent Variable Transmission. The 2019 Kia Forte also introduces their new line of Smart Stream technologies to help increase fuel efficiency.
Kia seems to want to straddle the line with the Forte by trying to keep it sporty and youthful while moving it toward a more sophisticated appearance, thanks to a number of styling cues inspired by the Stinger. Peter Schreyer, President & Chief Design Officer, Hyundai Motor Group, and his team incorporated ingredients of the Stinger’s DNA into the Forte to give it a commanding road presence: Long hood, short deck, and that traditional, overall fastback-like shape, only applied to a sedan. The cowl point was pushed back a healthy five inches to create a more athletic stance and to give the 2019 Forte a more planted look.
Hood creases contribute to the Forte’s muscular appearance, which flows through the front fascia as well. A new slant to the grille and an aggressive black lower valance are nice touches. The front bumper also has the neat little trick of doubling as air curtains to improve aero performance; even the headlamp design and layout is said to be “Stingeresque.” The rear bumper gets the same treatment with separate reverse and turn signal indicators beneath available LED taillights that are connected by a sleek, horizontal trim piece.
Power & Performance
The 2019 Kia Forte is powered by a second-generation 2.0-liter Nu four cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine. The engine uses a cooled EGR system to boost fuel efficiency. Power and torque figures are not expected to change over the 2018 Forte: 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft. of torque, but fuel efficiency is up by 3 mpg.
Transmission-wise you can choose from either a six speed manual or Kia’s aforementioned Intelligent Variable Transmission. The Intelligent Variable Transmission is Kia’s own improved version of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The new IVT unit gets around the old rubber-band-like feel of a CVT, thanks to adaptive style shift logic and a chain type belt instead of a push belt. KIA’s IVT is also much quieter than a CVT thanks to wrapping the transmission case in a sound insulating cover. This move dropped NVH levels by 5dB.
The interior is just as well thought out and whittled down to what works. Going with a fastback shape reinforced the Forte’s exterior appearance, but it also gave engineers an opportunity to increase the passenger compartment in key areas for greater comfort, especially on longer journeys. The dashboard is all about openness and avoiding clutter, for example. There’s lots of clean lines and minimal buttons, which are intuitively placed below an eight-inch color touchscreen.
Bigger & Easier
The Forte is bigger in lots of key areas; length is up by 3.2 inches to 182.7 inches, so there’s more legroom and cargo space in the trunk. That trunk now holds 15.1 cubic feet of your stuff. The overall width is up by 0.7 inches which gives Kia a little more visual width to play with. All occupants will appreciate easier ingress and egress, plus improved outward visibility, according to Kia.
Safety & Handling
With a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the 2019 Forte is stronger than before thanks to additional hot stamped components and a structural content of 54 percent Advanced High-Strength Steel. The seat frames are stronger and lighter in weight with increased lumbar support and denser seat foam.
Noise, vibration, and harshness has been improved thanks to an increase in body stiffness. That increased body stiffness also plays a major role in better handling too. There’s a new subframe design to improve lateral responsiveness, and steering feel is better than the Forte’s predecessor thanks to enhancements within the Motor Driven Power Steering system.
And of course, since the model year is 2019, the new Forte is swamped with high-tech goodies. The 2019 Forte comes standard with an eight-inch color touchscreen compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The screen is neatly integrated into the dash and within the driver’s line of sight. With the right smartphone devices, the system also has the capability to read SMS texts aloud through Bluetooth, and you can even wirelessly charge your compatible Android and Apple devices. A premium sound system developed with Harman Kardon cranks out an impressive 320 watts of power.
Pricing & In Person
Once again, Kia shows that it knows how to build cars that buyers want at a very (low) specific price point. Although pricing was not announced, don’t expect the 2019 Kia Forte to break the bank when it arrives later this year. When it does, the whole shootin’ match comes in three trims: LX, S, and EX. In the meantime, the new Forte is on display at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center, downtown Detroit. The show officially opens to the public on Saturday, January 20th.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format.