First Drive: 2020 Kia Forte GT Review

Closest you’ll get to a Stinger GT in compact form

Editor’s Note: if you’re a 5-door hatchback fan, read our 2020 Forte5 review here.

Sure, the new redesigned Forte compact sedan released last year (reviewed here) shares some DNA and styling cues with its next-level, brash Stinger GT cousin, the fact remains, you’re getting into a small 4-door car and not a 365-hp sports sedan. 

To ease that pain, Kia is offering the stylish Forte in a GT version for 2020. You’re still not getting into a Stinger, but the 201-hp 1.6L turbo, enhanced exterior styling, and sharp interior with contrast red stitching may just help bridge the gap, a little. 

Is the new Forte GT worth it compared to the Forte EX?

The GT is new for 2020 and joins the entry-level LX and now mid-range EX trims. With a $2,000 price reduction on the LX in efforts to get people excited about the EX (which happens to be their volume seller), Kia is clearly making another strong push to get shoppers into the range-topping GT over the EX Limited with a mere $2,000 price difference between the two. 

For that extra couple grand, you’re now stepping up to a 201-hp 1.6L turbo-powered Forte compared to the 147-hp 2.0L in the EX; plus, all the extras including 18-inch wheels, styling upgrades like rear spoiler and sport red accents, and better interior with bucket seats and more leather. 

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End of the day, a small bump in price for a capable little sedan that will set you back around $30,000. 

2020 Kia Forte GT
The Forte got an all-new design in 2019, and for 2020, steps it up big with a sportier GT trim for not much more money than an EX trim. Photo: Amee Reehal / Kia Canada

Performance: new Forte GT’s turbo engine and sportier handling

No shocker that the Forte remains an affordable compact car ideal for say first-time car buyers and students, but Kia did more than simply slap on some cosmetic updates with a spanky GT badge. They paid attention to performance and handling while still offering a value product. 

Improved engine with new sport suspension

Expect a 37% increase in power compared to the EX’s 2.0L engine. And, compared to the outgoing Forte SX from 2018, the GT’s new engine nets an 8% improvement. All paired to a 7-speed auto transmission. Torque is also up by 48% to 195 lb-ft. 

Gone is the torsion beam suspension in the lower trims, replaced with a more worthy sport tuned suspension with rear multi link and tuned springs and damper. 

Larger front disc brakes growing from 11-inch to 12inch help with stopping power, paired with a set of good looking 18-inch alloy wheels with red accents to help separate the GT from the pack (which includes 15-inch on the LX, 16-inch on the EX, and 17-inch on the EX+ – none of which look as sharp and dynamic as the GT’s big rollers).

2020 Kia Forte GT
Forte GT gets a set of good looking 18-inch alloy wheels with red accents to help separate the GT from the pack. Photo: Amee Reehal / Kia Canada

Kia also added an electronic sound generator to pump out some sweet exhaust notes through the speakers. Hey, why not. In a small, speedy compact like this, it’s all good. 

Driving Impressions

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On the road, and compared to the 2.0L Forte, the GT’s mixed flow turbocharger offers a much sharper throttle response. Acceleration is adequately punchy on city roads with the GT’s great low-end torque. The intake and exhaust system is optimized as well. 

The dual CVVT transmission does the trick, for all intents and purposes. This 7-speed tranny is designed to combine fuel efficiency you’d get with a manual with the convenience of an automatic. In a sub-$30K compact car, these are good-to-haves. 

Interior: added sporty touches

Inside, this range-topping Forte sedan ramps it up with sportier appointments. Front seats come in sport buckets with the GT logo and red stitching, all in a synthetic leather. 

2020 Kia Forte GT interior
Overall layout and design inside the new Forte is on point. GT gets red stitching on black for that punchier look and feel. Photo: Amee Reehal / Kia Canada

Driver gets a power seat and a sports leather D-Cut steering wheel with paddle shifters up top, and metal sport pedals down below. 

The cabin throughout finds ambient mood lighting (again, why not?) likely a hit with the younger buyers, an 8-inch integrated navigation system, and Harmon Kardon premium audio – these last two also standard on the EX Limited, one level down from GT. 

Overall, Kia did a great job with a clean layout that’s not gaudy or overdoing it. The two-tier storage in the lower centre stack is handy: a storage space below and wireless phone charger tray up top that doubles as another flat storage space.

The GT’s interior black look with all the red stitching throughout really pops. 

GT’s Exterior: not over doing it

What’s really appealing about the Forte GT is that Kia didn’t go overboard on the styling front in an effort to make this small sedan look sportier than it needs to. The car’s proportions and overall silhouette are clean and appealing. 

But it’s the culmination of all the small touches that make the GT so sharp. In particular, the hints of red accenting. 

The GT gets the same front grill as the other models, but this version is in black with red accents. Along the side, high gloss black side sill mouldings look great opposed to black plastic bits. And those 18-inch wheels with red accents just suite the GT so well. 

…it’s the culmination of all the small touches that make the GT so sharp. In particular, the hints of red accenting. 

In the back, there’s a subtle rear spoiler up top and dual muffler, rear bumper diffuser, and high gloss intake below. 

Standout safety features include Smart Cruise Control, auto emergency braking, and high beam assist. 


The Forte 4-door already offered a more premium flavour with the EX Limited. So adding a sportier, handsome GT to the 2020 lineup for those buyers who value better performance and handling, only makes sense. Especially considering this new range-topping GT won’t cost much more than the top EX anyway. 

The peppy 1.6L turbo with 201-hp, sport tuned suspension, big 18-inch wheels, and black interior with red stitch interior all packaged into a roughly $30,000 compact sedan is just one more reason to perhaps ditch the compact crossover and go for a low-sitting, sportier sedan instead. 

The 2020 Forte GT is on sale now and priced at $28,995 in Canada and $22,290 in the US.

Learn more at Forte US | Forte Canada

Amee Reehal
Shooting cars professionally since film was a thing, Amee's work has appeared in various outlets including NBC Sports, Chicago Tribune, SuperStreet, GlobeDrive, MotorTrend, and others. He's the managing editor & founder of Find him travelling, spending time with his kids and family. Or golfing, poorly.