Compact car; Built in South Korea
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door hatchback
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,600 – $14,900*

2010 Kia Forte 4-door sedan front

2010 Kia Forte 4-door sedan interior

2010 Kia Forte 2-door coupe front

2010 Kia Forte 4-door sedan rear

2010 Kia Forte 4-door sedan profile

2010 Kia Forte 2-door coupe rear

2010 Kia Forte 4-door sedan

2010 Kia Forte 2-door coupe interior

  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy
  • Instruments/controls
  • Front-seat space (sedan)
  • Acceleration with automatic transmission
  • Engine noise
  • Passenger space (coupe)

Kia’s latest compact-car contender boasts ample-for-the-class passenger and cargo space along with a generous list of standard comfort, convenience, and safety features. Forte’s performance, road manners, and overall refinement are pleasant enough, though not as polished as class leaders. Avoid the balky manual transmission in a 2010 model, with its notchy throws and vague clutch. Improvements to the 2011 Forte are most welcome. The new six-speed automatic transmission is slick, and the revised six-speed manual is vastly better than its five-speed predecessor. Ride quality on the sporty SX model is smoother as well. Availability of a hatchback body style provides added versatility. That model is not as much fun to drive, nor is it as refined as the Mazda 3, but Forte can cost considerably less secondhand. In all, the solidly made Forte is worthy of a spot on the budget-conscious compact-car shopper’s list.


Kia replaced the previous Spectra with an all-new Forte for 2010, now serving as this Korean automaker’s compact car. Forte came as a four-door sedan that was about 1.5 inches longer in wheelbase and 1 inch longer overall than the outgoing Spectra, and as a two-door coupe called the Forte Koup. Both the coupe and sedan came in EX and sporty SX trim levels. The sedan also came in base LX trim. Two four-cylinder engines were offered. LX and EX held a 156-horsepower 2.0-liter engine that teamed with a standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. An optional “Fuel Economy Package” for EX sedans included a five-speed automatic and other fuel-saving equipment. SX models had a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter engine with a standard six-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic. Standard safety features included antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, and front-side airbags. A wireless cell-phone link, auxiliary audio input, and USB port were standard on all models. Air conditioning, power windows and locks, and remote entry were standard on the EX and SX. Leather upholstery and a sunroof were available on the EX and SX editions. SX had a standard sport suspension and tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Forte rivals included the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and Nissan Versa.

Yearly Updates

2011 Forte
The Forte lineup received a host of changes for 2011, including a new four-door hatchback model, revised transmissions, and various tweaks to improve ride quality, handling, and noise control. All versions came in EX and sporty SX trim levels; the sedan also remained available in base LX form. New six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions replaced the 2010 Forte’s five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, and five-speed automatic variants. SX models got a revised suspension. An optional “Fuel Economy Package” for EX sedans included the new six-speed automatic and other body and powertrain tweaks designed to improve fuel economy.
2012 Forte
Manual transmission availability was now limited to just the base sedan and all coupes, but there were no other changes of note to the 2012 Kia Forte.
2013 Forte
Changes for 2013 were minor. Some models had newly designed 16-inch alloy wheels, boasted better quality hides for leather-wrapped steering wheels, and received power-folding side mirrors. New LED daytime running lights were standard on SX sedan and hatchback and optional on the EX versions of those same two body styles.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

LX and EX models use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 156 horsepower, with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. A fuel economy package with five-speed automatic has been available, too. SX models hold a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower, driving a six-manual or five-speed automatic transmission. For 2011, Kia introduced substantially revised six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 156
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 144
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
4-speed automatic


dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 156
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 144
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic
6-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 173
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 168
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
6-speed automatic

Road Test

A 2010 Forte with the 2.0-liter engine is fine in around-town driving, but it needs a deep stab of the throttle to deliver adequate highway passing power. The alert four-speed automatic shifts smoothly. The 2.4-liter engine is stronger in all situations, though it suffers from non-linear throttle response. The five-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but the initial six-speed manual shifter has long throws and a rubbery, imprecise feel. The clutch pedal’s takeup is soft and indistinct, making it very difficult to launch the car smoothly. As revised for 2011, the six-speed manual is a huge improvement over the prior five-speed. It’s not quite as much fun as the gearbox in a Honda Civic or Mazda 3, but Kia’s latest shifter has a positive feel. Clutch engagement also is much smoother in the 2011 Forte. Similarly, the 2011 six-speed automatic provides smooth, timely shifts with no discernible acceleration penalty.

Fuel economy is satisfying. In Consumer Guide testing, an automatic-transmission 2010 EX sedan averaged 28.6 mpg. A 2010 SX coupe with manual transmission averaged 23.6 mpg in mostly city driving; an SX coupe with the automatic averaged 27.6 mpg in more balanced driving. All Forte models use regular-grade gas.

Non-SX Fortes ride generally smoothly, with good bump absorption for the compact-car class. On all models, composure over sharp bumps and dips doesn’t match that of class leaders. Initial SX versions had 17-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension, delivering a ride that’s borderline harsh. Among Forte’s many changes for 2011 was a revised suspension for the SX. Though still quite firm, that suspension does a much better job of absorbing bumps of all sizes. Composure at highway speeds is also very good.

While not as buttoned down as its main Japanese rivals, the reasonably sure-footed Forte more than holds its own. The solid-feeling body structure helps in quick cornering. Body lean in corners is noticeable but not unseemly. Steering feel is fine on the highway but a bit heavy at low speeds. SX models have sharper moves. Braking control and pedal feel are first-rate: smooth and progressive.

Quietness is Forte’s primary weakness. Both engines are noisy in fast acceleration, with the 2.0-liter unit being quieter at cruising speeds. The SX’s 2.4-liter engine is buzzy and unrefined while accelerating, and those sounds never fully go away. Any wind noise is masked by the loud engine and copious tire and road ruckus. The hatchback’s open cargo area exacerbates the latter issue. Coarse highway surfaces can bring about intrusive tire thrum, especially on the SX. Wind noise is reasonably muted on the EX, not so much with the SX.

Large, clearly marked main gauges are tunneled and backlit for good visibility in all light conditions. SX models have flashier gauge graphics that are still easy to read. All audio and climate controls are within easy reach. The audio system has clearly marked buttons; climate controls are large, handy knurled dials. Auxiliary audio and USB jacks and a 12-volt power outlet are conveniently grouped together. All Fortes have steering-wheel-mounted audio, cruise-control, and wireless-cell-phone-link buttons. The optional navigation system absorbs some audio functions, but its large touchscreen compensates. Some navigation functions, such as turning off voice guidance, are a bit touchy. Cabin materials are price-appropriate, and everything is well assembled. Optional leather upholstery brings a slightly upscale vibe.

Forte benefits from a tall seating position that aids visibility. Sedans and hatchbacks have sufficient front headroom and legroom for tall adults, even with the optional sunroof. Coupes have a lower roof line that significantly compromises headroom, especially with the sunroof. Overall visibility is good, though the thick rear roof pillars mildly hamper the view to the rear corners. Unfortunately, a tilt and telescopic steering column has been available only on SX models; LX and EX models offer only a tilt column.

Sedans and hatchbacks have adequate rear headroom and legroom for most adults, even with the front seats adjusted far back. However, the back seat is too narrow for comfortable three-abreast adult seating. Entry and exit are impeded slightly by narrow door openings. Coupe rear seats are sized for children and difficult to access.

Forte’s total cargo volume is at the head of the class among compact four-door sedans. The relatively roomy trunk has a helpfully large aperture, though the uncovered sickle-shaped hinges can intrude slightly on cargo space. Split-folding rear seats can be folded from the rear of the vehicle via trunk-mounted latches. Interior small-item storage is better than average, with a roomy center console and glovebox along with useful door pockets. Coupes give up about 2 cubic feet of cargo volume and have a shorter trunk opening. Hatchbacks have a versatile cargo hold with a low load deck.


Model Tested: 2011 Kia Forte SX hatchback w/auto.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 6

Total: 55


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
104.3 176.4 69.5 55.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.6 13.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.7 35.3 43.6 33.9
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
104.3 170.9 69.9 57.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 38.4 43.3 35.0
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
104.3 178.3 69.9 57.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.7 13.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 37.6 43.3 35.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2010 Forte sedan 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 3


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Engine noise
Description: Vehicles equipped with 2.0L engine and manual transmission may make a popping noise in the exhaust when shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear unless powertrain control module has been flashed with latest update. (2010)
Engine stalling
Description: The 2.0L engine may develop rough idle if the powertrain control module (PCM) has not been flashed with the latest update. (2010)
Steering problems
Description: Power steering pump noise is often caused by a dirty screen in the fluid reservoir causing partial starvation of the pump requiring reservoir replacement. (2010-11)
Suspension noise
Description: There may be a knocking noise from the front suspension in cold weather unless a special cushion was installed (during a silent campaign) on the front struts. (2010)
Tail/brake lights
Description: Stoplight/taillight bulbs have short life expectancy and improved bulbs that last five times longer have been made available. (2010-11)

Recall History

2010 Forte
Description: The stop lamp switch in the affected vehicles may malfunction and cause the brake lights to not illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed or may cause the brake lights to remain illuminated when the brake pedal is released. A stop lamp switch malfunction may also affect the operation of the brake-transmission shift interlock feature so the transmission shifter would not be able to be shifted out of the park position. Dealers will replace the stop lamp switch free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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