If the 2020 Kia Forte GT looked like it sounded, it might scare people in parking lots.
It looks like, well, a Forte with a tasteful spoiler. But it growls – more than a purr, but not quite a roar.
Since we were about to take it on some perilously narrow roads through a Vancouver Island rainforest, that growl made me worry that the Forte GT might be a little too jumpy. Some sports cars, even budget sedans, want to go fast all the time.
But even during hairpin turns where it was a tight squeeze for traffic in both directions, the Forte GT stayed under control.
If I hadn’t been worried about motorhomes barrelling around the next corner, it probably would have been fun.
Kia introduced an all-new Forte sedan last year, but it took a year for the GT – with a 207-hp turbo instead of the standard 147-hp four-banger and a dual-clutch automatic transmission instead of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) – to make it to the Canadian market.
It also took a year to get the Forte’s hatchback version, the Forte5, which won’t be sold in the United States. Canadians like hatchbacks, especially in Ontario and Quebec.
And if you’re looking for a hot hatch, we’ll be getting a hatchback version of the GT in a few weeks.
Sorry, no stick
Unlike its corporate cousins, the Hyundai Elantra Sport and Elantra GT, the Forte GT doesn’t come with a standard transmission.
That might disappoint those who like their sports cars with a stick shift. (The lower-powered base-model Forte has a manual option.)
But on the road, the Forte GT actually feels a lot sportier than the Elantra. And that’s by design, Kia says, as it tries to stand out as the more performance-oriented of the two brands.
I also drove a Forte5 in EX trim ($20,995). It didn’t feel underpowered. But the GT is definitely more fun to drive, if a little too stiff.
When we finally got the the GT on the highway, I had to switch on the cruise control to keep me from speeding. In a world of 700-plus horsepower cars, it’s not a beast. But for a compact, it’s got plenty of pep.
The Forte’s slogan is “a compact, not a compromise.” And it fits. For $28,995, the GT boasts more standard features than its rivals, including all the safety tech and built-in navigation.
Does it live up to that growl? Almost. But if you’re looking for more style, you might want to check out the Mazda3 or Honda Civic.
- Base price: $28,995
- Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission/drive: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic/front-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city/6.6 highway
- Alternatives: Hyundai Elantra GT, Mazda3 GT, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Si, Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Corolla
Looks can be deceiving. The Forte GT isn’t bland, but it might not turn heads – until you step on the gas. Black mirrors, a black spoiler, red details on the grille and 18-inch wheels with red trim make it a little sexier, without looking out of place.
It comes with nearly everything you could ask for, and controls are simple and logical. The switch to turn off lane-keeping assist was a little tricky to find while driving. Some of the interior plastics feel a bit cheaper than the Honda Civic and Mazda3. The back seat is a little tighter than rivals', as well.
Handling is precise, but the ride is a little stiff. The dual-clutch transmission is an improvement over the CVT.
It comes standard with adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. It also has wireless charging and Android Auto/CarPlay.
At 705 litres, it’s got a big trunk. It’s second only to the Honda Civic in its segment.
If you’re looking for some fun on the road, there’s not much compromise in this sporty compact.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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