While it’s never been a leader in sales, the Kia Forte has long done a respectable job at remaining around the middle of the pack in popularity. For 2017, Kia gave the Forte an updated look, a thriftier base engine, a new sportier S trim, and new features.

Are these changes enough to push Kia's compact past its rivals and into more buyers’ driveways? Keep reading to find out.

Pricing and Equipment

The 2017 Kia Forte starts at $17,495 for the base LX and tops out at $22,195 for the range-topping EX (both prices include an $895 destination fee). For buyers who need more cargo room, there is the Forte5 hatchback, which starts from $19,095 and tops out at $24,695 (again, including the $895 destination fee). Catering to buyers looking for a low entry price, we expect the most popular Forte to be the base LX sedan, which comes standard with:

  • Fifteen-inch steel wheels
  • Heated mirrors
  • Projector-beam headlights
  • Four-speaker audio system
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • USB port
  • Keyless entry

The mid-range S and top-of-the-line EX add significantly to the base LX package. While the higher price might be harder to swallow, features like Kia's Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-compatible UVO infotainment system (standard on S) and the EX's available advanced safety features are worth the extra cost.

The 2017 Forte’s standard powertrain is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and works alongside a standard six-speed manual transmission. Buyers can swap the stick for a six-speed automatic transmission for an extra $1,000.

The EX trim gains a standard 164-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Forte5 starts with the more potent 164-hp 2.0-liter engine in the LX and EX trims. For those looking for a little more zip, there is the SX model. What we'd call a warm hatch, rather than a totally hot one, the Forte5 gets a 201-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (a six-speed manual is a $2,200 option) alongside a number of aesthetic enhancements.

Performance Pros

Kia Forte
  • Available three-mode steering system – comfort, normal, and sport – is a nice touch
  • Engines are happy to rev with minimal vibration
  • Fuel economy is in line with its class
  • Forte5's SX trim adds much-needed zippiness to the lineup

Performance Cons

  • New six-speed auto transmission feels slow to shift
  • Outside of the SX, the Forte isn't quick by any stretch
  • Suspension can be harsh at times

Interior Pros

  • Dash is made from higher-end plastic and boasts nice metallic touches
  • Clean-looking and easy-to-operate infotainment system
  • Plenty of small cubbies to store items
  • Larger-than-average trunk at 14.9 cubic feet

Interior Cons

Kia Forte
  • Front seat lower cushions are a touch too short for taller drivers
  • With just 37.3 inches of rear-seat head room, some may find it a little tight
  • Seat bolstering is weak

The Most Pleasant Surprise

We carry more and more small items in our pockets every day, and it can be a struggle finding a place to put all this stuff in our cars. The Forte has plenty of small cubbies, including a convenient covered storage bin just in front of the gear shifter, so there's always room for your smaller stuff.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

With Kia working so hard to refine its cars, including its smaller models, buyers may expect a smoother-then-average ride from the Forte. Unfortunately, it appears as if Kia left this off the agenda altogether. This could be a big turnoff for pickier buyers.

The Bottom Line

Other than the hatchback SX, the 2017 Kia Forte is about as average as it comes for an economy car. While this likely makes it a good match for economy-car buyers just looking for a balanced vehicle, consumers that like a little liveliness to go with their economy car will likely prefer the Mazda 3 or Honda Civic (which don't require a five-door body to be fun).