Best & Worst Kia Forte Years

I've taken a closer look at every Kia Forte model from 2010 until the latest model and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

In this guide, I’ll analyze all Kia Forte generations, revealing the best Kia Forte years to buy and the worst Forte model years to avoid.

We’ve meticulously compiled a comprehensive review by leveraging in-depth analyses and evaluations from reputable sources such as the NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and Edmunds.

We will zoom in on the specificities of each Kia Forte generation, highlighting crucial aspects like performance, technology, safety, common owner-reported problems, recalls, and resale values that shaped its market standing.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

Kia Forte Generations

The Kia Forte, first introduced in 2010, quickly made a name for itself in the compact car segment.

Its debut model, the first generation (TD), was lauded for its modern design, comfortable interior, and competitive pricing, making it a strong option for budget-conscious buyers seeking a reliable and stylish vehicle.

Here’s a table outlining its generations from 2010 to the present:

1st generation (TD)2010-2013
2nd generation (YD)2014-2018
3rd generation (BD)2019-Present

We list these generations to offer a comprehensive overview, as there have been significant changes between each generation, especially in design, features, and performance, which can be crucial in influencing a buyer’s decision.

Kia Forte Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

In determining the best, neutral, and worst years for the Kia Forte, we consider various factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

The following graph represents a comprehensive analysis of these factors, showcasing how each year of the Kia Forte ranks overall.

Kia Forte Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Here is a table categorizing each generation of the Kia Forte into best, neutral, and worst years based on extensive research and data compilation:

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation201120132010
2nd generation2016
3rd generation2020

“Neutral Years” didn’t experience significant issues or excel exceptionally, offering buyers a reliable but not outstanding option.

It’s important to note that factors such as NHTSA recalls negatively impact our rankings. A higher number of complaints and recalls typically indicates a lower reliability for the vehicle.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst years for the Kia Forte.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Forte 1st Generation (2010-2013)

Kia Forte 1st generation 2010 model
The 2010 Kia Forte

The first generation of the Kia Forte, introduced in 2010, offered a fresh design and a range of features and aimed to balance efficiency and comfort.

2011 is the best year for the first-generation Kia Forte, while the worst years to avoid are 2010 and 2012.

The Best Years: 2011

Despite some issues like tie rod failures, we categorized the 2011 Kia Forte as the best year as it generally avoided the more severe problems seen in other years, making it a reliable choice in the used car market.

It featured a 2.0L I4 engine with 156 hp and an optional 2.4L I4 engine producing 173 hp, catering to different driving preferences.

The fuel economy was commendable, with the base engine offering around 25 city/35 highway MPG (2.0L).

This model year offered various trims, including the EX and SX, with the latter boasting sportier features.

Technologically, it included amenities like Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system.

The Neutral Years: 2013

The 2013 model year falls into the neutral category. This year’s Forte continued with similar engine options as the 2011 model, maintaining a balance between performance and fuel efficiency.

Technological updates included an optional infotainment system with navigation, enhancing the driving experience.

However, the 2013 Kia Forte wasn’t entirely free from issues. It faced recalls related to brake pedal stopper deterioration and risks of engine compartment fires due to HECU short circuits.

The Worst Years: 2010, 2012

What are the bad years for the Kia Forte? 2010 and 2012 Kia Forte are considered the worst years to avoid in the first generation.

The 2010 Kia Forte suffered from significant engine issues, including rod bearing failures leading to engine knocking and the potential for catastrophic engine damage.

These problems were severe enough to pose fire risks.

The 2012 Kia Forte, equipped with the Theta II engines, was notorious for engine compartment fires and failures before reaching 100,000 miles.

Both these years were subject to significant recalls, including those for engine compartment failures, stop lamp switch malfunctions, and HECU short circuits.

The extent and severity of these issues and the need for frequent recalls significantly diminished the reliability and appeal of these particular model years.

See NHTSA 2010, 2012 Kia Forte recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Forte 2nd Generation (2014-2018)

Kia Forte 2nd generation 2014 model
The 2014 Kia Forte

The second generation of the Kia Forte, from 2014 to 2018, aimed to elevate Forte’s position in the compact car segment with enhanced features and refined driving experience.

2016 and 2018 are the best Kia Forte years of the second generation, while 2014, 2015, and 2017 are the years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2016, 2018

What year is the best for used Kia Forte? Our research shows that the best years for the second-generation Kia Forte are 2016 and 2018.

These models had improved powertrain options, including a standard 1.8L I4 engine producing 145 hp and an optional 2.0L I4 engine delivering 173 hp.

They offered a 6-speed automatic transmission, providing a smooth and efficient driving experience, with an average fuel economy of around 26 city/37 highway MPG (1.8L).

The 2018 Kia Forte introduced a 2.0L Atkinson cycle engine with improved fuel efficiency of around 29 city/37 highway MPG for the base LX trim.

Safety features were enhanced, with available blind-spot detection and lane-change assist.

The technology inside these models saw significant upgrades, including a 7-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in higher trims.

Improved interior materials and additional luxury options, such as heated seats and a sunroof in the EX trim, made these years particularly appealing for their balance of comfort, technology, and reliability.

The Worst Years: 2014, 2015, 2017

The 2014, 2015, and 2017 Kia Forte models are considered the worst years to avoid in this generation. Here is why:

The 2014 Kia Forte grappled with persisting engine failures, engine compartment fires, and additional electrical issues. Steering coupler failures were a common complaint, leading to clicking noise and loss of steering precision.

The 2015 Kia Forte continued to experience engine compartment fires and engine failures.

Recalls for these models were significant and included issues like cooling fan resistor melting, potential engine compartment fires, and brake pedal stopper deterioration.

The 2017 Kia Forte faced similar challenges, with reports of engine failures, stalling, and headlight flickering.

This model was also recalled for oil pump failures, further questioning its reliability.

See NHTSA 2014, 2015, 2017 Kia Forte recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Forte 3rd Generation (2019-Present)

Kia Forte 3rd generation 2019 model
The 2019 Kia Forte

The third generation of the Kia Forte marked a significant evolution in the model’s history, introducing a more sophisticated design, advanced technology, and improved driving dynamics.

The only Kia Forte year to avoid in the third generation is 2019, while the best years span between 2020 and 2024.

The Best Years: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

The best years for the third-generation Kia Forte are 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024.

These models are powered by a 2.0L I4 engine delivering 147 hp, paired with a 6-speed manual or an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), offering a responsive and efficient driving experience.

The fuel economy is impressive, with an estimated 31 city/41 highway MPG.

Safety features in these years are enhanced, including standard forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning.

The technology and infotainment systems, with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto compatibility, saw significant upgrades.

Higher trims like the GT and EX offered additional features like wireless charging, a premium Harman Kardon audio system, and advanced driver-assist systems.

The interior quality and comfort also improved, making these years particularly desirable for their combination of technology, safety, and performance.

The Worst Years: 2019

Considering relatively lower ratings and teething issues, we categorized the 2019 Kia Forte as the year to avoid in its third generation. The 2019 Kia Forte faced problems primarily related to the powertrain and engine.

Owners reported problems with transmission failures, slipping, and stalling.

Despite the 2019 Forte introducing the new generation with updated styling and features, these early problems impacted its overall appeal, making subsequent years a better choice for reliability and performance.

See NHTSA 2019 Kia Forte recalls and complaints.

Kia Forte Resale Values

Explore this graph to see how the Kia Forte’s average resale values fluctuate across model years.

Kia Forte Average List Price


So what Kia Forte model year is the best?

After carefully analyzing the Kia Forte across its generations, I recommend the 2011, 2016, 2018, and 2020-2024 year models as the best years for their reliability, safety, and technological advancements.

You should avoid the 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2016 year models due to their reported issues.

What qualities do you prioritize in selecting a compact car like the Kia Forte, and why?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.