2020 Kia Forte5: A Hot New Hatchback Exclusive to Canada

Strong points
  • Interesting value
  • Practical cargo space
  • Improved fit and finish
Weak points
  • No manual transmission
  • Below-average fuel economy
Full report

Kia introduced the next-generation Forte sedan for 2019. Now, it’s the Forte5 hatchback’s turn to benefit from a complete redesign.

And you know what? We Canadians have access to this five-door model, but it isn’t sold in the U.S. The Car Guide recently flew to Victoria, B.C. to attend the media launch and test drive the new 2020 Kia Forte5.

Naturally Aspirated or Turbocharged

The Forte5 comes standard with a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that simulates eight conventional gears. It is rated at 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. For the vast majority of drivers, this is ample enough and you won’t get the impression of sitting on a turtle.

In terms of driving dynamics, well, this Kia handles like a typical compact car. It’s no sports car by any stretch, but steering is responsive and the low centre of gravity—lower than your favourite crossover or SUV—makes it fairly agile.

A more athletic GT model is also part of the lineup, though we could only test it in four-door configuration (a separate review is coming up). Under the hood, you will find a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder that produces 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission connects the engine to the front wheels. With this combination, the Korean automaker is taking a shot at the acclaimed Volkswagen Golf GTI/Jetta GLI and Honda Civic Si.

The bad news is that our Forte5 GT is not available with a six-speed manual gearbox. South of the border, the Forte GT sedan offers one and it’s a precious asset for a car with sporty aspirations, even though this type of transmission is nowhere near as popular as it used to be. Kia Canada is leaving the door open, though, so we might get it later.

Generous Cargo Room

The aforementioned Civic and Golf come with a hatchback. Same thing for the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra. Naturally, the Kia Forte follows suit.

Aesthetically, the Forte5 is almost a carbon copy of the sedan from the rear doors forward. The only difference is the roofline. Viewed from the side, the car also shares similarities with the late Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback, especially in the rear.

A look at the specs reveals that the 2020 Kia Forte5 boasts more cargo room (741 litres) than its main rivals such as the Corolla Hatchback (503 litres), Mazda3 Sport (569 litres) and Civic Hatchback (727 litres).

Neat Interior

A few years ago, you could find higher-quality and better-executed interiors among the competition, but this isn’t the case anymore. Both the sedan and hatchback variants of the new Kia Forte compare favourably to most other compact cars on the market. Only the Golf and Mazda3 stand a cut above.

Sure, the cabin is dark and lacks fancy touches, but the controls are easy to reach, whether on the centre stack or the steering wheel. As for the infotainment system, we found it quite user-friendly. What more could you ask for?

Less Popular Than its Cousin

While the Kia Forte is a great product, it continues to trail the platform-sharing Elantra in terms of car sales. Last year, the former sold 14,399 units across Canada, good enough for 10th place on the charts, while the latter found 41,784 takers and landed in the top 3 overall.

The 2020 Forte5 has an edge with regard to pricing. The base EX model starts at just $22,245. While that’s more than the $17,695 asked for an entry-level Forte LX sedan with manual transmission, buyers get a larger number of standard features and amenities. Meanwhile, the turbocharged Forte5 GT retails from $29,995.

On the other hand, fuel economy is below average with city and highway ratings of 8.6 and 6.0 L/100 km, respectively. The Corolla Hatchback is a lot more efficient (7.5 and 5.8 L/100 km) and the sportier Civic Hatchback boasts more interesting numbers, too (7.7 and 6.0 L/100 km). Maybe Kia engineers should do their homework again.

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