Easy-to-use controls and straightforward touchscreen interface
Lengthy warranty coverage
The EX returns lackluster fuel economy for the class
Ride quality can be overly firm at times
The 2018 Kia Forte is available as a sedan in LX, S and EX trim levels, while the hatchback (the Forte5) is offered in LX, EX and SX trims. The base LX trim is reasonably equipped, while the EX has a more extensive list of equipment. The S sedan and EX and SX hatchback offer some sporty touches, and the SX even comes with a powerful turbocharged engine.
The Forte LX and S sedans are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. For most trims, power runs to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The base LX comes standard with a six-speed manual, with the automatic available as an optional upgrade.
Standard features on the LX sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air conditioning, full power accessories, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional for the LX (but only with the automatic transmission) is the Popular package, which includes automatic headlights, cruise control, upgraded interior upholstery and trim, a sliding front armrest, a rear seat armrest, a rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Kia's Uvo telematics service and a six-speaker stereo. There's also the Popular Plus package, which adds LED taillights, special alloy wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The S sedan starts with most of those items and upgrades to a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a rear spoiler, a chrome exhaust outlet, adjustable drive modes (including steering effort), unique black cloth upholstery with white contrast stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and the 7-inch touchscreen system.
The S sedan's Technology package adds foglights, a sunroof, LED taillights, and keyless entry and ignition plus a few safety technologies (lane departure warning and prevention, blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking).
The EX sedan drops the sport-themed extras but adds a 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, a six-speed automatic, foglights, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED turn signal indicators on the mirror housings (and puddle lamps underneath), LED taillights, keyless entry and ignition, ambient interior lighting, leather upholstery, heated front seats and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear vents. For 2018 the EX also receives some active safety features as standard equipment, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
For the EX, there's an optional Premium Plus package that adds a sunroof, a power-adjustable driver seat, adaptive xenon headlights, a navigation system, ventilated front seats and driver-seat memory settings. Forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking are also part of this package.
From a features standpoint, the hatchback's LX and EX trims largely mirror the sedan's, with minor differences.
The SX hatchback adds a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated at 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, dual exhaust tips, and sporty front and rear styling.