Now that the third-generation Kia Forte (introduced as a 2019 model) shares its platform with the Hyundai Elantra, it only makes sense that it would adopt the go-faster bits that were grafted into the hotter Elantra Sport.
For 2020, Kia introduces the Forte5 GT and Forte GT sedan, both sporting a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 201 hp and 195 lb-ft, driving the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Blasting along a tree-lined road that snakes its way through the interior of Vancouver Island in the 2020 Kia Forte GT sedan, it doesn’t take long to realize it’s quite an entertaining bit of kit. The little turbo four kicks out a meaningful snarl through its dual exhausts, and shoots the four-door from bend to bend on a wave of mid-range torque. The steering is quick and accurate, and delivers excellent feedback – something that couldn’t be said about many Korean offerings just a few years ago.
Planted, Poised, Polished
Body control is good, too. The GT gets upgraded from rear torsion-beam suspension to a multi-link setup, and it feels poised, buttoned down, and eager for the corners. Yes, the ride is firm like a sports sedan’s should be, but not unduly harsh or noisy. Overall, the Forte GT sedan is a very polished piece.
Not a great surprise really, as Kia/Hyundai/Genesis have benefitted greatly in this department since luring suspension guru Albert Biermann away from BMW’s M division. Whatever they are paying him (and you know it’s a truckload), the Koreans are getting their money’s worth. In the few short years that Biermann’s been there, the dynamic signature of the three brands has gone from so-so to so good.
If the Forte GT feels a little more alert than the Hyundai Elantra Sport, well, that is no accident. An engineer on site told me the Kia gets its own suspension tuning – one that reflects brand positioning. Kia is the more youthful and sporty of the two, leading to the slightly sportier suspension setup.
I would wish for quicker response to paddle shifter inputs from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that was developed in-house, as it doesn’t show the immediacy of the sharpest dual-clutches (Porsche PDK) or even the excellent ZF eight-speed auto that’s used by brands ranging from Dodge to BMW to Maserati.
But for most, this will be a non-issue. In all other aspects the transmission works flawlessly on its own, slurring the gears for a relaxed cruise and sharpening up in sport mode. No manual transmission is offered at this point, but Kia Canada brass suggest there could be one in the future.
With its new stiffer structure (thanks to more high-strength steel and increased amounts of structural adhesive), the Forte GT sedan feels substantial and solid. There’s also a properly placed dead pedal for your left foot.
The Mexico-built 2020 Forte GT sedan lists at $28,995, and in keeping with the Kia ethos, the price includes a boatload of features that no doubt has the competition scratching their noggins. Along with the aforementioned mechanical upgrades, the GT also sports bigger front brakes, 18-inch alloys with red accents, side body molding, rear spoiler, rear diffuser, and a cool gloss-black-and-red mesh grille. Interior upgrades include sport seats in faux leather (no ventilation) with contrasting stitching, metal pedals, ambient lighting, and an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation and premium audio. The steering wheel is heated, as are the rear seats.
Ergonomics Designed for… Humans
As with all Kia vehicles of late, the Forte GT’s interior is a paragon of build quality, sensible styling, and excellent (read: safe) ergonomics that place intuitive tactility over dangerous screen-poking. The major gauge cluster is clearly backlit, and rotary controllers and well-marked buttons are used for most systems and features. Bravo.
I found the GT’s sport seats offer up a decent blend of snug support and all-day comfort. Yes, real leather would be nice, but at least the hide on the heated steering wheel is top-shelf supple.
High Count of Safety Systems
The 2020 Kia Forte GT sedan comes standard with blind-spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, LED headlights with high beam assist, auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, and adaptive cruise control.
Good Value, but Is It Enough?
The 2020 Kia Forte GT sedan rings up at a cool $28,995; its mechanical twin, the hatchback Forte5 GT, which is built in Korea, starts at $27,395 but is upgradable to the $29,995 Limited. These two are great value when looking at their performance capabilities, feature count, and overall premium feel. Plus they run on regular-grade fuel. But will they be butting heads with the Volkswagen Jetta GLI and iconic Golf GTI hatchback? Probably not, as the V-dubs are more pricey, more powerful, and carry considerably more cachet. A closer match would be the Honda Civic Si sedan and Civic Sport hatch. Let the games begin.