Text and photos by Eric Tipan
The Stonic and Soluto are spearheading Kia’s resurgence in the market. Unbeknownst to many, the Korean automaker also has a turbocharged sedan in their lineup, and no, I’m not talking about the Stinger.
I’m referring to the Forte. Its name is a figure of speech used to refer to someone’s strength, which is quite apropos because this GT variant probably packs the most power (within its price point), even when compared to the Civic RS Turbo.
Sleeper sport sedan
Its Clear White body isn’t a GT-exclusive color, but it seems like the perfect base to emphasize the red accents (on the black Tiger Nose grille and the rear diffuser) and allows the 17-inch alloy wheels to really stand out.
The body is also underscored by several sporty features — special bumpers, a side-skirt with black accent, a black rear spoiler, dual chrome-coated mufflers, and that GT badge at the rear — but overall, its look is still very non-assuming, almost bordering on generic.
Some exterior equipment though is top notch. It comes with bi-function LED headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and position lamps, a rear spoiler with an LED high-mount stop lamp, and LED rear combination lamps.
It also has a ‘smart entry’ system so just keep the key with you and unlock the doors via a button on the door handle.
What immediately stood out in the cabin was the very classy ‘worn’ look of the perforated leather and the strategic use of chrome and glossy materials in the cockpit. In the footwell are two aluminum pedals and a footrest.
There are GT badges and visible red accents and/or stitching as well on the front seats, steering wheel, and other leather-bound items in the cabin.
The door panels and dashboard top are cushioned and jutting straight up in the middle is an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and connectivity options like Bluetooth, and USB and Aux-in ports.
It also comes with a dual-zone automatic climate control system, steering wheel buttons for audio, cruise control, and the 3.5-inch multi-information display.
The make and materials of the cabin already give off a sense of how special this Forte variant is, but it really hit home when I pressed the illuminated Push-Start button.
What makes this GT stand out over other Fortes is the 1.6L direct injection turbo gas engine that’s mated to a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with manual mode.
Sound coming off the sport exhaust system was the type of rumble and grumble that’s music to the ears of basically anyone who loves to drive hard and fast. The higher up the RPM range you go, the sweeter the engine notes sound as well.
There’s a Drive Mode button (beside the gear shifter) to select between Eco, Comfort, and Smart. While the first two are self-explanatory, the latter was introduced in the Stinger and monitors driving patterns and style in order to switch between the other modes based on driver input and deliver a combination of fuel efficiency, smooth ride, and power.
Even the slightest and gentlest throttle input gets it moving briskly. Put some pressure on the accelerator and while there’s a slight response delay, expect to get pulled back into your seat by its 265-Nm of torque. Mash it and you’ll even get the tires to squeal.
Not even the SLEX can give its 204-PS a workout. 100 km/h is but a trot and, to be honest, trying to keep the Forte at this speed is a true test of patience.
The sport-tuned suspension system (the only Forte with multi-links in the rear) allows it to dive into corners and turn sharply with little to no body roll. The only drawback is the slight stiffness that’s really only noticeable when I hit bad asphalt patches and potholes. But overall, comfort level was high and so was its ability to dampen noise, vibration, and harshness.
The motor-driven power steering loses feel though the faster it goes. It becomes too light and a few times I had to compensate as it went a little off course on a couple of overtaking maneuvers.
Another thing that make this vehicle appear ordinary is its pedestrian ground clearance of 150mm (the Civic RS Turbo is lower at 133mm). But that’s also what I really love about it. Despite its sports car-like features, its range is not limited by humps and ramps.
It’s easy to be fast in car like this and best of all, it’s super fun. You’ll see roads and the highways in a whole new light.
Can it be a track car? That’s probably the only place you’ll ever truly feel all of its power but that’s not to say it can’t be an everyday car. Save for its P1.650 million price (sans safeguard duty bond), I’d love for this to be my daily drive with its average of over 10 kilometers per liter (during MGCQ and ECQ).
Maybe being launched alongside Kia’s grand tourer robbed this baby of its 15-seconds of fame. For less than half the price of the Stinger, the Forte GT delivers the power and performance that will put a smile on your face and make even the most cynical motorist fall in love with driving all over again.