Focused celebration: The 2020 Kia Forte GT

Kia Philippines has been able to import a truly compelling compact that deserves its rightful place in garages at P1,650,000. The Kia Forte GT test unit produces 201bhp at 6000rpm and 195lb-ft of torque from 1500-4500 rpm, and accelerates from 0-100kph in 6.8 seconds with a 232 kph top speed.

Compared to the outgoing Forte, the new model, which I would like to call the “baby Stinger GT,” is 81mm longer, 20mm wider, and 5mm lower with the same 2700mm wheelbase. The length of the wheelbase may be the same but the chassis is considerably better now as it is constructed with 54 percent advanced high-strength steel compared to the outgoing model which also allows it to use better suspension components. The new, more rigid chassis also improved weight savings to as much as 150 pounds lighter than before, even with the well-designed larger cabin and trunk. Peter Schreyer is responsible for its design; hence it looks so much like the Stinger. Kia’s California design studio under Kurt Kahl’s direction is responsible for the first- and second-generation Forte models.

The Forte shares its platform with the sixth-generation Hyundai Elantra. The domestic packaging for the Philippine versions of both models is starkly different with the Kias coming out on top of every equivalent model. Since Hyundai Philippines did not import the Elantra GT and went instead with the unique Veloster Turbo to represent affordable high-performance driving solutions, the Forte GT stands out as the optimal harbinger for sporting compact sedans which used to be the domain of Honda.

The Forte GT, like the Veloster, uses fully independent multi-link rear suspension (the EX and LX models use the more modest rear torsion-beam setup) but with a 50mm longer chassis, while employing the same seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox transmission and potent 1.6-liter direct injection intercooled turbo.

The spacious Forte GT sedan weighs about 70kg more than a similarly packaged and considerably smaller Veloster. In our market, the Veloster is specified with lower trim yet costs P148,000 more. The standard 17 x 7J alloys wrapped with 225/45R17 Kumho Ecsta HS51 tires look fairly well but don’t look or function as good as the optional 18-inchers. The standard ride and grip would improve dramatically with better tires. 

There are a lot of design features that are deliberately similar to the Stinger which are all very welcome. I particularly like how the front side-air vents look in contrast to the rest of the well-designed dashboard. The unique exterior bodywork includes a fully functional dual exhaust system with a refreshingly good soundtrack and tasteful rear spoiler. The projector front fog lamps are halogen but the rest of the lighting are LED, which is fantastic.

The abundant red piping and stitching contrast very well against the sea of black leather and padded plastics. I am glad to see that a mechanical rear e-brake is still used as well, which is appropriate for this genuinely enthusiastic sporty compact sedan. That, plus the ability to disable the nanny systems combined with the overachieving drivetrain and accurate steering, makes the Forte GT an authentic driver’s car. The Forte GT also uses an inch-larger front disc brakes at 12 inches compared to its siblings but shares the same rear disc size of 10.3 inches with the EX (the LX uses drum rear brakes).

The floating eight-inch center screen with rear guided parking camera is cool and works fairly well with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability but I wish the six speakers were swapped out for the optional nine-speaker 320-watt Harman Kardon infotainment system that would have had built-in navigation as well.

In addition to its generous list of standard equipment, other notable features on the Forte include an excellent multi-function flat-bottom multi-surface steering wheel, power-adjustable front driver seat, front and rear parking sensors, crisp analog instruments with a 3.5-inch multi-function central gauge display, body kit with red insert front grille, aluminum pedals, electro chromatic rearview mirror, drive mode selection, cruise control, smart key with cool key fob, multiple airbags, and rear aircon vents.

I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the Kia Forte GT — it was a surprise hit for me. The Kia Forte GT at the moment is the finest, best performing and most enjoyable compact sedan in its class. It is the Veloster with more luxury, space, and comfort. It is truly the baby Stinger GT.

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