Kia’s new hatchback has returned after being absent from the market for a couple of years, but this one looked much longer than the average hatchback and could be mistaken for a station wagon. That’s not a knock against the Forte5, because it looks great, and with the orange paint optioned here, it stands out in a sea of drab. The Forte5 GT is also exclusive to Canucks! Canadians should know that our friends south of the border only have the Forte sedan available.
The exterior design of the redesigned Forte5 GT is clean and upscale. The fascia is typical Kia with a tiger-nosed grill, but adds red accents which add a bit of flair. The headlight design is upscale and provide fantastic lighting at night. The LED taillights look like they have been taken from a German luxury vehicle – not bad! Behind the rear wheels, the hatch extends, making the Forte5 look longer than its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line (reviewed here). The 18-inch wheels have a sharp design make them seem larger than they are, and the aggressive side skirts and diffuser finish off the look nicely.
Power for the Forte5 GT comes from Kia’s tried and true 1.6-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder punching out 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. This goes through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. While paddles are on board, the Forte5 GT is better left to shifting itself. This unit won’t be mistaken for a dual-clutch from Volkswagen, but it is much improved from what Kia and Hyundai have had on the market from the last few years.
While the Forte5 is punchy and relatively fun to drive, an omission is the lack of a manual transmission. With this being the sportiest model in the lineup, I see this as a missed opportunity when you consider a majority of the competition still offers the option for three-pedal action. Helping the Forte5’s case is the selectability of drive modes, between ECO, Normal, and Sport. During our test week, we preferred to leave it in “Sport” for the more immediate throttle response and better weighted steering. It corners fairly well, but the steering, while fairly quick, suffers from numb on-center feel which is about on par for the segment.
Even with the low profile 18-inch tire and wheel setup, you’re not going to feel beat up behind the wheel. With the multi-link rear suspension replacing the torsion beam from the previous Forte5, the handling and ride are both improved significantly. Drivers will feel more confident in quick maneuvers and the Forte5 GT doesn’t bounce around in the rear when hitting unsettled roads. Oddly enough, with the decision to move to an independent rear suspension, one of its main competitors, the Mazda3 (reviewed here), has gone to a rear torsion beam setup.
The Forte5 GT’s interior is also close competition for the Mazda3 when it comes to interior design and quality. Other models in the segment may lack ergonomic design or creativity, however, the team at Kia has done a wonderful job with soft touch materials, excellent design and user-friendliness. Everything is easily within reach to the driver and well thought out. The flat-bottom steering wheel uses high quality leather and the buttons have a quality feel to them that the current Honda Civic lacks. The dash materials are soft to the touch and stretch to the doors and console, as well.
With this being the Limited model, you are treated to a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats up front and heated seats in the rear. And those seats! They look great with great bolstering, and provide great support while remaining comfortable for daily driving. Made with synthetic leather, stitched in red and with an embossed “GT” logo, these are the best looking seats in this category and embarrass some cars costing twice as much. Additional standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a wireless phone charger, and two USB ports up front. Infotainment is through an eight-inch touchscreen powered by Kia’s UVO interface. It includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and remains one of the best units in the industry for ease of use with physical buttons and dials for all major commands.
Standard safety features include a Blind Spot Detection System, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Forward Collision Avoidance, Advanced Forward collision avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Hill Assist Control. With regards to capacity, the Forte5’s swooping tailgate does reduce what can be packed in the trunk. Those with growing families will want to know that cargo capacity is 428-litres with the rear seats in place and 741-litres once folded down.
Kia Canada rates fuel consumption at 8.9L/100km city and 6.9L/100km highway, operating strictly on 87-octane fuel despite the Forte5’s turbocharged nature. Our test consisted of combined driving over the course of approximately 500km, and we observed a very reasonable 8.2L/100km. Considering the punchiness of this engine and its eagerness to remain in boost, this is perfectly acceptable and right in line with what’s expected for a “warm” hatch.
Pricing for the Forte5 starts at $22,245, a premium of roughly $5,000 over the base sedan. The entry-level Forte5 comes with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, with the turbocharged GT starting at $27,395. The top trim GT Limited is priced at $29,995, with the main additions to the Limited model being ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, and the eight-inch screen with built-in navigation. Pricing keeps it on-par with the Elantra GT N-Line and Civic Sport, though the biggest advantage to the Hyundai is the availability of a manual transmission.
The Forte5’s main competition at this price point and with two pedals lies in the Honda Civic Hatchback, and a dark horse in the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. All three are sharp-handling hatchbacks with some pep to them, though the Corolla falls a bit short on power. The Forte5’s exterior design is fresh, and not quite as boy-racer as the Civic, which should work well for many buyers. Kia’s interior design and quality of materials are some of the best in this category – something Honda will need to re-evaluate with the next redesign. The power advantage goes to the Forte5 GT as well, and unlike the Honda, the Kia only needs regular-grade fuel.
Kia really has knocked it out of the park with the new Forte5 GT. This new hatchback has the perfect balance of versatility, technology, safety and design inside and out. It deserves serious consideration by anyone looking for a compact hatchback with a bit of fun thrown into the practicality mix. It really is a shame that our Americans south of the border can’t have it, because this remains one of the best compact hatches on the market.
2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line
2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback