Used Vehicle Review: Kia Forte, 2014-2018

Vehicle Type

According to many owners, the Forte attracted their attention with styling and a good blend of feature content for the price, while good driving dynamics and a quality feel helped seal the deal.

Sedan / Coupe / 5-Door

History/Description

Kia introduced the all-new 2014 Forte lineup in 2013, which hit the road shortly thereafter with coupe (Koup), 5-door, and sedan models all on offer. With an eye for selection and value, the Forte model line offered upscale styling, feature-content bang for the buck, good driving dynamics, and no shortage of options, packages, and trim grades for customization. Add in the various powertrain options and modern connectivity systems, and the Forte amounted to a modern compact car lineup with something for everyone.

Notable features included climate-controlled leather, Kia’s FlexSteer system (which enabled on-the-fly adjustment of the steering feel), and one of the best navigation and central command systems in the business. Also notable for safety-minded shoppers is the Forte’s earning of some of the top safety ratings in the business, as well as general recognition for its feature-laden and easy-to-use interiors.

Engines/Trim

Kia Forte Sedan was the four-door variant, with the sporty Forte Koup on offer as the two-door variant. The Forte 5, a five-door hatchback model, was also available with added flexibility and versatility. Competitors included the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, and Mazda3.

Engine options included a 2.0-litre GDI four-cylinder, a 1.6L turbo GDI four-cylinder, and a 1.8L four-cylinder on base-model units.

Trim grades available included the LX, EX, and SX, for basic, mid-grade, and sporty/loaded models, respectively. Depending on the model selected, look for six-speed automatic or manual transmissions.

What Owners Like

According to many owners, the Forte attracted their attention with styling and a good blend of feature content for the price, while good driving dynamics and a quality feel helped seal the deal. Performance is rated highly from the up-level engine options; while flexibility, cargo space, and versatility are highly rated from the Forte 5 model, too. A stable ride, fun-to-drive handling, and a safe and solid feel help round out the package.

What Owners Dislike

Gripes include difficulty achieving rated fuel economy figures, with many owners reporting the wish for slightly better fuel economy on most models. Some owners complain of a numb or sludgy electronic throttle calibration which may feel too artificial for some, especially on manual-equipped models. Finally, others wish for a more rich and upscale feel to the cabin, which may include too much hard plastic panelling for some tastes.

Here are some owner reviews.

Pro Tip

Remember that the way that a used car was cared for by past owners plays a bigger role in its long-term reliability than the badge on its hood.

Worry less about the automaker, and more about confirming that all servicing and maintenance are up to date, for the best results in achieving a trouble-free ownership experience.

Here’s Your Test Drive To-Do List

Steering Pop

Numerous owners have reported a popping or snapping sound when applying steering, which may be easier to detect while the vehicle is parked. This problem affected some models and may become more severe when weight is added to the vehicle. Many owners noted the sound to be more common and louder when the Forte was loaded full of passengers than when not.

Coax the unwanted snapping or popping sound from the used Forte you’re considering by having the seller sit on board with you, starting the engine, and turning the wheel fully from one side to the other, several times, and at varying speeds, while the vehicle is stationary. If the sound is detected, the vehicle likely needs one or both of its strut mounts, and associated hardware, replaced. In some instances, this plastic suspension component has cracked or fractured. Here’s some more reading.

Central Command and Back-Up Camera

Some owners have experienced central command touchscreen consoles that jam up, freeze, crash, or fail outright. This may or may not be related to a similar issue where the back-up camera fails to engage consistently, or at all (they share the same screen). In any case, be sure to work the central command interface hard during your test drive, trying all functions, including the back-up camera, multiple times. If the system fails to work properly, or fails after your purchase, a hard reset may be the solution – though some owners have reported having the central touchscreen unit replaced under warranty. Here’s some more information.

Paint Chips

Many factors affect the durability and condition of a vehicle’s paint, including locale, driving habits, maintenance of said paint, and how the vehicle was cared for by past owners. Some owners have expressed disappointment with the durability of the Forte’s paint, particularly on vulnerable forward-facing areas like the front bumper, side mirrors, and hood edge. Here’s some more reading.

Shoppers may wish to consider a clear bra or wind deflector to help protect the paint, and are advised to touch up paint flakes and chips as soon as possible. These typically aren’t covered by warranty, and deeper chips and flakes on metal surfaces can lead to the rapid formation of rust.

It’s cheaper to fix paint chips before rust begins to form beneath them, so act quickly if you’re concerned about the long-term appearance of the Forte you’re considering.

Oil Changes

Here’s a discussion thread where some owners contemplate how often they actually need to change the oil in their Kia Forte, and which type of oil and filter to use. Some owners have decided to use different types of oil or filters, possibly self-justifying the use of longer-than-intended oil change intervals.

Avoid buying a car from a seller who subscribes to this ideology.

For best results, long-term durability, and to avoid having any remaining warranty voided, there is one solution to oil changes: follow the instructions for oil type, filter type, and interval length set out in the owner’s manual, exclusively.

Note that stretching oil changes or using a non-factory oil filter will likely void any remaining warranty. As a shopper, obtain service records indicating that no oil changes have been skipped or stretched. If you need powertrain-related warranty repairs, you’ll likely need to prove that this is the case. If the seller has no records available but has had oil changes performed exclusively at one specific shop, that shop may be able to print the records at their request.

Service and Maintenance

In this discussion, an owner asks whether scheduled maintenance, as laid out in the owner’s manual, is actually “necessary”, citing the cost of the regularly scheduled maintenance and inspection versus the cost of a simple oil change.

Note that oil changes are far from the only maintenance required to keep a vehicle ticking and in proper working order – and that it’s best to avoid buying a vehicle from a seller like the creator of the above-linked discussion thread. Buying a used Forte (or any vehicle) from a seller who has convinced themselves to skip scheduled maintenance routines is strictly not advised, as this can affect long-term durability and void warranty coverage.

Air Conditioner

If the performance from the Forte’s air conditioner system seems sub-par or non-existent then one of two problems is likely. First, according to this thread, some vehicles may have been delivered from the factory with an insufficient charge of refrigerant, which causes poor system performance. The solution here, which is typically covered by warranty at low mileage, is to have a technician drain and refill the refrigerant.

Another common cause of air conditioner problems is a clogged cabin air filter. This part needs to be changed about once a year to keep air flowing properly into the system. Many owners fail to replace the cabin air filter, which eventually clogs up, restricts airflow into the system, and causes performance issues or outright failure, including component damage in some cases.

Other Useful Information

Diagnostic Scan

Remember that a diagnostic scan, ideally performed by a professional technician, is a quick and highly affordable way to reveal any of hundreds of possible problems with the Kia Forte’s driveline electronics and other electronic systems that may be hiding. A diagnostic scan takes about a minute, costs little to nothing, and can give a detailed look at any possibly concealed problems with sensors, wiring, or other problems with the vehicle’s various sub-systems. Note that a diagnostic scan can detect problems that may not be causing a Check Engine light to illuminate, making the scan useful whether or not this warning light is activated. A diagnostic scan is one of your best defences against buying someone else’s problems.

Brakes

The lifespan of a vehicle’s braking system is subject to many variables, though a quick test on your test drive can help determine how healthy it is. Where appropriate, apply full stopping power in a straight line from a decent speed, perhaps on an empty secondary road. If the pedal feels soft or goes to the floor, or if the vehicle pulls to one side or the other in response to hard braking, the brakes are in need of attention by a professional.

Clutch

If you’re considering a model with the manual transmission, try the following test: travel at a low speed in a high gear, with low revs and the engine under lots of load. For instance, drive at 60 km/h in fourth or fifth gear, and floor the accelerator where appropriate for a few seconds. This specific operational condition can coax slippage from a badly worn clutch. If you note any, budget to have the clutch changed soon, and call the cost into your pricing negotiations.

Recalls

Just two recalls have been issued for this generation of Forte, and you can check if they apply to the vehicle you’re considering by checking the Kia website.

Verdict

So far, this generation of Forte looks to be free of widespread or major concerns, and finding a healthy used unit will largely hinge on finding one on offer from a seller that was fond of regular maintenance. After checking for the possible trouble signs listed above, this one looks like a confident used-car buy that won’t break the bank.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: here
NHTSA: here

Spotty maintenance may be the used Forte’s biggest reliability risk. 8/30/2018 6:28:00 AM