There are some manufacturers who continue to be bullish on sedans. In particular, compact sedans.
Kia is no exception. The recent introduction of the Optima replacement, the K5, is one piece of evidence that Kia wants to continue to sell sedans. This is a strategy the company is executing, while they are expanding their SUV portfolio.
Another poin t to be made came from some feedback from some automotive enthusiasts I know at a recent event. It seems that Kia is one of the most under-appreciated brands in the business. Consumers and enthusiasts really do not know Kia that well.
Last year, I had the chance to work with the newest Kia Forte. It was really a good car. I was pretty pleased with the 2.0-liter engine and the new Intelligent Variable Transmission, that has been popping up in various Kias and Hyundais lately. I was also pleased by the level of quality and the solidity of the drive.
This time around, I needed to get to some events while I was in-between vehicles to work with. I ended up renting a car. I believe I got lucky this time around, since it was a 2020 Kia Forte LXS.
This is not the base Forte model. That would the fuel sipping FE trim level. The LXS is a step up from there. In all, there are six Fortes to choose from – including a manual transmission version of the GT that is sold at a higher price than the dual clutch version. That is the one for the enthusiast on a budget.
Yet, the LXS is also a budget ride that looks sporty. Not GT-Line or GT sporty, but enough to make it look less embarrassing among your cool car friends. The 16-inch alloy wheels is a good touch, as are the lower grille mounted driving lamps that look like fog lights. Those are the only distinctions in a car that looks happier commuting to an essential job or for going somewhere that is open with guidelines in place.
The Forte is handsome overall. You can see the design evolution at Kia that started from the Stinger and is now taken to another level in the K5. The glasshouse is open with a fastback-like rear end. The turn signals remain as one of the complaints about the Forte I got from you, as they are mounted onto the rear bumpers. Think of it this way: If you can’t see the turn signals flash, you’re probably driving too close. That’s called tailgating – and it’s illegal.
Having driven some recent Kia models, the interior has become quite familiar and easy to use for me. It has a simple layout for the driver. You miss some features on the Forte in the LXS, but you do get the essentials. The instrumentation is simple, but the center screen is pretty comprehensive. The audio system can be connected with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. You do get a simple air conditioning unit, which is sufficient for all climates. However, the controls that are on this rental is good to the touch and logical.
In the LXS, you get cloth seats and manual adjustments. The front seats are great, with ample bolstering to lock you in. I felt no fatigue after some drives in them. Rear seat room is fine, as long as everyone is of “average size.” The Forte offers a huge trunk for its class with 15.3 cubic feet. The rear seatbacks fold down for more space for longer items.
About this 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine – it’s solid. It wants to give you more and never goes out of steam at highway speeds. The IVT can be pushed to the limit, but it will delay before dropping down to a proper rev. Keep it within reasonable limits, then it will respond quicker to a cruising speed. The Forte is also a fuel sipper. In which, I saw an improvement from my last turn in the Forte with an average off 39.7 MPG this time around.
You will notice how smooth the Forte rides. The suspension does not care what the road is like below – it will absorb the imperfections just fine. Maybe it’s the 16-inch Kumho tires or the well-engineered suspension set-up? In the LXS, expect a bit of softness in the turns. It is quite poised in more evasive maneuvers, however.
Steering the Forte takes the right amount of effort that eliminates drama at corners. The steering feel is fine and has a really good on-center feel. As for the brakes, they’re very good. Pedal feel is solid – even after 16,000-plus miles on the clock.
In terms of price, the 2020 Kia Forte starts at $17,890 for the FE model with a manual transmission. This LXS came to $20,255 with the destination fee. According to the industry, that’s pretty "affordable."
The one thing I took away from my second experience in this current-generation Kia Forte is how good a compact can be when a company puts stock into the class. The result is a car that delivers on value and gives you a good car to drive every day.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern