2019 Kia Forte & 2018 Hyundai Elantra, Agents in the Small Car Invasion

by Sommer Thornton

In the last few years small sedans and compact cars have become a cool option for big city dwellers with sales soaring for whips like the Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Chevy Bolt. More buyers are opting for gas-saving compact whips that fit in tight spaces and can be used for ride sharing services. Plus many of the new hatch and compact sedans have some great get-up-and-go and efficient sporty powertrains.

Kia’s 2019 Forte lineup offers LX, S, EX and SX models taking design cues from the new Stinger stunner. New features for MY19 include Kia’s first Intelligent Variable Transmission that gets its fuel economy in the Forte LX to a combined 35 mpg. Kia’s Forte SX boasts a turbocharged I-4 engine with 201 horsepower, a 6 speed manual transmission and bolstered sport seats.

2019 Forte

Hyundai’s 2018 Elantra has a comparable family of versatile whips with the Elantra Eco, Value Edition, Elantra Sport, Elantra Limited and new high class SE and SEL models.

We reviewed the Hyundai Elantra Eco and Elantra Sport last spring and took the Kia Forte SX DR on a mini road trip through the Midwest a few weeks back. Both the Elantra and the Forte are impressive small cars with spacious rears plus enhanced safety and infotainment tech.


2018 Hyundai Elantra, Unique Trims for Exclusive Buyers

For the new model year Hyundai aims to give the buyers everything they need in the form of six models with various trims. The SEL adds a suite of technology like a rear camera, 3.5 inch TFT digital dash display and center 7 inch display.

The Elantra Sport ($20k-$21k) is an athletic sedan with aerodynamic design and an available 201 horsepower turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. Hyundai really stunts with the Elantra Sport, adding LED daytime running lights and taillights with their standard HID headlights and 16 inch alloy wheels. A moonroof is standard. The more dynamic design includes nimble independent rear suspension. A six-speed manual or seven speed automatic transmission is fitted to the standard Atkinson cycle 4 cylinder engine that boasts 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. A sporty 1.6 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine is available with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

The $20k 2018 Hyundai Elantra Eco we reviewed has a 1.4 liter turbo GDI 4 cylinder engine matched to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The low-slung, front-wheel drive Eco is super-efficient with an estimated 35 mpg combined fuel economy. Fender flares and refreshed grille add style. While welcome lighting, keyless entry and a leather-ish upholstery add affordable amenities. With the drive mode selector, drivers can select between normal and sport modes.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

With more focus on efficient driving, the Elantra Eco will keep rpms low until drivers punch the gas which saves a ton of fuel in stop and go traffic, but lags speeding on the open highway. The Elantra Eco is a worthwhile sedan inside and out, nimble enough to bob and weave on the highway and spacious enough inside to fit kids or equipment. And its fresh functional interior has a 7 inch touchscreen with 6 speaker sound system.

2018 Elantra Eco
2018 Elantra Eco
2017 Elantra Eco

The Elantra Eco is especially ideal for new drivers, college kids and new professionals. Drivers can ride in spacious style and put the whip in sport mode for added atheism.

And whipping the Elantra Eco instead of a bigger sedan will save a ton of money on gas. Even in Chicago where gas prices are high and commutes long, the Elantra Eco had a ¼ tank of gas after a week.





The new $22k Elantra Limited has a unique gloss black leather interior featuring the 7 inch center touchscreen, standard sunroof, auto diming rearview mirror with Bluelink and Homelink, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. The Elantra Limited offers Bluelink safety and driver assistance with a complimentary subscription for three years. Features include Automatic Collision Notification, Monthly Vehicle Health Report, On-Demand Diagnostics, Service Link, SOS Emergency Assistance and more.

2018 Elantra Eco
2018 Elantra Eco

The Elantra lineup also offers smartphone integration via Amazon Alexa for drivers to operate many features remotely like locking/unlocking doors, remote start with climate control, car finder, curfew alert, valet alert, speed alert, stolen vehicle slowdown, immobilization and recovery, alarm notification and geo-fence.

Available safety features on all Elantra trims include lane keep assist, smart cruise control, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

Hyundai steps the Elantra’s game up year after year offering more versatility and affordable atheism and luxury. Its biggest competitors have lagged behind relying on popular designs from years ago. The Elantra is a silent soldier that could take over the segment soon. It just needs to improve the powertrains to compete with more athletic sleeker small cars, like the Mazda3.



2019 Kia Forte Ups the Ante with Fresh Aesthetics and Athletics

The Kia Forte, now in its 3rd generation has always been a forgettable car. But as the compact and small sedan segment becomes more competitive, Kia answers the call by adding a fresh design scheme and interior flair to their Forte line inspired by their new Stinger sports car.

Designers gave the 2019 Forte a fastback-inspired design with a long hood, and cowl point pushed back five inches. A planted athletic stance is enhanced with creases in the hood and a redesigned tiger nose grille. Cues from the Stinger are present in the front fascia and the headlight design. The Forte offers projection or full LED headlights, and LED taillights are available with a sleek horizontal trim line.

2019 Forte
2019 Forte

While the Elantra offers efficient versatile engine options, the Kia Forte may have an advantage, as all of their engine options are both efficient and more athletic.

The 2018 Forte LX and EX both offer a 2.0 liter I-4 GDI (Gas Direct Injection) engine with an impressive 164 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The Forte EX and LX’s 2.0 liter Nu 4-cylinder benefits from Atkinson Cycle technology and a cooled EGR system. The Atkinson Cycle and cooled EGR boosts efficiency, and it’s typically applied to hybrid vehicles. The powertrain can be paired to a six speed manual or Kia’s Intelligent Vehicle Transmission that’s in-house built as part of Smart Stream technology for future Kia whips.

The Forte LX’s IVT utilizes a chain-type belt instead of a push belt, an inaugural innovation in the compact class. This allows for linear acceleration and athletic prowess similar to an automatic trans.

The Kia Forte SX we reviewed features a 1.6 liter turbocharged I-4 DOHC GDI engine with 201 horsepower (6,000 rpm) and 195 lb-ft of torque (1,500 – 4,500 rpm). The SX seemed to have more power than it could handle as the 6-speed manual transmission would lurch the Forte SX forward shifting into 1st. Yet the Forte SX is like a mini rocket able to hit 40 mph from 2nd or 3rd and 60-80 mph in 5th or 6th gear in a split second. Of all the Forte models, the 2018/2018 SX needs the most revising, as the clutch is both finicky and naggy.

The 6-speed manual trans wants to go-go-go and encourages upshifts at just 1,800 rpm. Then after shifting up, the trans seems to just want more and more power and will drop power significantly if cruising and not shifting up. Forth gear is the sweet spot, where the whip could be powerful, agile, and aggressive. There’s little reason to shift up from the flexible 4th gear when driving at 30 – 45 mph, but that means ignoring the annoying gear suggested on the dash’s multi info display.

2018 Kia Forte SX
2018 Kia Forte SX

The Forte SX seems like the oddball hatch of the family that doesn’t know if it should be a sporty road monster or grandpa’s old-school manual compact car. While the powertrain seems sporty, the body – comprised of 54% advanced high strength steel, chassis, suspension and brakes don’t support such a sporty drivetrain.

The 10 inch vented disc brakes work well, but only when floored. One thing is for sure, the Forte SX likes it rough, encouraging hard braking and acceleration and skipping shifts with its suggested gear in the digital dash and huffy transmission.

Motor Driven Power Steering was sturdy but couldn’t keep the Forte SX in check. Luckily a reworked MacPherson strut type front suspension system helped to cushion the Forte SX over bumps, craters and tracks, and helped it remain nimble and exuberant at high speeds. Drivers will still feel the bumps but it’s more athletic and less of a disturbance.

The Forte may not look as cool as the Elantra on the outside, but space is abundant inside with 15 cu.ft. of available cargo space. Many of the dimensions of the Forte have increased and the whip is now 3.2 inches longer, 1/5 inches taller and .7 inches wider.

With more legroom in the cabin, the seemingly small Forte can fit five tall passengers comfortably. The rear offers 35 inches of legroom and 38 inches of headroom.

2019 Forte
2019 Forte

Drawing inspiration from the Stinger, the cabin’s horizontal theme creates a sense of openness with clean lines and minimal buttons placed below the 8 inch touch screen.

Both storage and Infotainment is great in the Forte. And detailed navigation shows icons for construction zones, traffic patterns, incidents and hazardous road conditions. MyCar Zone technology allows drivers to set curfew, speed limit, Geofence and more. And the Forte’s digital dash shows a wealth of info like average fuel economy, range, and other driving stats. A wireless smartphone charger is available.

Kia’s suite of advanced driver assistance system offered in their more pricey whips have made it into the Forte family, make it an even greater value. In addition to the Blind Spot Collision Warning and Lane Keeping Assist, the all-new Forte is available with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist and Smart Cruise Control.

The small car and compact segment is growing increasingly competitive and manufactures must give more for less to compete. Small cars are not just ideal for teens or as second cars. They’re excellent for the usual hellish commute, easy to park in tight spots in congested neighborhoods, and Ray Charles to the pump. Now there’s a demand for special trims with more luxury and accommodations for hobbies and outdoor adventure.