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2021 Toyota Corolla vs Kia Forte

2021 Toyota Corolla vs Kia Forte

2021 Corolla vs Forte - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Toyota's Corolla has been one of the best-selling cars in North America for several years now. In a world where SUVs and crossovers have become increasingly popular, there's still a place for the venerable sedan. The Corolla is actually available as either a four-door sedan or as a hatchback. For the 2021 model year, the Corolla will also be available in a hybrid variation.

Kia's 2021 Forte is a also available as a four-door sedan. The Forte lacks a hybrid model or hatchback version, but it does offer a more competitive price than the 2021 Corolla. Both vehicles offer great value thanks to their generous helping of standard features. Anyone looking for solid transportation and a comfortable ride would do well to give these two cars some serious consideration.


The Powertrain

The 2021 Toyota Corolla is available with two different traditional powertrain options as well as the hybrid model. All versions of the Corolla feature front-wheel drive (FWD). The base engine is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with dual overhead cams and 16 valves. This motor can produce 139 horsepower (hp) and 126 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. A Corolla equipped with this type of engine will come with an automatic CVT, or continuously-variable transmission.

The 1.8-liter engine should get around 30 miles-per-gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway for a combined fuel-economy rating of 33 mpg. Toyota also offers a bigger 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams, 16 valves and dual variable valve timing. This power-plant will crank out around 169 hp with 151 lb-ft of torque. This engine can be paired with a CVT or a manual 6-speed transmission.

The 2.0-liter engine has similar fuel efficiency as the smaller engine, in spite of all of the extra power. It too has a combined fuel-economy rating of 33 mpg. For the best fuel efficiency, there is Toyota's hybrid option. This powertrain will get 53 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg in the city. The hybrid model can make 121 hp with 105 lb-ft of torque. It comes equipped with an electronically-controlled CVT.

Acceleration is just average with any powertrain option for the 2021 Corolla. This car was designed with comfort, affordability and reliability in mind more than for raw power. The brakes do their job effectively enough. Toyota has an excellent reputation for building reliable vehicles. There's no reason to assume that the latest Corolla will be anything other than dependable.

If something should go wrong, Toyota backs up their vehicles with a nice warranty. The basic coverage is for up to three years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain is under warranty for 60,000 miles or a period of five years. Toyota provides protection against corrosion for five years and unlimited miles. The hybrid system gets covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.

The 2021 Kia Forte has only two options for the powertrain. There's a 2.0-liter inline engine with four cylinders. There's also an available turbocharged, 1.6 liter inline 4-cylinder. Both engines feature duel overhead cams and 16 valves. The 2.0-liter can produce 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. The turbocharged model produces 201 hp with 195 lb-ft of torque.

Just like the Corolla, the Forte is a FWD car. The base engine can be had along with a 6-speed manual transmission or Kia's automatic Intelligent Variable Transmission. There's also an available 7-speed automatic with a dual clutch and paddle shifters. Every trim level gets ABS four-wheel disc brakes for excellent stopping power.

A Kia Forte equipped with the turbocharged engine and manual transmission will provide a combined fuel-economy rating of 28 mpg. Owners can expect slightly less with an automatic transmission system. Forte owners without the turbocharged powertrain should get around 33 mpg in combined driving in the city and on the highway.

Kia also has a stellar reputation for building solid cars, but it's not quite on par with Toyota's. They do, however, offer one of the best warranties in the entire automotive industry. Kia's industry-leading warranty program offers protection for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles. Potential buyers can pull the trigger on a Kia purchase with peace of mind.


Steering and handling are good in the 2021 Toyota Corolla. The ride quality is adequately smooth, and it's fairly quiet inside of the cabin. Owners who plan to have multiple passengers should opt for the sedan over the hatchback. There's a lot more passenger room in the back of the sedan. If cargo is more of a priority, the Corolla hatchback offers around 18 cubic-feet of storage space.

The interior of either Corolla is well designed with some higher quality materials than one might expect at the Corolla's price point. There's plenty of soft-touch materials for the dashboard and side panels. The driver visibility is very good and the gauge cluster is neatly designed. The driver should have no problems reaching any controls.

The Corolla has a nice audio system at every trim level. Lower trims get a basic AM/FM stereo and six speakers. There's a 7-inch touchscreen display with a larger 8-inch screen available on the higher trim levels. For the serious audiophiles, there's an available JBL setup with nine speakers, a subwoofer and an amplifier.

There are both USB media ports and charging ports for the infotainment system. Bluetooth Technology is on tap for streaming and hands-free phone calls. The system is compatible with popular apps and connection options for Apple, Android and Amazon. The system is also set up to provide a WiFi Hotspot. There's even an optional Toyota Dynamic Navigation System.

The 2021 Kia Forte also has decent steering and handling, with the added benefit of better acceleration. The interior materials are not quite as nice as the Toyota's, but the overall design of the interior is attractive. The Kia also comes loaded with plenty of great features. Dual-zone temperature control is available at the higher trim levels.

Both cars have comfortable seats, but the Forte offers 10-way power adjustments with lumbar support. The Forte also has heated and ventilated seats as an option. Toyota only offers 6-way adjustments for the seats up front. It's not as quiet inside of the Kia, but it may be more comfortable overall when compared to the Toyota Corolla.

The Forte has an 8-inch color touchscreen display for the infotainment system. There are voice-activated controls and a Voice-Command Navigation System. The basic audio system has four speakers with six speakers available at the higher trim levels. There's also a premium audio system with eight speakers, a sub-woofer and 320-watts of power from Harman Kardon.

Just like the Toyota's infotainment system, the Kia setup has USB ports and Bluetooth Technology. It also is compatible with Sirius XM Traffic and HD Radio as well as Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition to voice commands and an easily-accessible touchscreen, some of the controls are mounted on the steering wheel for the driver's convenience.

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Every version of the 2021 Corolla offers Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This is a whole package full of safety features and driver-assist technology. There's a Pre-Collision System to warn of impending collisions. It can even detect pedestrians in front of the vehicle. A Rear Camera helps to see what's behind. There's also a Lane-Departure Warning with a Steering-Assist feature to help drivers to stay safely in their own lane.

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control makes sure that the Corolla maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of it while the cruise control is engaged. Automatic High Beams kick in when extra light is needed for safer visibility of the road. The Road-Sign Assist scans the sides of the road to alert the driver of the speed limit and any potential hazards.

Every trim level of the Corolla will feature Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control. This helps to better navigate slipper terrain and to keep the vehicle stable overall in any conditions. Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Automatic Braking make sure that the brakes have plenty of stopping power when it's needed the most.

A Blind-Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Detection is available for the higher trim levels. Every Corolla is designed with crumple zones to divert crash energy away from the driver and passengers. The frame is solid and there are body panels made of a high-tensile steel for safety. Every Toyota Corolla gets advanced airbags to add a level of protection for the driver and all occupants.

The 2021 Kia Forte is equally well-equipped when it comes to safety features. Auto Emergency-Braking Technology is standard for all models. This helps to stop the vehicle in time during emergency-driving situations. A number of driver-assist features help the driver to have a better awareness of their surroundings. This includes a Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

Lane-Change Assist and Forward-Collision Avoidance Assist give the driver a hand with moving through traffic and during emergency maneuvers. The Forward-Collision Warning system can even detect pedestrians, just like the system installed in the Toyota Corolla. The Driver-Attention Warning monitors the driver to help avoid accidents due to fatigue and falling asleep.

Like the Corolla, the Forte comes equipped with plenty of airbags. There are bags up front to protect the driver and front passengers. There are side airbags for the front occupants as well. Full-length side curtain bags offer some protection for all of the passengers, including in the rear. ABS, four-wheel disc brakes are installed on every model of the Forte.

Two more features that these cars have in common are Emergency Braking and Brake-Force Distribution. Both vehicles have a Tire-Pressure Monitor to make sure all four tires are inflated to a safe level. The Forte also has Traction Control and a Stability System for safer driving over different road and terrain conditions.

Which Has the Best Value?

The 2021 Kia Forte has a starting cost of just $17,890 for the base model. At the upper end of the trim-level spectrum, the GT-Line starts at $20,490. There are, of course, numerous add-ons and optional features that can cause the price to go up higher. The 2021 Toyota Corolla starts at $20,025 with the highest trim level beginning at $28,310. Both are priced similarly with the Forte being cheaper at every comparable trim level.

Fuel economy is similar between these two vehicles. It's close enough that it would be irrelevant until one considers the Toyota's hybrid model of the Corolla. The Corolla hybrid should save owners a lot of money in the long run in spite of their much higher cost when compared to a similarly-equipped Forte. For buyers who will only consider traditional gasoline engines, then this category is a tie.

The Toyota Corolla has a slightly better interior. The Kia Forte provides more power and a better driving experience overall. Both vehicles have similar features at every trim level with the Forte offering more for your money every step of the way. The Forte will be the best value buy for most consumers. The Toyota, however, may be the best investment if the buyer chooses a hybrid.

Which Is Better?

These two vehicles are both great at what they're designed to be and to do. They both should appeal to similar groups. They're good for either single drivers or even as family haulers. The Toyota hatchback will be a good choice for anyone who needs the extra cargo space. For everyone else, the Forte and Corolla sedans will both be excellent vehicles.

Kia's Forte offers better value overall with plenty of nice features at a lower cost than what the Toyota offers. The Corolla hybrid will offer more value in the long run for those who are willing to forego the traditional gasoline-only powertrains. The Corolla has a nicer interior, but the Forte is no slouch in this category.

The Forte offers more power and better acceleration, making it edge out the Toyota Corolla for best overall, but just barely. Drivers who want comfort and style over performance may still prefer the Toyota over Kia. Also, Toyota has a loyal fan base thanks to their reliable vehicles, but Kia also backs their cars up with the best warranty around.

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