2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Review

Kia takes on the sporty hatchback set with its best weapon: value

2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Review
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The Forte was Kia’s first shot at redemption. Replacing the simple Spectra with something more dramatic wouldn’t be difficult, especially since it would be then-new head designer Peter Schreyer’s first kick at establishing the company’s new styling direction. Although it borrowed many cues from its Honda Civic rival, the Forte sedan and two-door Koup were distinctive enough to quiet most of the complainers. Looking to add some utility to the model range, a five-door Forte was quickly added, making it one of the few hatchbacks in the segment.

FAST FACTS

1. Cargo room behind the rear seat is rated at 19.4 cu-ft.

2. Just two trims are offered, an EX with a 156 hp 2.0L 4-cylinder and the SX with a 173 hp 2.4L.

3. EX models start at $18,100 with the SX at $19,600.

Besides the obvious addition behind the C-pillar, the Forte5 gets some unique detailing to differentiate itself from the more sedate sedan. It’s slightly more aggressive and sits lower on its wheels thanks to more athletically oriented suspension tuning on every model. There’s more than a hint of Mazda3 Sport in the side-view, while the rear end isn’t terribly unique; features like the ubiquitous faux air diffuser, sharp taillights and a five-sided rear window are seen on plenty of its rivals. Overall, it’s a pleasant package and those cues blend well with the aggressive ‘dip’ in the front window line.

NO SUCH THING AS A BASE MODEL

2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Steering Wheel

Since the five-door isn’t available in entry-level LX trim, our no-option EX tester is as ‘base’ as they come… And it certainly doesn’t feel like a penalty box thanks to a six-speaker audio system with USB input, Bluetooth hands-free, air conditioning, plus power locks, windows and mirrors. Although a few years old now, the design still looks clean and inviting.

The Forte 5-door offers nearly 20 cu-ft of cargo space with the seats up; not a huge amount more than the sedan. But of course, dropping the rear 60/40-split bench expands that amount dramatically. And the utility of a hatch is being able to stuff tall and awkwardly shaped items in without too much stress. It also has the increased benefit of making child-seats easier to install too since the top-strap can loop over the folding seat-back rather than being jammed up on a rear-parcel shelf in the sedan.

2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Back Seat

TWO ENGINE OPTIONS

2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Engine

Our tester was easy to get around town thanks to the 156-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which worked quite well with the standard six-speed automatic transmission since there are only 2,840 lbs to move around. Kia estimates the Forte 5-door consumes 26 mpg in town and 36 mpg on the highway, which seems a tad optimistic, but we didn’t notice anything outrageous in our week with one.

Upgrading to the top-end SX model brings a 173-horse 2.4-litre four, but neither engine inspires any sense of passion. Don’t forget that these are the ‘old’ Kia engines, not the direct-injection units found in the Soul and Rio that produce more grunt and consume less gas in the process.

As mentioned earlier, Kia’s five-doors are aimed at a more enthusiastic driver, although the 16-inch wheels and 205/55R16 all-season tires are shared with the sedan. The Forte hatch does have a slightly firmer ride, a hint of more responsive steering, and more roll control in the corners.

KIA PRICING, BUT WITH SOME TRICKS

At $18,100, the EX isn’t a bad deal at all… only two real options are available: a technology package with navigation, a rear-view camera, push-button start, automatic climate control and some chromed niceties outside for $1,800 plus there’s a power sunroof for $750. For comparison sake, the SX is $19,600 with 17-inch wheels, the bigger 2.4-litre engine and not much else. Its option packages mimic the EX, although you can also order leather-covered seats for an extra grand.

2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Driving

Here Kia should be raked over the coals a little: If you order the SX Tech package, you are required to order the leather seats and sunroof for a total hit of $2,500. Not nice. You can, however, order the leather or sunroof alone without triggering the trap…

THE VERDICT

The Kia’s biggest rival, the Mazda3 i Touring, runs about $20K with its new Skyactiv engine and automatic transmission, while the Ford Focus SE is $19,500, but still comes with plastic wheel-covers and costs over $20,000 to get close to the Forte 5-door. Ditto the Volkswagen Golf.

2012 Kia Forte 5-Door Hatchback Back

We won’t even bring up the Toyota Matrix (too slow) or Scion xB (too soft) or current Elantra Touring, which is already set to be replaced by the new Elantra GT.

Until then, the Forte 5-door certainly warrants a test drive. Even in its most basic form, it’s a fun, good-looking hauler that should be popular with younger buyers. Perhaps a little less engaging that its rivals, this hatchback is strong on value.

LOVE IT
  • Sportier handling than sedan
  • Stylish interior
  • Hatch brings added flexibility for cargo
LEAVE IT
  • Uninspiring engine
  • No manual transmission available on five-door
  • Anonymous rear styling

Related Reading
2012 Mazda3 Review
2012 Ford Focus Hatchback Review
2012 Subaru Impreza Hatchback Review
2011 VW Golf Review
2012 Toyota Prius V Review
2011 Scion xB Review

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  • Rtcarlson

    We bought the Forte primarily for the gas mileage on the highway which was supposed to be 36 mpg.  We haven’t even come close to getting that – best has been only 32mpg.  We are very disappointed and regret the purchase 

  • J.D

    Love the car and I am very happy with my purchase. The fuel economy is great. I average 35mpg(U.S gal) and the car is brand new so the millage will improve over the next month or so. The car feels very solid more European than the lighter Japanese feel. I shopped around and payed on average 3k less than comparably equipped competitors. This is my second Kia and the first was in a head on collision and not ony was I able to come away unhurt but the car was put back together easily and drove me around for a few more years before I sold it. The parts are resonably priced. I bought the EX with sunroof and automatic trans. The engine pulls well and is quiet in the cabin the auto shifts OK but it goes into 6th gear easily so it makes the engine feel sluggish but its not if I use the the sport manual mode and leave it in 5th unless Im going over 50. The suspension is stiff and you do feel the bumps and Ive heard the SX is even stiffer hence the reason I bought the EX. Its an 8 out of 10 in my books. The downside being no overdrive on of on the transmission to keep it out of 6th gear and the stiffer than normal suspension. The plus is the cost, fuel economy the fact it has a timing chain not a belt so that saves me 700.00 every 3 or 4 years. The standard features the build quality, handling and cost of repairs and of coarse the warrenty.  I would say looks but thats personel preferance I like the looks got it in white and think that color works best on this car. Get the sunroof its worth the 700 and will help resale value.

  • Anaheim guy

    Our 2012 Forte EX is the 2nd brand new KIA we’ve bought in less than a year. We did look at the Focus, Mazda, VW, etc…but for the best overall value the Forte can’t be beat, and if you factor that with the 100,000 mile 10 year warranty you’ve got a reliable, safe and fuel efficient cat that looks great too. The assembly quality and paint is also superb…and the windows are solar glass..clear with no dark tint but blocks all the sun’s heat and you can see out at night! On longer trips, we drive round trip to our vacation house in the next state on nearly half the fuel we used when driving our Mazda3! 

  • Matthew_larson8

    Just bought a new Kia Forte I love it looks good feels good and also rides good. I was very impressed with it!!

  • Cmhclicursi

    I am happy with my kia 5door Forte, but of course it is great with light loads.  Hmmmm…I will just say there is always something better about each car;    I feel it is great for the money!   and simple to take care of….well newer cars always get better

  • Camykid711

    Pros. Style, feel, stearing, gas, picks up quick, lots of room, comfortable, quiet, I love driving it everyday

    Cons. 24-36 more like 22-30, still good though. Stereo, lights not bright enough, windshield whipper speed.

    Over all. Best car I’ve owned.

  • MSUMom

    After test-driving the Ford Focus we went to the Kia dealership to just see what was available – we test-drove a Forte EX Sedan and fell in love!  The ride is great, handling is great….it is so smooth!  My husband and I agree that you feel like you are driving a sports car!  So far – we love it!!!  I am a little nervous about driving in snow – the tires having such a low profile has me a little worried but I guess we will see!  I might have to look in to getting some “winter” tires…I hope not, but time will tell!

  • Patriboo4

    we just bought a 2013 forte 5 door and couldnt be happier. we are getting 37mpg hwy and 32 city. it came loaded with lots of extras. The value just couldnt be beat by any other company other than its sister hyundai of coarse. we also have on 05 optima lx and love it as well. havent had any problems other than a battery and tires and brakes.  i just had to do all that this year but the car has 83,000 miles. not bad at all. the new forte hatback we got has a european feel to it and its just awesome to drive. we traded our 2010 dodge caliber for it. the caliber was just an aweful car and we just loved our optima so much we went back to kia. love the 10yr 100,000 mile warrenty. dohbt i will ever buy anything other than a kia or hyundai ever again.

  • Srowshan

    writing a comment

  • IFeelGypted

    This is the first KIA I have ever purchased and frankly, I am not too pleased. To me, the mileage sucks – nowhere near what they advertise. I can understand being off a bit, but I am only getting 350KM per tankful (40 litres). Nowhere near the 6.9 combined they tout. As well, I feel gypted because the US KIAs come with a 10 year warranty while the Canadian dealers only give a 5 year. What’s up with that? I don’t know…after 6 Hondas, I thought I’d give KIA a chance. I think I made a big mistake.

  • IFeelGypted

    I am reposting this comment because I am new to this site and I did not realize I replied to a year old post. Sorry for the confusion.

    This is the first KIA I have ever purchased and frankly, I am not too pleased. To me, the mileage sucks – nowhere near what they advertise. I can understand being off a bit, but I am only getting 350KM per tankful (40+ litres). Nowhere near the 6.9 litres per 100KM combined they tout. As well, I feel gypted because the US KIAs come with a 10 year warranty while the Canadian dealers only give a 5 year. What’s up with that? I don’t know…after 6 Hondas, I thought I’d give KIA a chance. I think I made a big mistake.

  • IFeelGypted

    I am glad you are having a better experience. I couldn’t be more disappointed with mine. I have posted above.

    I can also see others (Camykid711 below) who are also experiencing disappointing mileage. While I know that driving conditions and habits make a difference, I cannot see a difference of about 20+%. All I know is that my Honda Civic is within 5% of what they advertise.