The 2021 Kia Forte leans into what it means to be a value-oriented sedan but offers even more style and substance than rivals.

What’s New for the 2021 Kia Forte?

2021 Kia Forte -

2021 Kia Forte – |  Shop Kia Forte on

The 2021 Kia Forte carries some resemblance to the sporty Stinger, but that’s as close as it gets. The compact car is looking forward to refresh to its looks to align more to the companies design updates, but not much of note changes for 2021 itself.

Body Style

Starting Price

MSRP $20,085





Fuel Economy

31 City / 41 Hwy (MPG)

Number of Seats


Seats 5

The Breakdown

Punchy 1.6L engine

Unbelievable tech package

Stylish design inside and out

Underwhelming base drivetrain

Still not a Civic Si at the very limit

Piano black finish leaves fingerprints

Ready for a Forte GT3 with more power

2021 Forte Specs

Trims & Pricing

FE - $20,085
LXS - $20,585
GT-Line - $22,285
GT - $22,790
EX - $23,090

2021 Kia Forte Powertrain

2021 Kia Forte 2.0L I4 -
2021 Kia Forte 2.0L I4 -

The 2021 Kia Forte offers a tale of two powertrains to say the least. The base 2.0-liter engine is about as economy-focused as it could get. At 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, it’s slow, a bit loud, and has to work pretty hard to do any sort of sporty driving. The CVT paired to it doesn’t help though and requires a lot of time to wind up and go. Nevertheless, for driving around town or in a city center, it’s perfectly suited. It’s smooth at lower speeds and RPMs and is ultimately very efficient. A 6-speed manual transmission is also available only on the FE trim or the GT trim.

Speaking of which, buyers who go for the Forte GT will get the most bang for their buck we think though. The 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is one I’ve personally driven in the new Elantra N-Line, and it’s brilliant. It makes 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The dual-clutch transmission is a joy and the sports exhaust rewards with little muted pops and bangs on downshifts like you were driving a tiny rally car with a street suit on.

2021 Kia Forte 1.6L Turbo I4 - Drive On Reviews on
2021 Kia Forte 1.6L Turbo I4 - Drive On Reviews on

If there’s anything to complain about, it’s got to be that when pushed really hard, the Civic Si is still better. The Kia just isn’t as capable at holding onto grip at the limit or rocketing out of corners quite as quickly. It’s such a small gap though that we’d probably stick with the Forte. At the end of the day, it’s a joy to drive without requiring any big compromise.

2021 Kia Forte Fuel Economy & MPG

2021 Kia Forte -
2021 Kia Forte -

The 2021 Kia Forte is an economical car. The turbocharged engine is the thirstiest, but still gets 28 mpg combined. Those who pick up one of the other three trims with the naturally aspirated 2.0L I4 can expect between 31 mpg with the manual transmission or up to 35 mpg combined with the CVT.

Interior, Comfort, & Cargo Space

Ride comfort in the 2021 Kia Forte is well above the average car in this segment. It’s composed and smooth over all but the worst of roads. It’s also spacious considering its svelte proportions. Two adults can ride in the back without feeling cramped. Taller folks will want to stick to the front though as rear-seat knee room isn’t generous. The front is much better though as the Forte can be equipped with heated and ventilated seats, dual-zone climate control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. There’s also a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat to find that perfect position.

Cargo space is also outstanding too. With more than 15 cubic-feet of storage space, this little car can haul a lot more than it might seem. In the cabin, Kia has also done a good job of providing small cubbies for smaller stuff like a spacious center console, trays, and door card pockets.

Entertainment & Technology

2021 Kia Forte -
2021 Kia Forte -

Buyers who want technology can’t go wrong when it comes to the 2021 Kia Forte. For the money, it absolutely embarrasses Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen in this department. The 8-inch infotainment system on its own is great. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connect seamlessly and often times are ready to go before you are. Touches receive immediate responses, and even the UVO voice recognition system is fairly impressive. An 8 speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system is available with Clari-Fi technology, but you’ll have to pay extra or each for the EX trim.

Safety Features

We should also mention that Kia’s lane-keep assist is outstanding. Even at high speeds in fairly sharp turns it can do a whole lot of heavy lifting. Kia also provides forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning, drive attention warning, and the aforementioned lane keeping assist as standard advanced safety features from the base level. That’s a theme with the 2021 Kia Forte though. It scored a four-star crash test rating from the NHTSA and was a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS is 2021.

2021 Kia Forte Trims & Pricing

2021 Kia Forte FE -
2021 Kia Forte FE -

FE – $20,085

At the base level, the 2021 Kia Forte comes with a 2.0-liter engine mated to a CVT transmission or 6-speed manual. It also gets lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, and a driver attention warning system. Every Forte FE will also get 15-inch wheels, an 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, cruise control, and four speakers.

2021 Kia Forte LXS -
2021 Kia Forte LXS -

LXS – $20,585

The LXS version of the Forte doesn’t add much on its own. It comes with a slightly nicer interior, 60/40-split folding rear seats, and 16-inch wheels. To get more you’ll need to add the tech package which then includes heated mirrors, a safety-exit system for rear-seat occupants, and blind-spot monitoring.

2021 Kia Forte GT-Line -
2021 Kia Forte GT-Line -

GT-Line – $22,285

Go for the GT-Line and the Kia Forte starts to get a little more fun. Buyers will get cloth and faux leather sport seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, push button start, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Outside they’ll find LED taillights, LED DRLs, and LED fog lights paired with 17-inch wheels. It also opens up packages like the Premium which includes a sunroof, a wireless charging pad, and a special nav-based adaptive cruise system that can slow for speed limits or curves. The GT-Line Sport package adds heated and ventilated simulated-leather front seats and a rear-seat USB charging port.

2021 Kia Forte GT -
2021 Kia Forte GT -

GT – $22,790

The GT is the only way to get the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. That’s sent to the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission or a 6-speed manual. It also gets 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sport-tuned suspension, a sport-tuned exhaust, a wireless charging pad, rear climate control vents, and black faux leather upholstery. Buyers can then add other packages like a technology package with the same nav-based adaptive cruise from the GT-Line. Or they can opt for a GT2 kit that includes everything from the tech pack but also adds a sunroof, rear parking sensors and more.

2021 Kia Forte EX -
2021 Kia Forte EX -

EX – $23,090

The EX is the top-of-the-line trim for the 2021 Kia Forte. It doesn’t carry the fun turbocharged engine or exterior additions from the GT trim, but it does gain a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, Harman Kardon premium audio system, power sunroof, 17-inch machine finish alloy wheels, a spare tire, SOFINO seating trim, heated and ventilated front seats, and chrome interior and exterior accenting. LED lighting also is all the way around, including daytime running lights, taillights, interior lighting, and also provides lower fog lighting.


While the Kia Forte might not come with any complimentary maintenance, the rest of its warranty package is the best in the business. The whole car is subject to a limited warranty that covers 5 years or 60,000-miles. The powertrain is covered for up to 10 years or 100,000-miles.

What we think

2021 Kia Forte -

2021 Kia Forte – |  Shop 2021 Kia Forte on

To complain about the 2021 Kia Forte is to truly nitpick. This isn’t a sports car or a super-eco hybrid, but it’s pretty great at both ends of that spectrum when you ask it to be. It’s also incredibly comfortable, capacious, and full of technology that makes it feel like it should cost twice as much.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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