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Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/7/20 10:45 p.m.

Before I get started, I need to thank all of the people who walked me through the decision to purchase of this car. You know who you are! wink

Just like I did with the Mazda, I'll chronicle driving experiences with this car, repairs, maintenance, stuff to watch out for, etc. So far, there's not much out there that I can find on these, so this will be a learning experience for everyone. 

Let's start at how this all came to be: I needed to get a new car to replace my trusty 2012 Mazda 3. While I loved that car to death, it was getting long in the tooth and some big time repairs were looming on the horizon. So after 8 years and 11 months of trusty daily driver service, it was time for something new. I drafted up a list of wants:

-New or slightly used, around $20k or less
-Bigger than the 3 on the inside
-Faster than the 3
-At least as fun to drive as the 3
-More fuel efficient than the 3
-A good infotainment and stereo system
-If it was a compact, it had to have a manual transmission

That's basically it. Lots of vehicles fit that mold, but as of right now, The US is still smack dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that means supply chains have been interrupted and the car market is really messed up. Used stuff is going for as much as some new cars, ad new stock is lacking at a lot of dealerships. Man, it's always something when I buy cars. Last time it was the Japanese Tsunami. I have the worst timing. 

Anyway, I test drove a couple of new Mazdas, and left the dealer disappointed in both the prices and how they stacked up against my list of wants. I scheduled more test drives for the next day: a 2018 Mazda 3 2.5L Grand Touring, and a 2019 Jetta GLI. I wanted to drive a new Civic Si, but the local dealer just sold their last one last week, so with scarcity in play, I pressed forward. On the way to check out those cars, we passed by a Kia dealer which had a 2020 Kia Forte GT 6MT in stock. These popped up along with the Hyundai Elantra Sport on my searches, but the reviews of the Kia were a bit more favorable since they had tweaked a few things for the Forte version. I took it for a drive and was immediately impressed. It met just about every requirement on my list, which surprised the hell out of me. People had been telling me for years that the Kia/Hyundai cars are worlds better than they were 10 years ago, and I didn't believe them. I was dead wrong; this car was cool. The wife and I decided that if they did the deal we wanted, we would buy it on the spot. 

And we did. 



So, we drove it home. I just bought a Kia of all things. I didn't even know this car existed until the middle of last week! Hell, I've never seen one until I saw this one! 





It's an Aurora Black Pearl Forte GT. 1.6L GDI Turbo, 6MT, 201hp and 195tq. This is my first black car in many years, and I love how it looks. These have a multi-link IRS instead of the torsion beam axle on the regular Forte, along with 12" front brakes and 18x7.5 wheels with 225/40/18 rubber. You can get summer rubber from the factory, but this car has Kumho Majesty Solus all seasons. LED lights front and rear, auto-leveling in the front, with projector halogen fogs up front that actually do something unlike the ones in my Mazda. It also has an "Active Sport Exhaust"; it's surprisingly loud for a stock exhaust, and it sounds fantastic (more on this in a bit). 





Under the hood, everything makes sense and is set up nearly identical to the outgoing Mazda, plus a turbo. There's a lot of familiarity here. 






Inside, it doesn't feel like a Korean car of old. This is something else that's less Asian and almost European in nature, and while it's not quite as nice as the 2020 Mazda 3 Premium inside, it's just as nice as the 2020 Mazda 6 Grand Touring I also recently tested. It's worlds better than the penalty box early 2000's Kias, I'll tell you that! I know Kia/Hyundai poached some execs from BMW and Audi, and you can tell, especially in here. Seats are perfectly between comfort and sporty and not over-aggressive. I am a big guy and I fit great in them. Legroom and hip room is better than the 3, and pretty great for a small car. Steering wheel is damn near perfect. The shifter is about 90% as good as a Mazda or Honda shifter, with a light feel and slightly longer throws than those, but with positive engagement. Clutch pedal is light but communicative. This model didn't get the heated/cooled seats or dual zone climate control; you can only get that on the DCT cars with an additional option package. That's ok with me, because the manual cars get all the other safety tech included, and there are physical buttons to turn them off if they are driving you nuts. They also get the upgraded stereo and a wireless phone charging pad. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included as well, and Android Auto works great. 



There are two drive modes: normal and sport. Pressing the Sport button makes the display you see above appear on the screen, turning the car red. The "active exhaust" gets louder, throttle response increases, and the steering drastically tightens up. I'm pretty sure there's some sound symposer stuff going on with the exhaust and not real active butterflies/cutouts, but whatever. Hitting the button actually does something, and that's cool. 

So, how does it drive? 

I put about 200 miles on it over the weekend, with mixed city-highway driving. It's still in break-in, so I'm being easy on it, but it is not slow, I can tell you that. I haven't had a turbocharged car since my last WRX, and man, did I miss boost! Handling is shockingly good. It stays flat in the corners and I haven't found its limit yet. Brakes are great as well. The best comparison I can give is the 2006-11 Honda Civic Si. Those cars sort of "egg you on" to drive them faster, and this feels a lot like that, replacing screaming VTEC for boost. The ride is much more firm than expected; I have no idea what the spring rates are, but it's noticeably lower than the regular Forte. I never, ever expected a Kia to drive like this does. I feel like I cheated someone at this price! What's the catch? I really don't know yet. I'm not even sure how this happened, but the car seems great. You get a lot for your money with this thing. I really have no brand loyalty, and I drive and buy what I like, and this time it's a Kia.

I'll try and get some more pics of stuff in the next few days as I get used to the car. There are lots of cool details everywhere. If anyone has any questions or wants to see something specific, let me know! 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/8/20 12:55 a.m.

Congrats! Any close up pics of the shifter ? 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 8:05 a.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :




Shifter area (and the shifter itself) is nice enough. The shifter is the style where you pull a collar up and then shift to reverse. Only issue with that is that it's molded sort of like a trigger and to swap the knob (not that I need to right now), it might be difficult, as it seems like they are sort of meant to fit together.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/8/20 9:25 a.m.

Thanks, and very nice! 
 

since you mentioned this car is like the 8th gen Si, I am following closely :) 

russ_mill
russ_mill Reader
9/8/20 9:31 a.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

Thanks, and very nice! 
 

since you mentioned this car is like the 8th gen Si, I am following closely :) 

Same here! I am realizing how much I loved my 8th gen. Great car.

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
9/8/20 9:36 a.m.

Watching. Local dealer has a hail damaged one marked way down, and it's been tempting.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
9/8/20 10:11 a.m.

I think styling wise these are the best looking car in the segment. Like a mini stinger. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 11:24 a.m.

In reply to bobzilla :

The Stinger looks cool and all, but I find the exterior a little busy. It's not boring, I'll tell you that! When you see one, you know what it is. I like the Genesis equivalent (G70?) a little more.

I think this is a good looking car. I like the looks better than the current Si or the 3 hatch. The GTI/GLI have it beat in that department, but not by much. It really reminds me of an Audi A3, especially in the back. Definitely some German influence there.


Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 11:35 a.m.

On the similarity with the 8th Gen Civic Si:

Back around 2012, my friend picked up a 2009 Si sedan. He was coming from a 2008 Mazdaspeed 3, and he sort of felt like it was a let down compared to that. No, it wasn't as fast, but it made up for it in other ways. It was a joy to drive; I drove it a few times while he had it, including a 100+ mile trip when we drove to another state to grab a project car. I fell in love with it immediately. Everything about it was damn near perfect. The cabin, while weird with the double dash, was airy and comfortable. The shifter was pure perfection. Steering was spot-on. And the auditory awesomeness of that VTEC mill; all of it made up a compelling package and I wanted one. I still do! I did look for one this time around as well, but clean examples with low mileage around here are still going in the mid-teens. For a daily, I didn't want a clapped-out example that would end up being a project car.

While the Mazda 3 came close to matching the 8th gen on paper perfomance-wise, it was its own thing. This is the first car I've driven that's come close to the 8th gen, save for power delivery. Power delivery is a lot different with torque down low and less pull to redline, but the rest is damn near what I remember.

FatMongo
FatMongo Reader
9/8/20 12:22 p.m.

Super cool they offer these in a 6 spd. There is a blue one at the local KIA dealer that I couldnt help but take for a drive a couple of weeks ago. I really liked it, but it seemed a bit wheezy - you had to really wring its neck to get it going, but again for $20K, I dont know how much you could expect.

They look phenomenal, but its hard for me to justify getting another car at the moment.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 12:44 p.m.

In reply to FatMongo :

Don't get me wrong; this isn't the fastest car on the planet, but it's quick enough to be entertaining. I can tell you that compared to both the 2012 Mazda 3 I had, as well as the 2020 Mazda 3 6MT I drove, it feels quite a bit faster.

I have a feeling like this is going to be much like the Elantra GT N-Line and Sport where they offer it with a manual trans for a couple years and then discontinue it. I hope that's not the case, because this is a nice little package for the money.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/8/20 1:08 p.m.

Following this.  I am currently looking at moving the other direction.  I have a 2019 Veloster R Spec, which is the same chassis and powertrain as this, but looking at going to an older Mazda 3 :)

 

 

FSP_ZX2
FSP_ZX2 SuperDork
9/8/20 1:26 p.m.

Congrats on the Forte.  You will like it.  Get a bigger rear sway bar and call it done; it really helped liven-up the chassis (as did proper summer tires).

I traded a 2017 Elantra Sport 6M on a 2019 Jetta GLI in the spring when the Covid deals were in full bloom. 

The Kia GT was on my radar to replace the Hyundai--but the VW deal was too good, coupled with the 4yr/72k bumper-to-bumper coverage.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 1:49 p.m.

In reply to FSP_ZX2 :

My next stop after the Kia dealer was to look at this 2019 GLI:


Used, it was about the same price as the Kia. Hell of a package for the money. My BIL has an earlier one (2015?) and he's had great luck with it.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
9/8/20 2:18 p.m.
ProDarwin said:

Following this.  I am currently looking at moving the other direction.  I have a 2019 Veloster R Spec, which is the same chassis and powertrain as this, but looking at going to an older Mazda 3 :)

 

 

I'll give you tree fiddy for the rspec. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/8/20 3:08 p.m.
Tony Sestito said:

On the similarity with the 8th Gen Civic Si:

Back around 2012, my friend picked up a 2009 Si sedan. He was coming from a 2008 Mazdaspeed 3, and he sort of felt like it was a let down compared to that. No, it wasn't as fast, but it made up for it in other ways. It was a joy to drive; I drove it a few times while he had it, including a 100+ mile trip when we drove to another state to grab a project car. I fell in love with it immediately. Everything about it was damn near perfect. The cabin, while weird with the double dash, was airy and comfortable. The shifter was pure perfection. Steering was spot-on. And the auditory awesomeness of that VTEC mill; all of it made up a compelling package and I wanted one. I still do! I did look for one this time around as well, but clean examples with low mileage around here are still going in the mid-teens. For a daily, I didn't want a clapped-out example that would end up being a project car.

While the Mazda 3 came close to matching the 8th gen on paper perfomance-wise, it was its own thing. This is the first car I've driven that's come close to the 8th gen, save for power delivery. Power delivery is a lot different with torque down low and less pull to redline, but the rest is damn near what I remember.

I drove my 11 MS3 61 k , 2 years.. Drove my 16 wrx 1 year. 
 

when 8th gen si was new - I didn't want it .

 

now my 11 Si Sedan - I prefer much more than my low quality 16 wrx (bought new), and so much more refined than my 11ms3. 
 

my 11 si sedan is probably the slowest of the 3 I owned. New at $25k probably overpriced. Which is why I never gave a second look, even being a Honda fanboy. 
 

I veered off, drank the mazda and subaru low tier koolaide and paid dearly for it. 
 

now that I am back in a slow Si sedan, very happy, the joy of driving, quality of product, isn't in the same sphere as my ms3 or wrx . The shifter, seat, steering, screwed together chassis of the 8th gen si head and shoulders above my ms3 and wrx. Even though I prefer wagons/hatch, I love living with my si sedan currently. Fits all my needs and actually gives me driving pleasure 

 

 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/8/20 4:14 p.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

I recently drove a 2018 WRX Premium. I owned two different WRX's myself: a 2002 wagon and a 2009 hatch. The 2018 didn't do it for me at all. The interior was nicer than my old ones, but I couldn't get comfortable in there. The shifter was annoying, as was the clutch. The best part was infotainment system that would go haywire at random times and start changing inputs and radio stations on you while you drove it. Needless to say, those didn't make the cut when I started looking again.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/8/20 5:02 p.m.

Yeah my 2016 limited didn't do anything for me 

piece of junk 

 

clutch was terrible 

 

oh well good riddance. Never again for me 

r3vhappy
r3vhappy New Reader
9/8/20 9:40 p.m.

Wow that's a sweet ride! I had no idea the new Forte looked so good.

glueguy (Forum Supporter)
glueguy (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/9/20 10:05 a.m.

I have an appliance with a lease ending next May, and this has me intrigued.  I tried to search for 6MT GT - is the Kia inventory search system as miserable as I think it is or is there a way to figure out how few there are within a decent drive?

FatMongo
FatMongo Reader
9/9/20 10:28 a.m.

In reply to glueguy (Forum Supporter) :

Cars.com

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/9/20 10:44 a.m.

In reply to glueguy (Forum Supporter) :

I used CarGurus to find it, and then checked the dealer's website. Once I saw it on there, I went to the dealer, since it's right up the road from me. The Kia Motors official website kinda sucks, to be honest. While "building the car", the site glitched out on me a number of times. Example: once you select the GT package, it pops up with a bunch of options and paint colors. Just about all of the options are included anyway, so having them there are redundant. When you change colors, it switches the trim level on you, even if that color is available on the GT, and I had to click and refresh a number of times to get it to actually work. That's bad and confusing.

One thing to keep in mind, and YMMV of course, is that buying a Kia is not the same buying experience as buying something like, say, a BMW or even a Mazda. The dealer I went to was small,  busy, and seemingly understaffed. Not as fancy as most other dealers I've purchased from. They did their best to help me, and have been good so far, but be prepared to weather all of the old car dealer tricks at most of them, since the average Kia buyer sort of falls into the same group as the "buy here, pay here" lot customers That's not a knock on anyone, but the staff's disposition clearly showed that. I still have to go back to get my registration, inspection, and go through the delivery process. The long weekend and COVID-19 protocols slowed some of these things down, which doesn't help.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
9/9/20 10:54 a.m.
glueguy (Forum Supporter) said:

I have an appliance with a lease ending next May, and this has me intrigued.  I tried to search for 6MT GT - is the Kia inventory search system as miserable as I think it is or is there a way to figure out how few there are within a decent drive?

https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/new/searchresults.action?zip=27106&transmission=M&trimNames=GT%20FWD&showNegotiable=true&sourceContext=carGurusHomePageModel&distance=50000&entitySelectingHelper.selectedEntity=d2043

 

Change search to your zip code.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/9/20 10:57 a.m.
Tony Sestito said:

Kia is not the same buying experience as buying something like, say, a BMW or even a Mazda. The dealer I went to was small,  busy, and seemingly understaffed. Not as fancy as most other dealers I've purchased from. They did their best to help me, and have been good so far, but be prepared to weather all of the old car dealer tricks at most of them, since the average Kia buyer sort of falls into the same group as the "buy here, pay here" lot customers  but the staff's disposition clearly showed that. 

YIKES

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/9/20 11:17 a.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

Not a good look, and I hate to say it. For example, they were refusing test drives of some of their more expensive stuff while I was in the showroom. A guy and his wife came in to check out a Telluride and they were told they couldn't drive it unless they were ready to buy it. The guy laughed at them and left. I mean, I had no issues taking out the GT, but I haven't seen that tactic in a while.

The day before at a Mazda dealer, the sales guy tossed me the keys to both a 3 with the 6MT (one of the only ones in the area) and a 6 Grand Touring turbo. Told me to take it wherever and do whatever I wanted. He encouraged me to do a highway pull in the 6! I didn't, but let's put it this way: the 6 was a fun test drive.

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