2022 Kia Forte Review and Test Drive

Often overlooked, the Kia Forte offers compact car buyers more than just value.

Beverly Braga | 
Jul 7, 2023 | 10 min read

2022 Kia Forte GT in gray parked with denudate trees in the distanceBeverly Braga

Trucks and SUVs dominate the American automotive marketplace, making big vehicles big sellers, and traditional cars a dying breed. Of course, they're not yet extinct, but the number of car models has certainly dwindled over the past half-decade. As a result, trucks and SUVs would rank as "least concerned" regarding their survival on an automotive conservation scale. At the same time, cars are increasingly "critically endangered" based on shrinking sales numbers and market share habitat.

So, why has Kia bothered to update a model within a market segment that auto industry analysts say is doomed? Because somehow, someway, the Forte compact sedan was the automaker's best-selling vehicle in 2021. That year, Kia enjoyed its biggest sales tally in the U.S. market (until 2022), and, in part, it had the Forte's 36% year-over-year sales growth to thank for it. Moving almost 116,000 units is no small feat, regardless of what the vehicle's size suggests.

2022 Kia Forte GT in gray, rear quarter viewBeverly Braga

Completely redesigned in 2019, the third-generation Kia Forte receives a light refresh for 2022. An updated exterior design, enhanced infotainment and connectivity, and more advanced safety features keep the compact Kia competitive within its segment and among the auto world's apex predators.

The 2022 Forte is available only as a front-wheel-drive sedan, and most have an unremarkable 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). For this 2022 Kia Forte review, I test-drove a Steel Gray GT model equipped with a snappier turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

(As the sporty Forte, the GT trim is also available with a six-speed manual.) Kia provided the test vehicle for evaluation in Michigan, and it came with the GT2 Package and carpeted floor mats), bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $26,940, including a $1,095 destination charge. 

2022 Kia Forte GT in gray, side profile viewBeverly Braga

2022 Kia Forte Review: The Design

The Kia Forte's exterior design tweaks are slight but impactful. New headlights, an updated "tiger nose" grille, a low-profile trunk lid spoiler, and revised front and rear bumpers give the compact sedan a sleeker, leaner, and more athletic appearance.

On GT-Line and GT models, the formerly rounded fog lights are now tri-stacked LEDs fully integrated into the air intake. Again, that is a subtle design shift, but the result is a more aggressive and wider stance. Similarly, Kia revises the taillights and rear combination LED lights for the Forte GT-Line and GT in a sporty fashion. Finally, Kia caps things off with new dark-gray alloy wheel designs for LXS and GT-Line trims.

2022 Kia Forte GT in gray, detail shot highlighting front grille and Kia logoBeverly Braga

Last year's Forte wasn't a design dud, but it did appear dowdy from certain angles. But, hands down, the refreshed Kia Forte looks more fun to drive, even if it is a carryover model performance-wise. My GT test car, with its dual exhausts and suggestively sporty red accents, look more eager to travel down curvy country roads than on a stop-and-go city grid.

Unlike the exterior, the Kia Forte interior styling is unchanged. For the most part, the new-for-2022 interior updates are ones you can't physically see, like standard wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, added hands-free smart key functionality, and complimentary over-the-air navigation map updates for GT-Line and GT models. Tangible additions include a larger and standard 4.2-inch full-color instrument cluster data display and an available rear USB charger.

2022 Kia Forte GT back seatBeverly Braga

But the Forte's cabin is not at all inferior or dated. For design continuity, the splashes of red subtly applied to the GT model's exterior follow through into the vehicle's cabin. Red contrast stitching on the black SynTex simulated leather upholstery, doors, and steering wheel further promote the vehicle's sporty vibe. And there is attention to detail in the materials used — usually. The Forte GT's interior is a strange dichotomy of high-end visual appeal contrasting with low-end tactile sensations.

The interior lighting fixtures, for example, are easy to dismiss, but the plastics used are high-quality in look and feel. Same with the center console controls and shift knob. But other frequent touchpoints like the steering wheel and seats feel chintzy. With my hands on the steering wheel, it feels like driving using a round brick. The top and bottom of the flat-bottom, sport-style wheel appear leather-wrapped, but sections of the rim feel like terrible, cheap urethane perforated to resemble premium leather.

Similarly, the driver's seat is a mixed bag. I appreciate the bolsters and lumbar adjustments, but the seat bottom cushion is flat and stiff. The cupholders lack support as well. Despite the tabs meant to keep a drink container in place, the standard 500-ml plastic bottle of water I placed there still rattled incessantly. In frustration, I moved it to the door cupholder, where it remained quiet. 

2022 Kia Forte GT interior and dashboardBeverly Braga

2022 Kia Forte Review: The Technology

The Kia Forte packs quite a technology punch into its compact environs. As previously mentioned, a 4.2-inch color LCD driver information display is now standard in all 2022 Forte models instead of only in the GT, replacing a 3.5-inch monochrome one.

The infotainment system has a standard 8-inch touchscreen display with access to Kia Connect connected services, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, and HD Radio. The Forte GT-Line and GT upgrade with a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation with OTA updates, and voice recognition. A rear USB charger and wireless smartphone charging pad were previously exclusive to the Forte GT, but are now available for the GT-Line trim.

With the larger touchscreen, the infotainment system's graphics display a premium appeal. I don't care for the 80s-themed neon colors that Kia uses for the icons, but that's apparently a set-in-stone Kia branding choice that owners cannot change. Thankfully, you're allowed to adjust the screen brightness at least.

Perhaps my seating position affected my touchscreen-tapping angle, but I was rarely accurate when attempting to access the infotainment for any reason while driving. There's no haptic feedback either, so you just poke your finger at the center display and hope for the best. Using audible commands didn't make life any easier.

2022 Kia Forte infotainment screen main menuBeverly Braga

In my experience, the voice recognition feature didn't recognize much of anything. Trying to use voice commands for navigation other than "Taco Bell," the system didn't understand a word I said. It translated "ice cream" to "kimchi," "Kung Fu Tea" to "No Kal Tire," and "Massage Envy" popped up as a "text message is unavailable" notification. Like my battle with the water bottle rattle, I gave up and went old school: I used Google Maps on my smartphone.

Additional technology is of the advanced safety variety. The 2022 Kia Forte is available with the Kia Drive Wise suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Of the 15 available ADAS features, six are standard on the Forte. These would be forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist (new for 2022), and a driver monitoring system. In addition, a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is available on most trims.

Other new ADAS features for 2022 are the available Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Safe Exit Warning (SEW), Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control-Curve (NSCC-C), and Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control-Zone (NSCC-Z). For clarification, NSCC-C will automatically slow the vehicle in anticipation of upcoming curves, and NSCC-Z will actively monitor highway speed limits and adjust accordingly.

2022 Kia Forte infotainment screen, driver-assistance systems menuBeverly Braga

This long list of safety equipment is not as intimidating to use as it may seem. There is likely no need to review the owner's manual because choosing ADAS settings and using the technology is intuitive.

On the highway, with every allowable ADAS feature active, the technology was not intrusive or jittery in execution. Highway Driving Assist is especially impressive, combining adaptive cruise control with the new-for-2022 lane-centering assist feature to make highway driving easier. With no other traffic around, I took my hands off the steering wheel to test the Forte's ADAS alerts.

While HDA is not a hands-free driving system, to my horror, I was able to drive without my hands on the steering wheel for an excessive amount of time — nearly three minutes.

2022 Kia Forte GT with trunk open, showing cargo space with carry-on luggage bag insideBeverly Braga

In every vehicle I've tested so far this year, within seconds (generally no more than 30), audible and visual warnings would notify me to retake control of the vehicle. If I do not, the standard precaution is that all ADAS will deactivate. On multiple occasions, I could drive the Forte in hands-free silence for more than a minute. The longest session lasted 2 minutes and 41 seconds before I became too anxious and grabbed the steering wheel.

This behavior, in my opinion, is distressing and unsafe. During my unscientific test, I concluded that the time of driver inactivity allowed coincided with the road itself. During long, straight, flat stretches of highway, the Forte remained mum to my ignorance of the steering wheel. Then, when the road exhibited a slight curve requiring a steering adjustment, the warnings would flare up within 30 seconds.

In crash safety tests, the Forte fares somewhat well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Kia Forte a four-star (out of five) rating, but dig deeper and you'll see this Kia earns an unimpressive three-star rating for front passenger protection in a frontal crash. In addition, the Forte earns mostly Good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

2022 Kia Forte GT engine bay and turbocharged powertrainBeverly Braga

2022 Kia Forte Review: The Drive

The Kia Forte's base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a CVT, and it makes an unremarkable 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. Kia reserves a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for the GT trim, producing a robust 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Only the GT model has a choice of transmissions: a seven-speed DCT or six-speed manual. Also exclusive to the Forte GT is a sport-tuned suspension with an independent rear multi-link design and a sport-tuned, chrome-tipped dual exhaust.

All Forte models except the stick shift-equipped GT feature a Drive Mode System that offers Normal, Sport, and Smart settings. You activate it by simply pressing the "Drive Mode" button to the left of the shifter. It's difficult to distinguish a change in vehicle behavior between Smart and Normal, whether in the gearing or throttle response, but Sport provides a more obvious difference.

The Forte GT's engine note is quiet, almost muted when idling in Normal or Smart mode. Switch to Sport, though, and you can hear a faint, low growl, combined with heavier-feeling steering, which lends to an added sense of agility and confidence compared with the ho-hum, commuter-oriented Normal and Smart settings.

2022 Kia Forte GT in gray parked with denudate trees in the distanceBeverly Braga

My Forte GT test car accelerated briskly, and the turbo-four did produce some torque steer, but I enjoy a bit of off-the-line squirreliness. On the highway, the DCT shifted smoothly, but in stop-and-go city traffic, it was a little clunky and, at times, hesitant.

The overall ride is compliant, but the suspension is on the stiffer side. As a result, those who do more city commuting than mountain road meandering might want to opt out of the GT's sport tuning. And for all of its performance leanings, the Forte GT is merely adequate when compared with other sport compact cars. The Honda Civic Si, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Jetta GLI, for example, have a long history of better appealing to buyers who prioritize performance.

Official EPA fuel economy ratings for the Forte GT are 27 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in combined driving. In a 230-mile mix of hard driving, freeway cruising, and city traffic, the Forte GT returned an overall combined mpg of 30.7, which is on par with the EPA numbers. 

2022 Kia Forte GT in gray parked in front of denudate treesBeverly Braga

Is the 2022 Kia Forte a good car?

For the most part, the Kia Forte is a good car. In addition to its fundamentally appealing design and packaging, it offers a huge trunk for a compact sedan, it comes with one of the longest warranties you can get, and it earns decent safety ratings .

If performance is your priority, there are better choices in the sport compact sedan segment, but if you're simply seeking a commuter with a side of sport to keep you engaged on the way to the office, the Forte is a pretty solid bet.

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

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Beverly Braga

Beverly Braga is a freelance writer and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience as a storyteller and communications professional. Her work has appeared in numerous print and digital outlets covering the automotive, entertainment, lifestyle, as well as food and beverage industries.