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It’s no secret that the Toyota Corolla is the most popular compact sedan on the market today. However, when compared to the Kia Forte, the Toyota Corolla is lacking in two major areas.

A blue 2020 Kia Forte driving down the road
2020 Kia Forte GT Sport | Kia

While the two vehicles are equal in many ways, the Forte pulls ahead of the Corolla where performance is concerned. Drivers looking for a fun compact can look to the Forte for affordable fun, while the Corolla is dull in comparison.

Meanwhile, the Kia contender also offers considerably more cargo space than the Toyota compact. Even better, the Kia does it all for less money than the Corolla, making it a great value overall.

The Kia Forte vs Toyota Corolla performance

Front angle view of white 2023 Toyota Corolla compact car
2023 Toyota Corolla | Toyota

In their standard kits, the Corolla does have a performance edge over the Kia Forte. Base performance in the Kia compact is 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

Compare that to the Corolla, which now offers a similar 2.0-liter four-cylinder that churns out 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is similar for both models at 41 mpg highway. However, the Corolla does offer 32 mpg city versus 30 mpg city in the Forte.

Pricing at this base level tips in the Kia’s favor, with a base MSRP of $19,690 compared to over $21,000 for a base trim Toyota compact.

It’s at the top of the range where the Korean compact takes the lead over its Japanese competition. In the Kia Forte GT there is a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. This powerplant offers 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, while the Corolla retains its base engine through the entire lineup. In addition, the Forte GT offers both a six-speed manual and seven-speed dual clutch transmission for more engaging performance.

It would be easy to think that for just over $25,000, the Forte GT would end there. However, this sporty compact also gets a sport-tuned suspension. It lowers the ride height and sharpens handling, while performance brakes help get things slowed down. 

2023 Kia Forte GT
2023 Kia Forte GT | Kia

There is no comparable model within the standard Corolla lineup. And even the top-spec Corolla sedan costs nearly $2,000 more than the spicy Korean compact. For a sportier Corolla experience, the GR Corolla hatchback is the only option. Unfortunately, that’ll cost upwards of $40,000 to take home, according to Car and Driver.

Compact cargo space

While interior space is similar for both models, the Kia Forte’s other big advantage over the Toyota Corolla is cargo area. At 15.3 cubic feet, the trunk space in the Forte is over two cubic feet larger than the Corolla. That’s enough space to fit an extra duffel bag in the Korean model.

In addition, both front and rear legroom are more plentiful in the KIA, though the margins are considerably smaller. The Corolla measures 42 inches of front legroom and 34.8 inches in the back. The Forte, meanwhile, offers 42.2 inches up front and nearly 36 inches in the back.

Front angle view of white 2023 Toyota Corolla, showing how cars from Toyota brand are cheaper than Honda
2023 Toyota Corolla | Toyota

Which affordable compact is the best value?

For performance and versatility, its hard to argue with the Kia Forte GT when compared to the Corolla. Considering all that comes for the price, this Korean contender takes the fight to the Japanese legend. That said, the Corolla is still the more efficient choice, even if it is a bit less exciting.

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