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Today’s sedans are becoming increasingly powerful. While excessive speed and torque figures often belong to larger four-door cars, some of the enthusiasm has seeped into the subcompact segment. While the class of cars is usually prided for its great fuel economy, some have begun to stand out from the pack. The 2023 Nissan Versa and the 2023 Kia Forte are two that look like they mean business. Both provide top value, but there is one big reason why the Versa is beaten by its Kia competition.

The top-tier 2023 Kia Forte is a mini sports sedan

People don’t need a six-figure, five-seater, four-door car to have fun. The thrill can be had in a pint-sized offering. A mid-six-second 0-60 mph time and a multi-link rear suspension for $25,000 is nothing to dismiss.

One would think the Forte would have trickle-down performance capabilities from its bigger brother Kia Stinger. But its sleek appearance may make the Forte look more athletic than it can back up. Despite the mixed opinions of shrewd reviewers, its handling is balanced, and steering is accurate, most say, according to U.S. News reports. The Forte’s handling isn’t best-in-class, but it punches well above its weight compared to the 2023 Nissan Versa.

The 2023 Versa also wears an aggressive tracksuit exterior. However, it’s mostly appearance lacking substance. There’s nothing wrong with the Versa’s handling or steering, but drivers will likely never go fast enough to test the limits.

The 2023 Nissan Versa is super-efficient but super slow

The 2023 Nissan Versa is not as sporty as the 2023 Kia Forte
2023 Nissan Versa SR | Nissan

Drivers will have a 1.6-liter four-cylinder to propel them in each of the Versa’s three trim levels. Nissan’s entry-level sedan provides extraordinary value in a car just a hair over $20,000 in the top-spec, but there’s a sacrifice on power. Drivers must make do with only 122 horsepower and 114 pounds-feet of torque. Regardless, owners should expect 35 mpg combined, one mpg better than the Forte’s 2.0-liter 147-horsepower base engine.

2023 Kia Forte GT performance specs

The 2023 Kia Forte is sportier than the 2023 Nissan Versa
2023 Kia Forte GT | Kia

For a starting MSRP of $24,390, potential buyers can step into the range-topping Forte GT. Unlike the 2023 Nissan Versa, the Forte has a second engine available. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder puts down 201 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque. Whereas most subcompact sedans have drivetrains where all the power comes at the top end, the Forte’s full torque comes into play at just 1,500 rpm. Therefore, sluggish acceleration won’t be an issue.

The 2023 Kia Forte GT comes standard with an impressive seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. For those who want to row their own gears, though, the six-speed manual is an extra $700. Despite one less clutch and adding a human into the mix, the manual GT can sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, Car and Driver says. On the other hand, the Versa takes almost 10 seconds.

Is the 2023 Nissan Versa a bad car?

Quite the opposite, actually. Depending on where you live, the 2023 Nissan Versa S base model is the cheapest subcompact sedan on sale. With ample cargo space, an easy-to-use infotainment system, and generous standard safety features, it’s excellent for first-time car buyers. Furthermore, customers can select a slew of options and trim levels and remain under $20,000.

The 2023 Kia Forte comes stocked with the same practicality, but coupe-like styling sacrifices some rear-row headroom. Lower fuel economy numbers may worry some, but no concern remains unquelled by Kia’s industry-leading warranty. It may be a touch over $25,000, but if you’re looking for sporting credentials for cents on the dollar, the 2023 Kia Forte GT is the least expensive new sports sedan on sale.


The 2023 Kia Forte GT: The Best Performance Sedan On A Budget