This 1 Compact Sedan Is the Best New Car Under $20,000

I admit that I’m one of the people that still unfairly judge cars like the Kia Forte by its reputation from 10 years ago. But a lot has changed in 10 years, and today’s Kias offer a lot more than they used to. Today, critics argue that the 2022 Kia Forte compact sedan is the best new car you buy for less than $20,000.

The argument is compelling—but there are some downsides to this compact sedan.

2022 Forte trims and pricing

The Kia model in question is the base 2022 Forte FE, which starts at a mere $19,090.

Other more premium and more expensive Forte trim levels listed on Kia’s site include:

  • LXS – $19,590
  • GT-Line – $21,290
  • GT – $23,490
  • GT Manual – $24,490

RELATED: The 2022 Kia Forte GT ‘Punches Above Its Price Point,’ MotorTrend Says

Kia Forte problems and issues to watch for

The 2022 Forte is one of the cheapest new cars under $20K, and that cheapness means you might have to deal with a few issues here and there.

The 2022 model hasn’t been out long enough for any major problems to arise, but the Forte has had its share of pain points in the last decade. Here are a few common Forte problems:

  • Engine knocking at high mileage
  • Ignition coil replacement needed
  • Poorly sealed taillights
  • Issues with the sound system

These Forte issues were reported in older model years, so the 2022 Kia Forte (rated an 8.5 out of 10 by U.S. News) may well escape without any major problems.

Performance and specs for the new Forte

The cheapest base 2022 Kia Forte comes standard with a simple 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 147 horsepower. Its engine is paired with an Intelligent Continuously Variable Transmission (IVT). 

Upper trims offer a more expensive option: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine good for 201 Horsepower and mated to a six-speed manual transmission. This power boost puts the 2022 Forte a step above the Nissan Sentra, one of the Forte’s competitors.

Silver 2022 Kia Forte compact car driving along a highway
2022 Kia Forte | Kia

RELATED: Consumer Reports Somehow Recommends the Kia Rio Over the Kia Forte

2022 Forte features and options

The newest Kia Forte comes impressively equipped for a compact car under $20,000. Standard features include an 8.0-inch Touchscreen Display & Rear View Monitor with Dynamic Parking Guidance, and Wireless Apple CarPlay® and Wireless Android Auto™.

The 2022 Forte also comes packed with safety features, including: 

  • Auto Emergency Braking Technology
  • Lane Keeping Technology
  • Lane Following Assist Technology
  • Driver Attention Warning
  • Rear Occupant Alert w/ Ultrasonic Sensors

Farther up the trim level line, you can find features like a GT-Line Exterior w/ Sport Grille, side sills, a rear spoiler, and sport seats with SynTex and cloth seat trim on the sportier models.

Interior of the 2022 Kia Forte GT w/ manual top trim level
2022 Kia Forte fully loaded | Kia

RELATED: The 7 Best Rental Cars in 2022 According to U.S. News

Used Forte compact car years to consider

If $20,000 still seems a little steep, you can always turn to the used-car market. The 2017 Kia Forte had its fair share of problems (see the items above), but you’re likely safe with a 2019 Kia Forte.

2020 and 2021 Kia Forte models may be harder to get your hands on right now, and crazy used-car prices could mean that you’d pay more for a used model than a new one. 

Just never buy a 2010 Kia Forte. Trust us.

RELATED: The 2022 Kia Forte Is the Least Satisfying New Car, Says Consumer Reports