• 2019 Kia Forte

Road Test: 2019 Kia Forte S

Kia’s Stylish All-New Compact Sedan

With styling cues taken from the Stinger, the all-new 2019 Kia Forte S pairs good looks with an impressive list of standard safety technology and good fuel economy. These, plus attractive pricing, will make the Forte S a must-drive if you are looking to buy a compact sedan.

The third generation Forte has evolved from primarily being a value proposition to a five passenger sedan that stylishly handles commuting and road trips with equal ease. Plus, with an entry price of $18,585, the value factor has not been forgotten.


The front-wheel drive 2019 Kia Forte is powered by a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine good for a robust 147 horsepower and 132 pounds-feet of torque. All four Forte trim levels come with their first-ever Continuously Variable Transmission. Kia says its i-CVT ( the “i” stands for Intelligent) is different from most others as it has both adaptive shift-logic, and a chain-type belt that addresses the rubber band feel common with most CVTs. The shift-logic programs the CVT with pre-selected gear ratios that makes the transmission sound and feel like a traditional automatic. You can also shift manually by selecting the Sport mode and then go through the gears as you please. Even when pushing the Forte hard, the CVT performed just like a traditional automatic—though 0-60 mph runs taking 8.2 seconds will not threaten any speed records.

2019 Kia Forte

Style, but not a lot of spunk

In addition to Sport, the other driver-selectable drive modes are Eco, Smart and Normal. We found two to be our favorites: Eco for highway cruising and maximum fuel efficiency and Sport for being sporty. An owner will spend more time in the Forte than we did, so Kia’s drive settings will allow for customization to fit most diving styles.

However we drove, the result was smooth and linear acceleration with impressive fuel economy. Without a turbo, there is no kick-in boost of power, but just an even ready-power at all times. Clean Fleet Report noticed the transmission was responsive when called upon to be “sporty” during hard freeway onramp accelerations. For noise reduction, Kia has wrapped the transmission in sound-insulating materials to hide the typical CVT “drone” sound that can be annoying.

The EPA rates the 2019 Forte at 30 city/40 highway/34 combined. In 456 miles of 65-percent highway/35-percent city driving we averaged 38.3 mpg, but over a 200-mile, all-freeway run with the cruise control set at 65 mph, we averaged a robust 44.1 mpg.

Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains, spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

At 2,903 lbs. the Kia Forte S, with electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering, handles firm and flat in slow-to-medium tight cornering, but has some body roll when pushed hard. With a set-up of 17-inch alloy wheels shod with P225/45R 18 all-season tires, the ride was a nice combination of soft on the highway while stiff for spirited cornering. The freeway ride accommodated most road imperfections competently, delivering a calm and comfortable ride.

2019 Kia Forte

All-in-all, a good ride

Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the vented front and rear solid disc brakes that were assisted by the four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and brake assist.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Kia says the all-new 2019 Forte has a “sophisticated yet sporty design” and that it “retains its youthful image.” Enthusiasm aside, Kia has done a great job of giving the Forte a classic design with a long hood and short trunk. The lines are crisp with a fastback profile. The swept-back LED headlights and the lightly sculpted doors are design cues that will hold-up well for many years to come.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving the nicely optioned Forte S with the $1,200 Premium Package, that included a power sunroof. Since we spend so much more time inside a car than outside, treating yourself to an option package not only makes the Forte a pleasure to walk-up to, but even nicer to sit in.

2019 Kia Forte

Simple, clean & comfortable–just the way we like it

Our Forte S had woven cloth front seats that were six-way manually adjustable. Heated, ventilated and power front seats come standard on the top trim level EX. But not having the extra luxury touches on our Forte S was not an issue as the front seats were comfortable, with good thigh bolstering. Kia says the Forte can seat three adults in the 60/40 split folding rear seat, but for longer trips two adults would be more comfortable and could take advantage of the fold down arm rest with cup holders. Access was easy with ample head and leg room.

The cockpit layout is simple and clean with soft touch materials on the dash and door panels. Easy to find and read controls include the cruise control on the right stalk (with telephone, navigation and audio housed on the multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel). It was nice to see the radio had knobs for On/Off/Volume and channel selecting, and the dual-zone automatic climate control wheels were a different size than those of the radio. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark–regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.

The simplicity of the dash layout also made reading the gauges and operating the sound system easy. Clean Fleet Report’s Forte S came with an 8.0-inch touch screen with navigation that displayed the rear view camera and the UVO eServices with Telematics. The six-speaker infotainment system came with SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Connectivity was through USB ports for iPod, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone.


The 2019 Forte came with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system, electronic stability control, traction control, vehicle stability management, hill start assist, an anti-theft engine immobilizer and four-wheel disc ABS with brake assist.

2019 Kia Forte

Safety confirmed and warranty secured

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2019 Forte its Top Safety Pick award.

Pricing and Warranties

MSRP for the four 2019 Kia Forte trim levels range from $17,690 to $21,990. Clean Fleet Report’s Forte S with the Premium Package and carpeted floor mat options, came to $21,515. All prices exclude the $895 freight and handling charge.

The 2019 Kia Forte comes with these warranties:

  • Basic                              Five years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain                   10 years/100,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance  Five years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2019 Kia Forte S

Sometimes, when an auto manufacturer says a model is “all-new” there are changes, but sometimes they are subtle. With the 2019 Kia Forte, the changes are noticeable in fuel economy, handling, performance, styling, sound deadening and comfort. This is as good as they get for a compact sedan, especially when considering that a fully optioned Forte would be somewhere around $26,000.

2019 Kia Forte

Holding its own in a tough & crowded field

All the way around, the 2019 Kia Forte can hold its own against the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla and others in this class. The Forte is an appealing consideration for buyers that are no  longer interested in a bigger midsize sedan, but still want style, a refined driving experience and an outstanding warranty.

Visit your Kia dealer and take a long look at how much car you can get in such a small package.

Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

One thought on “Road Test: 2019 Kia Forte S

  1. Alan Clarke
    December 30, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I believe all modern CVTs are “chain-type belt”. Have a look at this YouTube where John Kelly assembles one – all steel – 411 pieces!!!!


    Unless KIA have some other new system?

    I’m also intrigued that they’re all trying to make them feel like an old-style multi-speed auto. Early CVTs I’ve driven, I loved that they didn’t hunt between ratios – and my current PRIUS doesn’t either, it’s amazingly seamless.

    In fact, the occasional time I drive an old-fashioned auto (like my Dad’s old Camry), it’s actually annoying that it goes from gear to gear.

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