Kia completely updated the Forte for the 2019 model year. And there's no doubt that, with this update, the new Forte leaps to the top of the compact car segment, perhaps even becoming the de facto leader.
The 2019 Kia Forte has four trims buyers can choose from, and each is packed with features that you might only find on other brands at higher price points.
The 2019 Kia Forte FE has a starting MSRP of $17,790. At that price, it features a 2L I-4 engine that's capable of 147 horsepower and has fuel economy ratings of 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Important safety features like an 8-inch rear camera display and forward collision-avoidance assist come standard on this base trim level. It also has dual-zone automatic temperature control and, more importantly, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities.
Being a base trim, it only has a mid-tier 4-speaker audio system. Additional, there are no available package options that buyers can add to the Forte FE.
The 2019 Kia Forte LXS bumps the price up a little bit to $19,190 and includes an upgraded intelligent variable transmission. That improves the Forte's fuel economy ratings to 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Those ratings are also among the highest for any non-hybrid models in this compact car segment.
The exterior also sees minor cosmetic refinements. These include 16-inch machine finish alloy wheels and black gloss sport bumper accents. Inside, the rear seat becomes 60/40 split-folding, and drivers have the addition of a Drive Mode Select system. With this, you can choose between normal, eco, and sport modes depending on your driving style. Each mode optimizes to your selected preferred driving style by modifying transmission shifting points, steering response, and throttle performance.
Further up the line is the 2019 Kia Forte S. This is the first trim to crack the $20K mark, often seen as the peak price for an entry-level car geared at new drivers. With an MSRP of $20,290, buyers will find upgraded 17-inch machine finish alloy wheels. The exterior of the car also adds front fog lights, LED daytime running lights, and LED rear combination lamps.
Inside, the cabin sees some upscale refinement with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. While the seats are still cloth, they are a premium Tricot cloth seat trim. This is an upgrade from the previous two trim models. Other new tech includes one-touch auto up/down driver window and SiriusXM satellite radio.
Lastly, the 2019 Kia Forte EX is the top-of-the-line, even if the price is only $21,990. To us, a car at this price point that also comes standard with blind spot collision warning and rear cross traffic collision warning seems like a steal.
As the most expensive Forte, it makes sense that the Forte EX is also the most comfortable. Drivers will appreciate the 10-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, especially on long drives. The interior also features SOFINO leatherette with heated and ventilated front seats. Other pluses include a smart key with push-button start and the addition of USB charging ports in the cabin. While it doesn't come standard, the Forte EX has an optional wireless phone charger. That's a sometimes rare find on compact entry-level vehicles.