The Forte comes in three different body styles--Forte sedan, Forte Koup (2-door coupe) and Forte 5-door (hatchback)--as well as three different trims: LX, EX and SX. Forte sedans are the only body style to be offered in all three body styles, while Forte Koup and Forte 5-door models can be had only in EX or SX trim.
All Forte models are powered by either a 156-horsepower, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine or by a 173-hp, 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. Both engines have continuously variable valve timing to aid in responsiveness and fuel economy, and both can now be paired with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. LX models come with the manual standard and automatic available, while all EX models come with the automatic transmission. Sporty SX models can be had with either transmission.
Fuel economy is good in the Forte regardless of which model, but Fortes optioned with the Fuel Economy Package get low-rolling-resistance silica tires along with aerodynamic enhancements to yield EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 37 highway.
With the back seats up in position, there's a respectable 14.7 cubic feet of space in the Forte sedan, but the Forte 5-door offers 19.4 cubic feet. With more noise insulation than is typical in this class, the Forte feels quiet and refined inside at anything but full throttle. Leather upholstery and heated seats are available on the SX, also helping to bring an upscale feel.
Kia has paid extra attention to the Forte's ride and handling, combining a very stiff body with a conventional but well-tuned small-car setup, with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion bar in back; most Forte models come with an engine-speed-sensitive hydraulic power-steering system, but EX models with the Fuel Economy Package come with electric power steering to help increase efficiency. SX models, in addition to the more powerful engine, get a performance-tuned suspension along with upgraded brakes.
All Forte models include a 4-speaker sound system with Sirius Satellite Radio capability and a 3-month subscription. Other standard features include Bluetooth connectivity with steering-wheel controls, and a USB connector. SX models also get expanded equipment, including larger alloy wheels, fog lamps, sport seats, leather steering-wheel and shift-knob trim, a special Supervision gauge cluster and tilt/telescopic steering adjustment.
Kia has loaded the Forte with safety features: front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side-curtain bags, active front headrests, electronic stability control and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are all standard.