The Kia Forte5 is the forthcoming hatchback variation of last year’s new Forte sedan but packs some interesting and timely updates that make this one of the few hot hatches offered in the U.S. market. The highlights include a powerful turbocharged engine, sophisticated front and rear LED lighting, and a cabin with some boy-racer appeal via carbon-fiber-style surfaces and a six-speed manual box.

Let’s face it: hot hatches just aren’t sexy here. As much as our Euro counterparts get excited about the Fiesta ST, there’s a collective “huh?” in U.S. showrooms over the same car. It just seems too tall, too narrow and diminutive for someone to commit to years of payments. The Honda Civic Si is about as close to the recipe as possible and even this is only offered in staid sedan or also-staid coupe bodywork.

This is set to change with the new Forte5. The name is the dorkiest part: the style of low, crisp and wide proportions makes this car look more like a slammed Sportage or Cayenne than an econobox. The mechanical packages on the Kia show a half-step improvement versus corporate sibling Hyundai, with the turbo engine finally delivering some of the sportiness Kia says defines its products.

So where does the Forte5 site within the Forte line that also includes sedans and coupes? Right in that hot-hatch sweet spot, just moved a little further toward “cool” from the embarrassing current hatchbacks: the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Spark.

Click past the jump for the full review of the Forte5 ahead of its arrival in U.S. dealers at the end of summer 2013.

  • 2014 Kia Forte5
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    6-speed automatic / 6-speed manual (Est.)
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • MPG(Cty):
    29 (Est.)
  • MPG(Hwy):
    38 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Energy:
    Direct gasoline injection, single turbocharger
  • Displacement:
    1.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.9 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    116 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front-engine, front-drive
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2014 Kia Forte5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 510161

At first glance, there is some Scion xD about the front air dam of the Forte5 but luckily that’s just an illusion from the similar paint and bumper shape. The rest of the Forte5 actually looks far crisper than the Forte sedan on which it is based. The “tiger nose” grille is now pinched and dramatically increases its sportiness versus more-plain Kia models, like the European-market Kia Carens wagon.

The Forte5’s cab-forward proportions mean the car always seems leaning forward and ready to pounce. The familiar headlights are oversized with LED running lights forming a swish outward from the grille and over the main beams. HID low-beams are optional and LED fog lights make an appearance for the first time. The SX model jumps two wheel sizes from standard, and rolls on 18-inch wheels with dark-colored accents. The wheel and tire package helps the Forte5 look purposeful and ready for hard driving.

The steeply-raked windshield melds nicely with the curvy roof and glasshouse to effectively recall the new Sportage, arguably Kia’s best-looking model. A front three-quarter window lends excellent visibility but doesn’t compromise the Forte5’s style. A rising swage line puts definition in the sides, as do some deep scallops in the doors that evoke the BMW Z4 among others. It’s a helpful touch that defines the lower half of the car and provides a classier shape than the similarly-curvy Kia Rio5.

Out back, the SX trim packs LED taillights that look like they could be from an Audi A6, a slim rear glass and bulging fenders. As noted before, it looks fantastic for this segment of dullards. Dual chrome-tipped round exhausts poke out from a carbon-fiber-style diffuser panel that gets the job done. The exhaust tips reinforce the sporty credentials of the SX, as does its “GDI Turbo” badge.

The Forte5 shares the Elantra’s long wheelbase, but is a half-foot shorter overall and slightly wider.

2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior Dimensions:

Wheelbase 106.3 in.
Overall length 171.3 in.
Overall width 70.1 in.
Overall height 57.1 in.
Track 61.2 inches (front) / 61.7 inches (rear)
Weight 2,912 pounds (manual), 3,122 pounds (automatic)

2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior Features:

Trim Level EX SX
16" Alloy wheels Standard N/A
18" Alloy wheels N/A Standard
Sport fascias N/A Standard
Dual exhaust with chrome tip N/A Standard
Dual body-color remote mirrors Standard N/A
Dual body-color power mirrors with turn-signal indicators N/A Standard
Body-color exterior door handles Standard Standard
Variable intermittent windshield wipers Standard Standard
Auto-off projection-style headlights Standard Standard
HID headlights Optional Optional
LED rear taillights N/A Standard
Front fog lights Standard Standard
Tinted glass with windshield sunshade band Standard Standard
Power sunroof with tilt Optional Optional
LED positioning lights Standard Standard
Power folding side-view mirrors Standard Standard
Rear hatch spoiler Standard Standard
Rear wiper Standard Standard


2014 Kia Forte5 High Resolution Interior
- image 510165

The interior follows the fake-carbon-fiber route but the result is pretty interesting and unique for a major manufacturer in the $20,000 compact segment. Dress-up kits are a mainstay feature in the European hot hatch markets, where body-color trim pieces can snap into place for a garish appearance. Citroen DS3 Racing and Renault Clio RS, please step forward.

So, the carbon-inspired bits are better than yellow or orange trims all around the interior. The rest of the interior package is extremely current but does look very dark, much like a Volkswagen Golf inside. The sense of quality is just about at VW levels as well.

Kia’s never been shy about calling out every single feature it includes as standard. For example, exterior and interior door handles are offered as standard equipment so you can put the big brick down and lift up on those standard door handles… However, amid the embarrassment of features are some important, class-exclusive options, like the ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The priciest options are the navigation system, power seats and leather trim.

As far as dimensions, the Forte5 packs some real practicality advantages over its coupe and sedan siblings as well as the opposition. The Forte5 has a noticeably huge back seat with more than 3 inches of extra legroom versus a Corolla and a handy 23-plus cubic-feet of flexible space in the cargo area. Of course, this expands to a wagon-like load floor with the SX’s standard split-folding back seat.

2014 Kia Forte5 Interior Dimensions:

Seating Capacity 5
Headroom (Front/Rear) 39.4/38.7 in.
Legroom (Front/Rear) 42.2/35.9 in.
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 56.1/54.9 in
EPA Passenger Volume 98.2 cu. ft.; 96.8 cu. Ft. w/ Sunroof
EPA Cargo Volume 23.2 cu. Ft.

2014 Kia Forte5 Interior Features:

2014 Kia Forte5 Interior Features EX SX
AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio system Standard Standard
Six speakers with door-mounted tweeters Standard Standard
UVO eServices Standard Standard
Navigation with HD Radio Optional Optional
Rear-view camera Standard Standard
USB/auxiliary input jacks Standard Standard
Bluetooth wireless technology Standard Standard
Steering-wheel-mounted audio control buttons Standard Standard
Cruise control Standard Standard
Supervision meter cluster with 4.2" TFT LCD display Optional Optional
Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters N/A A/T
EcoMinder fuel-efficiency monitor A/T A/T
Trip computer Standard Standard
Outside temperature display Standard Standard
Air conditioning Standard Standard
Dual-zone automatic climate control Optional Optional
Power windows Standard Standard
Power door locks with remote keyless entry Standard Standard
Push button start with Smart Key Optional Optional
Door handle pocket light Optional Optional
Puddle lamp Optional Optional
Heated steering wheel Optional Optional
Tilt and telescopic steering column Standard Standard
FlexSteer driver-selectable steering assist Standard Standard
Dual 12V power outlets Standard Standard
Dual map lights with sunglasses holder Standard Standard
Auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink Optional Optional
Glove box light Standard Standard
Cargo cover Standard Standard
Cargo net hooks Standard Standard
Cloth seat trim Standard Standard
Leather seat trim Optional Optional
10-way power adjustable driver’s seat Optional Optional
Driver’s memory seat with two presets Optional Optional
Ventilated driver’s seat Optional Optional
Heated front seats and rear seat cushions Optional Optional
60/40 split-folding rear seat with adjustable rear headrests Standard Standard
Center console with armrest and storage area Standard Standard
Rear-seat center armrest Standard Standard
Front door map pockets with bottle holder Standard Standard
Leather-wrapped steering wheel/gearshift knob Standard Standard
Metal pedals N/A Standard

Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes

2014 Kia Forte5 High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 510168

As Hyundai and Kia both evolve their lineups in fast-forward, often the advanced technology isn’t quite ready. This was the case for the Hyundai Elantra, which lacks the new 1.6-liter turbo four in the Forte5 SX. This new Kia packs some serious heat from its downsized engines, 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque from just 1,750 rpm. This equates to a projected 6.9-second 0-to-60 MPH sprint for the SX manual, which jumps to 8.2 seconds with a slush-o-matic transmission (automatic).

The base 2.0-liter four is new as well, and also packs direct injection that helps bump it to 173 horsepower – about 30 more horsepower than the top Honda Civic and Corolla as well as nearly 40 more than the base Golf and Fiesta. This engine is expected to reach 60 mph in 9.5 seconds as an automatic, the EX’s only transmission.

So a manual box on the highest-powered model? That’s right! Three cheers for Kia. There’s a vacuum of cool, fast cars for buyers in this segment and the Forte5 is set to mop them all up.

2014 Kia Forte5 Driveline Specs:

Trim Level EX SX
Engine Size and Type 2.0L I-4, DOHC gasoline direct injection (GDI) 1.6L I-4, turbocharged DOHC gasoline direct injection (GDI)
Peak power 173 horsepower 201 horsepower
Peak torque 154 pound-feet 195 pound-feet
Transmission 6-speed automatic Six-speed Manual or Six-speed Auto with Paddle Shift
0-60-mph 9.5 seconds, est Manual: 6.9 seconds, est; Auto: 8.2 seconds, est
Top Speed 116 mph, est 116 mph, est
EPA Fuel Economy 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, est 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, est


2014 Kia Forte5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 510172

This new model has yet to be crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, but the previous-gen Kia Forte sedan is still an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2013, so all signs are good. The car comes packed with safety features that are standard across both trim levels.

  • Restraint & Safety Systems
  • Dual front advanced airbags
  • Dual front seat-mounted side airbags
  • Full-length side curtain airbags
  • Front and rear 3-point seat belts
  • Front seat-belt pre-tensioners
  • Height-adjustable front seat-belt anchors
  • 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock Brakes System (ABS)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • VSM (Vehicle Stability Management)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Brake-Assist System (BAS)
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
  • Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) – manual transmission only
  • Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
  • Front and rear crumple zones
  • Side-impact door beams
  • Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)


2014 Kia Forte5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 510170

The pricing for the Forte5 model is not available yet, but should only increase modestly versus the 2013 Forte it replaces. The 2013 Forte has base prices at $18,300 for the EX up to $19,800 for the SX model. The new SX model comes standard with the six-speed manual transmission, so the new one with an automatic, nav and leather will likely top $22,000. This is still exceptional value versus a similarly equipped Civic, Corolla and especially Volkswagen Golf.


2014 Kia Forte5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 510163

The obvious competitors like the Civic and Corolla are only available in sedan body styles and lack the optional turbo engine upgrade like the Forte5 SX. For this reason, the primary competition for the Forte5 is the Ford Fiesta ST and the Volkswagen Golf.

The Forte5 also competes directly with the new Hyundai Elantra GT, another five-door hatch. The Elantra GT is positioned as a less-sporty option for older buyers.

Ford Fiesta ST

no article High Resolution Exterior
- image 483579

The Fiesta ST is Ford’s latest attempt to bring some kind of passion to its smallest car line. If gasoline cost $8 per gallon, the Fiesta might get a second look. In its current U.S.-specifications five-door hatch and four-door sedan bodies, the Fiesta is too embarrassing on the road for most people to consider. The ST packs a wallop, though, with the standard overboost feature taking the 1.6-liter turbo four well past 200 horsepower and pound-feet of torque.

Volkswagen Golf

2013 Volkswagen Golf Mk VII High Resolution Exterior
- image 477387

Lots of enthusiasts immediately think of the GTI when imagining a hot hatch. The Forte5 nearly matches the GTI for power and performance, but is far cheaper to buy than the VW. Base Golf models are closest to the Forte5’s low-twenties price tag. These Golf models are much slower but also pack sophisticated interiors and driving dynamics. The new Mk VII Golf is tipped to arrive here in early calendar 2014.


2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior
- image 510149

The 2014 Kia Forte5 enters the market for fast small cars virtually unchallenged by the segment leaders on performance. The hatchback body style also offers a more cosmopolitan look than the sedan and also packs some real benefits in back-seat and hauling space.

The turbo 1.6-liter engine is just the icing on the cake. Loosely derived from Hyundai-Kia’s World Rally entries, the Forte5 SX with manual gearbox is shaping up to be the must-have compact of 2014. It’s stylish and doesn’t feel too narrow or tall like the Fiesta, while offering similar acceleration to the much-pricier VW Golf GTI.

The biggest question mark surrounds the driving feedback that Kia is able to deliver. The company just opened a permanent testing facility at the hallowed Nürburgring and promises more than 6,000 development miles will be done on all new cars around the ‘Ring before the settings are finalized.

The Forte5 represents the first salvo in Kia’s battle to be taken seriously not only for style and tech, but on the handling dynamics front as well. So far, Kia’s that are sporty and ride hard are still not very adept in the chassis department, so there’s room for improvement.

As far as the basic building blocks go, the Forte5 is ready to be finessed into the first U.S.-friendly hot hatch in years.

Category Rating Details
Driving B+ Big Wheel/Tire Package Promises Good Grip
Performance A Turbo 1.6-liter Delivers Good Power and Sprint Stats, even the base 2.0 is acceptable
Look A Mini-Cayenne Appearance From Some Angles
Value B Pricing Not Set, But SX Still Good Value At Estimated $22k
Overall A- The Best Forte; Most Respectable Hot Hatch in U.S.
  • Leave it
    • Unknown price increase over existing Forte 5-door
    • Automatic will sap performance quite a bit
    • Some of the best exterior features like the LED taillamps are optional on EX
About the author

Press Release

CHICAGO – Kia Motors America (KMA) ignited the 2013 Chicago Auto Show when the all-new, ultra-hot Forte 5-door rolled on-stage today. The all-new Forte 5-door SX’s eye-catching European-inspired hatchback design is complimented by an all-new 1.6-liter gasoline direct-injected (GDI) turbocharged four-cylinder engine putting out 201 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, making the all-new Forte 5-door SX the most powerful Forte from KMA to date. The Forte 5-door is expected to go on sale in the third quarter of 2013, and pricing will be announced closer to launch.


  • 201-HP Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Engine is First for Forte 5-Door SX
  • Lower, longer and wider, the all-new Forte 5-door combines European style with the practicality of a hatchback
  • Forte 5-door is expected to go on sale in the third quarter of 2013
2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior
- image 510155

“We received very positive feedback after the all-new Forte sedan made its debut at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, and we expect the all-new Forte 5-door will build upon that success,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing & communications, KMA. “The combination of a useful hatchback for carrying cargo and the sportiness of the turbocharged SX trim make the all-new Forte 5-door a dual threat in the segment.”

Presented in two trim levels, EX and SX, with two distinct engine choices, the Forte 5-door will offer customers Kia’s long list of premium amenities and features not normally found in the compact segment. Under the hood, the Forte 5-door packs a punch, with the EX’s 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder engine putting out a healthy 173 horsepower and 154 lb.-ft. of torque through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The performance-oriented SX comes standard with the hard-charging 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder, a first for the Forte line. The SX also offers buyers the chance to pick their own gears with a standard 6-speed manual transmission, or they may opt for the 6-speed automatic featuring steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Standard Features and Technology Take Value to New Levels of Sophistication

2014 Kia Forte5 Interior
- image 510156

Carrying on Kia’s reputation of offering tremendous value, the all-new Forte 5-door offers buyers an impressive allotment of technology and safety features. The base EX comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, UVO eServices with rear camera display1, Bluetooth®2 wireless technology, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio3 , leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and cruise control buttons, FlexSteer™, tilt and telescoping steering column, power windows, and LED positioning headlights with fog lights.

The SX trim ups the ante with standard 18-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips, and LED tail lights. Forte 5-door SX also offers an aggressive front fascia with larger bumper and grille openings, black gloss grille inserts, larger front brakes, alloy sport pedals, front and rear seats with carbon fiber-style accents. The lower front fascia and rear valance also feature carbon fiber-look trim pieces.

Additionally, both EX and SX trim levels offer optional HID headlights, navigation system with HD Radio™4, sunroof, heated steering wheel,10-way adjustable power driver’s seat, heated front seats and cooled driver’s seat, heated rear outboard seats, leather seating surfaces, SmartKey with push-button start, electric chromatic rearview mirror and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Stunning European Design Language

2014 Kia Forte5 Emblems and Logo Exterior
- image 510154

Born from the Kia design studio in Seoul and overseen by Kia’s global chief of design, Peter Schreyer, the Forte 5-door’s sophisticated hatchback profile, large wheels and aggressive posture give it a distinctly European appearance that speaks to its performance intentions. The chiseled body commands attention and continues Kia’s tradition as a design leader in the industry.

Like its Forte sedan counterpart, the Forte 5-door’s swept headlights stretch deep into the front fenders and the raked windshield and broad shoulders give the front end a sleek, sporty appearance. LED positioning lights add a premium look to the front fascia. Moving around the vehicle, the large 18-inch wheels fill the wheel wells on the SX, and the hatchback profile affords a performance-oriented European personality. Around back, the rear hatch glass opens to reveal 23.2 cubic feet of usable cargo space. LED tail lights complete the premium feel of the exterior and a sporty rear valance with twin chrome exhaust tips maintains the Forte 5-door’s edgy demeanor.

Sporty Cabin with Premium Features

2014 Kia Forte5 Interior
- image 510157

Inside, the Forte 5-door features premium materials and soft touch points. Large, easy-to-read white-on-black gauges nestle deeply into the instrument cluster. Chrome accents around the HVAC controls and optional push-button start, along with carbon fiber-like textures on the dash and seats, add a sporty touch. A grippy leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are further evidence of the Forte 5-door’s performance aspirations. Class-exclusive available features such as front and rear heated outboard seats, an air-cooled driver’s seat and driver-selectable electric steering further set the Forte 5-door apart from its competition.

Thrilling Driving Experience

2014 Kia Forte5 Exterior
- image 510151

The Forte 5-door SX is the most powerful Forte built by Kia to date, utilizing a 1.6-liter GDI turbocharged four-cylinder that help improve performance. Power is seamlessly transferred to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The GDI powerplant produces 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 195 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,750-4,500 rpm. The advanced powertrain features double overhead cams with dual continuously variable valve timing to help improve efficiency and performance.

The Forte 5-door EX comes standard with a 2.0-liter GDI powerplant producing 173 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 154 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. During durability testing, the engines are run 300 continuous hours at redline under full load then for an additional 20 hours at 10 percent above redline under full load.

To help further improve performance, the Forte 5-door features a sport-tuned suspension with a McPherson strut setup in front and a torsion beam rear design. The Forte 5-door rides on standard 205/55R-16 tires while 225/40R-18 tires are included with the SX trim for an even more sporting driving experience.

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