The new 2019 Kia Forte, also known as the Cerato (as in Malaysia) and K3 (in Korea), has made its world debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Korean carmaker says that besides the more sophisticated design, the third-gen offers a “class above” interior plus a higher level of comfort, fuel efficiency and advanced driver assistance tech.

Kia says that the 2019 Forte’s design incorporates styling cues inspired by the Stinger, and it has the right proportions – a long hood and short deck for a fastback-like shape. The cowl point was moved back five inches for a more athletic stance.

The face sees a fresh approach to Kia’s tiger nose grille and an aggressive black lower valance, while the front clip is flanked by a Stinger-style headlamp design and layout, with four-point LED DRLs. Separate turn signal indicators are mounted on the bumper, where air curtains improve aerodynamics. It’s mirrored at the rear, with separate reverse and turn signal indicators located on the bumper. A trim piece connects the tail lights.

Kia says that the new Forte/Cerato/K3’s “fastback shape” improved looks and also cabin space. Overall length has increased by 81 mm to 4,640 mm, allowing for more legroom and a 428 litre boot that’s among the largest in the segment. Additional headroom results from increasing the overall height nearly a half inch (12.7 mm) to 1,440 mm, while overall width has grown to 1,798 mm.

While the extra 18 mm of width may not be noticeable to the naked eye, the layout of the dashboard creates a successful impression of width. The horizontal theme creates a sense of openness and avoids clutter with clean lines and minimal buttons that are placed below an eight-inch touchscreen. Kia says that there are increased soft-touch points, easier ingress and egress, plus improved visibility.

Building upon an already solid structure that helped the outgoing car achieve an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the all-new Forte contains additional hot-stamped components and 54% advanced high-strength steel content. The seat frames are stronger and lightweight; they provide a more comfortable seating position with increased lumbar support and denser seat foam.

The new Forte has available full LED headlights and is targeted to receive the highest ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and IIHS.

Because body stiffness plays a major role in NVH, Kia worked to increase rigidity for a quieter cabin and better handling, resulting in a 16% stiffer body in white. New subframe designs help to improve lateral responsiveness, while steering feel has been enhanced. Also in are reworked suspension geometry and evolutionary improvements to throttle and brake feel.

Under the hood is a second-generation 2.0 litre Nu engine that benefits from Atkinson cycle technology and a cooled EGR system. The powerplant can be paired with either a six-speed manual or Kia’s new Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT). The engine and in-house IVT are the first of a new line of efficient “Smart Stream” powertrains that will make their way into the rest of the Kia range.


Kia says that waiting before developing its own CVT allowed engineers to research issues often associated with CVTs and apply those findings in the IVT. The rubber-band-like feel is one, and in an effort to address this, engineers built the IVT with adaptive style shift logic with a chain-type belt instead of push belt, a first in the compact class.

The carmaker says that this results in smooth and linear acceleration, and a step-shift-like feel mimics a conventional automatic at full throttle or when more acceleration is needed. Noise is another issue CVTs can sometimes face and Kia says that its IVT case is wrapped in a sound-insulating cover to help quell the typical drone associated with this type of transmission. NVH levels are lower by 5dB as a result, Kia says.

Outputs are expected to remain unchanged at an estimated 147 hp and 180 Nm. Efficiency was the top priority, and the new powertrain is estimated to return up to 35 mpg (14.9 km/l) combined, about a 3 mpg (1.3 km/l) improvement over the old car. Official EPA ratings will be announced closer to the Forte’s arrival in the US later this year.

Tech wise, the 2019 Forte comes with an eight-inch colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. With selected smartphones, the system has the capability to read SMS texts aloud through Bluetooth. There’s an available wireless charging tray and a 320-watt Harman Kardon sound system.

Kia’s suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) offered in its more expensive vehicles makes its way down into the Forte. In addition to Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Lane Keeping Assist, the C-segment sedan is available with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist and Smart Cruise Control.

The new Kia Cerato looks good, doesn’t it?