2020 Kia Forte GT Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Viable and less expensive alternative to the Volkswagen GTI
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The inventive engineers at Kia have fashioned a truly delectable sport sedan for 2020 called the Forte GT. Now the term “GT” is without doubt the most overused, misunderstood identifier in the history of car branding. Although originally used specifically to identify grand touring automobiles, it has been so freely applied to anything with wheels that the original focus on grand touring has evaporated altogether. Today, when you see that Kia has appended the GT moniker to its compact Forte economy sedan, you’re likely to snort and remark, “Yeah, right!” But to dismiss the Forte GT as just another grand touring imposter would be very wrong. Because this latest addition to the Kia family is not only the real GT deal, but one of the very best small sedans you can buy at any price. At a list of $22,290, and a loaded price of $26,445, the new Forte GT is a sensational bargain, and a real treasure for the enthusiast.
Where most GT enhancements start and end with visual styling tweaks, Kia constructs their GT from the suspension up, with MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear fully independent design Kia only adds the styling bits you can see after all the hard work is done to the mechanical bits that you can’t see. Here’s a brief recap of the underpinnings that distinguish the Forte GT from the economy car Forte: 201hp turbo motor versus 147hp base motor; paddle shifted 7-speed dual clutch transmission (or 6-speed manual) versus CVT; 18 inch machined finish alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 4 radials (225/40R18) versus 17 inch rims with mediocre all season rubber. If those tasty inducements aren’t enough to whet your appetite for speed, there’s a slew of other hard-core improvements to enjoy, like a tightly sprung sport-tuned suspension, a single pipe, dual tip sport muffler, a sport styled leather steering wheel, and a subtle ensemble of understated appearance/aero improvements. This Kia receives reconfigured “GT-Line” front and rear bumper fascia, GT Line sport side sills and GT Line rear deck spoiler.
Finished in Gravity Grey over black premium leatherette, our test sample looked potent without resorting to the visual bragging you’ve come to expect from performance packages. Rather, Kia stylists have held the flamboyance to a minimum, with “GT” embroidered headrests, red GT center caps for the alloy rims, red stitching on the steering wheel rim, and red highlights woven into the grill and rear diffuser strakes. Our sample carried a few upgrades that we would recommend. The incomparable Sport Cup tires add just $200, and the GT2 package adds $2,200 for blind spot warning, pedestrian avoidance, parking distance warning, rear cross traffic alert, heated and vented Sofino leatherette front seats, power sunroof, and wireless phone charger. All in all, a good investment at a moderate price.
The minute I climbed behind the wheel of the Forte GT to do a picture shoot of it, I knew there was something very special about this sedan. In fact, when I returned home after the photo session, the first thing I said to my wife was “We’ve got ourselves a little hot rod here.” On first acquaintance, the steering feel of the GT instantly announces that this is a very special piece of equipment. It takes just 2.4 turns to run the steering rack from lock to lock, and the GT does a U-Turn in only 34.8 feet. Unlike the droves of boring machines I have cycled through recently, with their so-called “Sport” driving modes, none of them hold a candle to the steering of the Forte GT for instant feedback, precision of placement, or sensitivity to touch. And that’s with the GT in its “Normal” drive mode. Place it in “Sport” mode and you’ll feel like you’re racing an open wheel formula car at the Bondurant School.
The Sport Cup 4 Michelin tires offer phenomenal grip. On one particular decreasing radius freeway onramp, I pushed these tires as hard as I could and never experienced an iota of side slip. The 201hp turbo motor is a joy to manipulate with the paddle shift transmission. It comes up on boost instantly, with no lag and a great note from the “High Flow Active Exhaust” to accompany its trip to redline. Although the GT is supplied with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission as standard, Kia has thoughtfully accommodated all driving enthusiasts by making the GT available with a no extra cost 6-speed manual.
Kia has recently enjoyed great sporting success with their Stinger line of vehicles. The design of the Forte GT builds on the stimulating appearance of the Stinger by importing the more expensive car’s looks and presence to the Forte model line. So successful has Kia been in this endeavor that they have created a viable and less expensive alternative to the king of the compact racers, the Volkswagen GTI.
2020 KIA FORTE GT
ENGINE: 1.6 liter inline 4, gas direct injection, turbocharger
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 27MPG City/35MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $26,445
HYPES: Runs Circles Around Bimmers
GRIPES: Only Had It For A Week
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10