Kia’s compact offering just got bigger: The 2019 Forte sedan, which debuted at the Detroit auto show, is a little over 3 inches longer and 0.7 inch wider than the serviceable but basic transportation unit it replaces. It is consequently blessed with a roomier cabin, extra rear legroom and a bigger trunk. It gets new looks, too, bringing it visually closer — somewhat — to the Stinger GT, the brand’s halo performance sedan; you’ll see it most in the headlights and the semi-fastback roofline.
Beyond that, we’re in (mostly) familiar territory. The new Forte’s Atkinson cycle 2.0-liter inline-four still kicks out 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, unchanged from the outgoing model.
The big mechanical change is the transmission; the six-speed automatic has been replaced by a continuously variable transmission. The goal here is fuel economy, and while complete figures have not been released, the automaker expects the car to squeeze out 35 mpg combined — 3 mpg better than the previous model.
The 2019 Forte is 3.2 inches longer, which means more rear leg room and extra space in the trunk.
Further, Kia says this CVT, which it has dubbed the “Intelligent Variable Transmission,” or IVT, is designed to solve some of the biggest complaints drivers have about the technology — namely, the “rubber band” feel when driving and the annoying, intrusive drone of the powertrain. The first problem, claims Kia, was addressed by using a chain-type belt in the gearbox rather than a push belt, and the second was dealt with by wrapping the gearbox in sound deadening.
We’ll believe it once we drive it; a stiffer body and reworked suspension, along with changes to the power steering system, should help make the Forte a little bit more fun on the road. More relevant to the average commuter, though, is all the onboard tech; an 8-inch Android Auto and Apple CarPlay-equipped touchscreen is standard, and you can upgrade with features like a wireless charging tray. Driver assistance systems, including blind-spot collision warning, lane keep assist and smart cruise control are available.
Pricing has not yet been announced, but that’s been one of the Forte’s, er, strengths in the past, with basic models starting at comfortably under $18,000. We don’t expect that to change much; stay tuned for more information.