A close up of the headlight of a silver 2023 Kia Forte GT is shown.

Officially a Teenager: Looking Back on 13 Years of the Kia Forte

In a world in which sedans are becoming increasingly rare, it’s somewhat comforting to know that compact cars like the Kia Forte are still in production and thriving. Today’s Forte comes well-equipped with a zippy engine, excellent fuel economy, and plenty of comfort and safety features to help drivers enjoy time spent behind the wheel. But not everyone looking for a Kia Forte for sale is in the market for a brand-new vehicle.

The fact that the Forte has been around since 2010 means that you’ll likely encounter a lot of different options and price points when shopping for a used model. The Forte has not undergone any changes that would make it unrecognizable over the last 13 years, but there have been a few significant updates throughout the generations. How do you know what to look for when checking out a Kia Forte for sale? Here are some highlights from the past 13 years of the Forte to help you get started on your journey.

Living Up to the Hype

You know a new model is exceeding expectations when multiple experts and critics repeatedly use the word “impressive” in their reviews. The 2010 Kia Forte was branded “impressive” by nearly every major automotive review site at the time of its release. Would the 2010 Forte still be considered so impressive today? Amazingly, it lives up to even today’s performance and technology standards.

Most 2010 Fortes came equipped with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine good for 154 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with your choice of a five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, or five-speed automatic transmission. The sporty SX trim amps things up with a larger 2.4L four-cylinder with 173 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

In its first year of production, the Forte was offered as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan, but a five-door hatch known as the Forte5 joined the lineup for 2011. Bluetooth connectivity and iPod integration were standard on all trims, though the base trim did not include air conditioning or power windows. It was, after all, 2010. Things were different then.

A blue 2020 Kia Forte GT is shown parked in a field.

Updates and Improvements

The second generation of the Kia Forte appeared for the 2014 model year. The EX trims of all three body styles include a new 2.0L four-cylinder engine, which provides 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque, while the Forte Koup SX and Forte5 SX have a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. If fuel economy is your goal, the base LX sedan was given a new 1.8L four-cylinder that only musters 148 hp but offers up to 34 MPG of highway fuel economy. All three engine options are available with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.

A manual transmission is even rarer than a sedan by 2023 standards (pun intended), but the Kia Forte is one of the few vehicles that has continuously offered a manual transmission option since its debut. In fact, drivers of the 2023 Forte GT still have the option of a good, old-fashioned stick shift.

Kia added its new FlexSteer feature to 2014 models, which allows drivers to select between steering modes to find the version best suited to their driving style. Depending on the trim, many were equipped with the Google-driven UVO eServices infotainment system, which included emergency services notification amongst its included gizmos. As the second generation grew, critics and experts continued to use the word “impressive” to describe the Forte, along with compliments like “comprehensive,” “easy to use,” and “unexpectedly luxurious.” It was clear that the Forte was driving down the correct path.

The New Guy

In 2017, the Forte received a mid-generation refresh, which included a serious facelift to bring the Forte in line with changing aesthetics. Driver-assist technology such as automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning was added to the mix, earning the 2017 model an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity were also added as phones became a greater part of our lives. Unfortunately, in another sign of the times, the two-door Koup was dropped from the Forte lineup, leaving just the sedan and the Forte5 hatchback.

Though the refresh made some serious updates to the Forte, the third generation officially began with the 2019 model year. Though that still seems very recent in calendar years––and in fact, these models are still eligible for Kia’s Certified Pre-Owned program––2019 seems like it was eons ago by technological standards.

Yet, despite its age, the 2019 Kia Forte has a full suite of standard driver-assistance technology. Kia Drive Wise includes Forward Collision Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist. Climbing up the trims provides access to extra safety features like Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Smart Cruise Control. Many vehicles still do not include this type of comprehensive safety package today, making the 2019 Forte a truly cutting-edge model for its time.

In fact, the 2019 Kia Forte came with plenty of goodies that elude many current production models, such as wireless smartphone charging and a standard eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. One giant technological leap for this generation of Forte was the switch to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in place of the traditional automatics. While CVTs are the source of some wildly divisive opinions, this move boosted fuel economy to 41 MPG on the highway––a four MPG jump over the 2018 model.

A silver 2023 Kia Forte GT is shown driving on a city street.

What’s in Store for the 2023 Kia Forte?

The Kia Forte received a big refresh for the 2022 model year, so the 2023 model continues many of the very cool things that the facelift accomplished. In many ways, the Forte has grown and changed over the last 13 years. Its size and shape have been altered, becoming more mature and sportier as the years progressed. The Koup and Forte5 are no longer part of the lineup, and the LX, EX, and SX trims have been replaced by LX, LXS, GT-Line, and GT trims. Air conditioning is now standard on all models, too.

There are some things that remain the same, however. Most trims still come with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine, though the GT trim––now the sportiest of the lineup––gets a 1.6L turbo. Both of these options should sound familiar, demonstrating once again that Kia knew what it was doing when it rolled out the Forte 13 years ago.

What’s Your Forte?

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Kia Forte is how it has managed to live up to its name and excel within the sedan market. Given how fickle the sedan segment has been throughout the Forte’s lifetime, it is truly a sign of ingenuity and engineering excellence that has kept the Forte in production for 13 years. When shopping for a used Forte, you may now recognize the Forte5 and the Koup, but it’s not until you get behind the wheel that the magic of what makes the Forte so impressive reveals itself.

It’s not just the engine or the tech-forward features that have made the Forte such a desirable compact car for the past 13 years. It’s the overall personality that comes from putting all of those things together. It’s the value of purchasing a vehicle that was demonstrably ahead of its time. And there’s the part where the Forte has been offering standard features that other brands can’t match for over a decade. That’s pretty impressive, too.