Thoroughly Modern Throwback: The 2019 Kia Forte EX

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Kia Forte EX
The 2019 Kia Forte EX.
If you believe everything you read, the four-door sedan is dead but doesn't know it yet.  People who analyze data and trends say we're headed for a future made up of crossovers, high performance coupes and ultra-luxury anythings because there's always a market for the exclusive and expensive---even if they're four-door sedans.

This might be age talking, but I'd hate to see that happen.  Because there is little on this earth as satisfying as a well-built four-door sedan.   BMW proved that all the way back in the 1970s with the 5-series.  Honda brought it to the masses in the 1980s with the Accord and Civic sedans.  Up to that point, two-door coupes were where the action was.  America wanted Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupes with vinyl roofs.  Until it didn't.

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 Kia Forte EX
2019 Kia Forte EX.
The 2019 Kia Forte EX reminds me a lot of my 1984 Honda Civic sedan---with 35 years worth of what we've learned and invented folded in along the way.

It's cleanly designed, reasonably well-powered (147 horsepower from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with your choice of a six-speed manual in the loss-leader FE model (base price $17,790) or an intelligent variable transmission (the only choice in the LXS, S and EX models), and wonderfully fuel efficient (EPA estimate 30 city/40 highway).

Interior view of 2019 Kia Forte EX
2019 Kia Forte EX.
Inside, the dashboard stays low and out of the way, giving the driver terrific visibility.  Just like my '84 Civic.

Where it's changed is what you get these days in an economy car.  My Civic cost $8,200.  For that price, I got one manually-adjusted outside mirror, air conditioning (a dealer-installed option) and an electric rear window defroster.  They were shipped from Japan without radios.  The dealer-installed units were lousy and expensive, so my first stop after taking delivery was a stereo shop, where an Alpine AM/FM/Cassette unit and four speakers were installed for an additional $500.  So the Civic, the way I drove it, cost $8,700.

Adjusted for inflation, that's $21,434 today.

The base price of the top-of-the-line 2019 Kia Forte EX is $21,990, or $556 more in today's money. And here's what you get:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Traction control
  • Electronic stability control
  • Vehicle stability management
  • Hill-start assist
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents
  • AM/FM/mp3 audio system with eight-inch touchscreen and rear camera
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • SiriusXM Satellite Radio
  • USB charger
  • Bluetooth
  • Power-adjustable driver's seat
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Pushbutton start/smart key/smart trunk
  • Blind-spot collision warning
  • Driver attention warning
  • Forward collision avoidance
  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Rear cross-traffic collision warning
  • Fog lights
  • LED taillights and daytime running lights
  • Power heated outside mirrors with LED turn signals
The '84 Civic had a 3 year/36,000 mile warranty.  The Kia? 10 years/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty, 5 year/60,000 mile limited basic warranty and 5 year/60,000 mile roadside assistance.

Our test car had an added $3,335 in options (an upgraded Harmon Kardon premium audio system with Clari-Fi, navigation, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power sunroof, LED overhead lighting, wireless phone charger, forward collision avoidance, parking distance warning, smart cruise control, LED headlights with automatic high beams, upgraded 17-inch graphite finish alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and carpeted floor mats).  

Roll in $895 inland freight and handling and that's $26,220.   Well below the average transaction price for a new car in America---and well above the level of value and satisfaction most cars in its class deliver.