No matching results

Recent Articles

Popular Makes

Body Types

2017 Kia Forte Road Test and Review

Cherise Threewitt
by Cherise Threewitt
November 12, 2016
5 min. Reading Time
2017 Kia Forte S frontthreequarter ・  Photo by Cherise LaPine

2017 Kia Forte S frontthreequarter ・ Photo by Cherise LaPine

The Kia Forte lineup earns a lot of praise because the Forte sedan, Forte5 hatch, and Forte Koup coupe offer a lot of features at a low price. The 2017 Forte sedan benefits from a mid-cycle refresh (it was last redesigned for the 2014 model year) and despite our gripes about the current Forte S, it must be said that Kia’s dedication to updating this car reflects pretty well on the company’s commitment to being a serious competitor.

As a side note, the Forte is sized and priced like a compact car (and Kia markets it as one), but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides and tracks official fuel economy ratings, considers the Forte a midsize car. As such, when comparing the Forte to competitive vehicles, we kept this in mind.

Now, let’s take a look at the results of our week-long test drive of the 2017 Kia Forte S.


The base 2017 Kia Forte LX carries an MSRP of $16,490, which is on the low end for either of the classes it falls into. It’s about $500 more than the 2016 version of the car, which is fair considering all the updates included in this mid-cycle refresh.

The Forte S, which is a new trim level for 2017, starts at $19,200, which is competitive in the class for the amount of equipment provided. (Note: Our test vehicles are typically provided with a copy of its dealership window sticker; however, the Forte S driven for this review had no prices listed, so we’re unable to quote its actual price as tested.) Our Forte S had the optional S Technology Package installed, which costs $1490.

The top-of-the-line Kia Forte EX includes a number of updated features, and has a starting price of $21,200. This isn’t much more than the Forte S plus the S Technology Package, and should be considered by buyers who plan to take advantage of the Forte’s high-tech offerings.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Powertrains, Performance and Fuel Efficiency

The Kia Forte S comes standard with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, making 147 horsepower, that comes paired to a 6-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic is available. Most Forte models above the base model, including the S featured here, come with an upgraded 2.0-liter engine, making 164 horsepower, which is paired to the 6-speed automatic.

We drove the Forte S in Eco and Normal modes, but didn’t get a chance for Sport mode. Eco offers very sluggish acceleration, while Normal does what it says. We averaged 23.6 MPG in Eco mode yet got a few MPG better in Normal, which was the return trip of the same city/highway route with similar traffic conditions. In both cases, we fell quite short of the official EPA ratings for the Forte S, which come in at 29 MPG city, 38 MPG highway, and 32 MPG combined.

Though the Forte was reasonably comfortable on the highway, it is not very well insulated from city road conditions. Speed bumps, in particular, are tedious to navigate.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Exterior Design and Lighting

Kia says the Forte has “European sport-sedan styling,” which is a bit of a stretch. It’s definitely not a bad-looking car, but perhaps not what we think of when we think of “European sports sedans.”

So, what does Kia mean by that? Certainly, the exterior refresh for this model year helps. The Forte has a new front end treatment, including a new front bumper and mesh grille design. The headlights are new, too, and are available with projection HID lights, which were fitted on our test car. The new lighting wraps around to the back, where there is a new taillight design; our car had the optional LEDs. The lights enhance the Forte’s looks (maybe that’s what Kia meant by “European”) and the lighting effect nicely set off our car’s Phantom Gray exterior finish.

When the Kia Forte S is equipped with the Technology package, it includes a really nice feature—lights that illuminate the front door handles when you approach the car with the key fob.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Interior Design and Capacities

Considering how much we liked the exterior design and features of the Forte S, it was a little surprising to climb inside and discover that the driver’s seat adjusts forward and back manually, with the old-school metal grab rod. There were one or two power buttons along the side of the driver’s seat, but frankly, they didn’t do much; this is not a car for someone who prefers strong lumbar support. The seats themselves were covered in cloth upholstery (though leather is standard on the next trim level up).

We really like the small windows incorporated between the side mirrors and A pillar; they offer a notable improvement in outward vision and provide a feeling of spaciousness. The Forte also offers a lot of small storage areas and cubbies throughout the cabin, which is a nice touch; too bad they are all formed out of hard plastics.

The Forte offers 15 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more in line with a midsize car than a compact.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Audio and Infotainment

Bluetooth wireless integration and SiriusXM satellite radio come standard across the Forte lineup, and the Forte S features an upgrade to a crisp 7-inch touchscreen display. The infotainment system that comes with the Forte S is easy to use, and includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. A USB and an aux port are located within a convenient storage cubby under the center stack.

We found the steering wheel buttons to be a little too complicated for a car in this class (although the steering wheel itself is very classy) and it was hard to find exactly what we were looking for. Kia, however, provides actual dials for the audio and climate controls, which makes things nice and easy.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Available Equipment

The Forte S trim level is new for this year, designed to add another price point to the model lineup and bridge the gap between the base LX and loaded EX. As such, Kia configures the S with most of the features that are popular with buyers in this class, such as 16-inch alloy wheels and a rearview camera, as well as a few extras.

Most of the Forte S’s best equipment, however, comes from the S Technology package, a $1490 add-on that brings pushbutton start, a smart key fob, a 4.2-inch LED gauge cluster that can be cycled through to display different real-time information, and a bunch of driver assistance and active safety features (described in detail on the next page).

We really like the Forte S’s smart trunk feature, also a Technology package perk, which automatically opens the trunk when you stand behind the car with the key fob for a few seconds.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Safety Ratings and Technology

The 2017 Kia Forte has not yet been evaluated for crashworthiness by the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it has earned a 5-Star Overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2016 Forte, which is mechanically similar, earned mostly Good results from the IIHS.

The Forte S comes standard with a rearview camera. Adding the S Technology package brings with it forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and rear cross-traffic alert; this is a decent amount of high-end safety equipment for a package that costs $1490 (and includes features described on the previous page). The equipment was easy to use, although the forward collision warning was on the sensitive side.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Other Cool Features

The 2017 Kia Forte’s updated exterior styling helps take the car in a more appealing direction. Though the changes are subtle, they make the Forte look more mature than many of its competitors (since cars in this class and at this price point tend to aim for youthful appeal).

The exterior door handle ambient lighting is by far one of the most appealing features of the 2017 Kia Forte S, even if it contributes to somewhat unrealistic expectations of the car as a whole. The lighting welcomes the driver to the car and is extremely convenient in low-light conditions (or in the scenario that there would be several Fortes parked nearby and you don’t know which one is yours—take our word for it).

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Final Thoughts

I drove several higher-end 2017 Kias in the months leading up to this review, and it's worth mentioning (again) that the difference in comfort is noticeable. What's more, the Forte S’s odd equipment combinations are a head-scratcher and could leave a potential buyer bewildered about Kia’s intentions in terms of pricing.

A note: The 2017 Kia Forte S used for this review sustained minor damage in a low-speed collision a couple days before this test period ended. It was not the fault of your humble Autobytel writer, who was stopped at a red light when hit from behind. But since the incident was mentioned on social media, it should be made clear that the impressions formed for this review were from a lengthy test drive before the crash occurred. For what it’s worth, the Kia Forte S held up fairly well (from a not-at-all-scientific perspective).

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine


Interested in Getting a New Car?

Used Cars Near You

No Data Available

Powered by Usedcars.com
©2024 AutoWeb, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Some content provided by and under copyright by Autodata, Inc. dba Chrome Data. © 1986-2024.