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While some brands seem to be giving up on the sedan market, Kia continues to stand behind the Forte. It is a sleek and stylish vehicle that still manages to be quite practical. Plus, Kia continues to load the Forte with technology that you might expect to find only in luxury vehicles as we move into 2021.
One of the biggest appeals of the Forte is its value. Buyers can turn to this option to get an affordable vehicle without making sacrifices regarding what features they want. Ever since its redesign in 2019, it has offered a GT model that even satisfies thrill-seekers.
For shoppers looking at the 2021 Kia Forte, there are a total of five trim levels to learn more about. That is the purpose of this guide, to help give you a clear look at the differences between the models. Its intention is to help you make an informed choice and end up with the right Forte for your life.
Compare the 2021 Kia Forte FE vs Forte LXS - What is the Difference?
The first thing you should know about the 2021 Forte is that there are two different engine options. For the FE, like the majority of the line, there is a 2.0L four-cylinder that has the ability to make 147-horsepower along with 132 lb-ft of torque. The entry-level FE is the only model to come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission is available as well.
Anyone who chooses the FE will be limited to three paint options. They are Aurora Black, Gravity Gray, and Clear White. The outside of this model is pretty simple and straight-forward. It has body-colored side mirrors and door handles, solar-control glass, and 15-inch steel wheels.
Lighting up the FE are daytime running lights. The headlights are projector-beam and you also get automatic headlight control for added convenience. No exterior upgrades are available for the FE.
Woven cloth seat trim and manually adjustable front seats are what you will find when you sit down inside the FE. The climate control is single-zone and manually adjusted as well. Convenience and comfort features are pretty sparse all-around, although it does come with remote keyless entry and power door locks.
Technology features are more promising when it comes to the entry-level 2021 Forte. It has an 8-inch touch display that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Bluetooth wireless technology is also included. The standard stereo system comes with four speakers. You get a USB/auxiliary input as well as two 12V outlets to help stay charged on your drive.
The list of driver aids for the FE is respectable. This model has a driver attention monitor along with forward-collision warning. Lane departure warning and lane-keep assist also made the standard equipment list. Rounding out the somewhat advanced safety features are hill start control assist and a tire pressure monitoring system. Of course, a rearview camera is thrown is as well.
Buyers who opt to go up to the LXS trim will automatically get the continuously variable transmission, whether they want it or not. Otherwise, the LXS has the same equipment underneath the hood as the FE. The model does upgrade to 16-inch alloy wheels for a sportier look.
The exterior paint color options double for the LXS. On top of the subdued choices for the FE, this trim can be had in Currant Red, Silky Silver, and Deep Sea Blue. The LXS also shows off black gloss accents on its bumpers and a chrome exhaust tip.
Inside, the LXS comes standard with driver-selectable modes. This was an optional feature for the FE. The rear-seat gains a 60/40 split-folding feature, something that is, unfortunately, missing from the base model. The final noteworthy cabin upgrade is soft-touch upper door panels.
Safety features remain the same here. There are not that many upgrades found on the LXS, which costs approximately $1,500 more than the FE.
Compare the 2021 Kia Forte LXS vs Forte GT-Line Trim. What is the Difference?
The GT-Line is meant to look a little sportier than other models of the 2021 Forte. It is not, however, any more athletic when it comes to power and performance. Part of the bolder look for the GT-Line comes from the 17-inch graphite finish alloy wheels.
This trim cannot be had in Silky Silver or Currant Red. However, it does add Fire Orange as an option that is exclusive to the GT-Line. It also gets a sport grille, sport side sills, and a gloss black rear spoiler on the trunk lid. The GT-Line replaces the body-colored side mirrors with heated black ones.
Lighting upgrades for this trim are fairly significant. The side mirrors gain LED turn signal indicators, for example. It also gets LED daytime running lights and taillights. This is the first option on the 2021 Forte list to come with fog lights.
On the convenience front, the GT-Line has what Kia calls a "smart trunk." If you stand behind it with your smart key, the trunk will pop automatically. A power sunroof becomes an option on this trim. For the sound system, this model jumps up to six speakers instead of four.
In the GT-Line, drivers and their front passengers get sport seats with artificial leather and cloth trim. This is the only trim with white stitching on these seats. The flat-bottomed steering wheel also has white stitching. For the final standard upgrade to the cabin, Kia gives the Forte GT-Line a leather-wrapped shifter knob.
The biggest change when moving from the LXS to GT-Line is the number of driver aids. This model adds a blind-spot monitor, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. These extra features, plus the more eye-catching style, will undoubtedly draw buyers to the GT-Line.
Compare the 2021 Kia Forte GT-Line vs Forte EX Trim Level. - What is the Difference?
For the EX trim level, Kia shifts from a sporty look to a more sophisticated one. The performance features do not change and it is available in the same colors as the LXS, minus Silky Silver. Like the GT-Line, the EX sits on 17-inch wheels. The difference is that this higher trim goes with a machine-finish rather than the graphite one.
Subtle exterior differences help you spot the difference between the EX and other options. It loses the sport grille and sport side sills but does gain chrome window molding. The side mirrors go back to being body-colored but maintain the heat and integrated turn signals added by the GT-Line. This trim is the first to consider the power sunroof standard equipment. While the lower trims come with a "tire mobility kit," the EX gets a space-saver spare tire.
Dual-zone automatic climate control and rear air vents are two major upgrades found inside the Forte EX. It also gets an illuminated glovebox along with LED interior lighting. Gone are the sport seats and accent stitching but the artificial leather trim remains.
The driver gains 10-way power-adjustment and both front seats get heated as well as ventilated. A leather-wrapped steering wheel joins the leather-wrapped shifter knob here. In the backseat, the seats get adjustable headrests.
Technology features get taken to the next level. An upgraded infotainment system has the EX coming with satellite radio, HD radio, and voice recognition, although an 8-inch touchscreen remains standard. This is the only trim to add color to the touchscreen. A Harman Kardon stereo system with 10-speakers is standard. Both of these upgrades are optional for the GT-Line.
Kia does not stop there. The EX trim gains a wireless charging pad as well as two extra USB charging ports in the center console. No additional driver aids are found on the EX. This model costs approximately $2,500 more than the one that came before it but does add a significant amount of luxury to the 2021 Forte.
Compare the 2021 Kia Forte EX vs Forte GT - What is the Difference?
The final trim level is called the GT. This model has an exclusive turbo 1.6L four-cylinder engine that makes 201-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. It is available with two different transmissions. You either get the same six-speed manual that you'd find on the FE or a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Either way, you get a sport-tuned dual exhaust.
Both the sport grille and side sport sills come back for the GT. The same is true of the trunk spoiler and black side mirrors. For the wheels, Kia went with 18-inch two-tone alloy.
In some ways, the GT can be split into two sub-trims based on which transmission it has. The manual models are actually fancier than those with the seven-speed automatic in many ways. For example, the manual GT gets a power sunroof standard while this is merely an optional feature for an automatic GT.
No matter which transmission the GT has, its infotainment system is slightly less sophisticated than the one found in the EX. It loses the color touchscreen as well as the HD radio. Manual models get to stick with the 10-speaker audio setup but automatic ones go back down to six speakers. Similarly, the manual GT gets the wireless charging pad but it becomes optional on automatics.
Both versions of the GT get sport seats. Rather than the white stitching found in the GT-Line, these models have red. This is true on the steering wheel as well. Both versions lose the heated and ventilated front seats as well as the power-adjustment for the driver. Interestingly enough, these features can be added back if your GT has the automatic transmission but not if it has the manual.
There are a few extra driver aids that are optional on the GT automatic but not the manual. One is a smart cruise control with stop-and-go technology. The other is forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection.
Considering how different the two GT versions are, you are probably wondering where they fall on the price scale. The GT with the automatic is actually a little less expensive than the EX. The GT with the manual, however, is the most expensive 2021 Forte you can get. That said, it costs only $200 more than the EX and about $600 more than an automatic GT.
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Which Trim to Choose?
All models of the 2021 Kia Forte are competitively priced and offer great value to drivers. The entry-level FE is pretty bare-bones and will be skipped over by anyone who can afford to do so. Although the LXS adds some nice touches, it does not do enough to earn its considerably higher price tag.
The GT-Line, however, both looks nice and offers quite a bit more when it comes to standard equipment. Things like the blind-spot monitor and smart trunk make it a more family-friendly sedan. It also can be equipped with many features found on upper trims if you decide you cannot live without them.
Buyers who want the added luxury of things like heated and ventilated front seats will need to choose the EX. At the same time, those who want the extra horsepower will be forced to choose a GT model. Ultimately, the 2021 Kia Forte GT-Line will satisfy the majority of drivers.
• Compare the 2020 Kia Forte Trim Levels