Consumer Reports’ Worst Compact Sedan Is Also the Cheapest

With car prices still higher than average, it’s incredibly tempting to settle for the cheapest option when shopping for a new car. However, let’s face it: if you pay less, you’re probably going to get the (more-or-less) worst vehicle. Such is the case for the Kia Forte, which is currently the cheapest compact sedan at $19,090. Here are all the reasons why Consumer Reports says you should save your money for something better.

What’s the most expensive sedan in the compact segment?

The priciest car in any given segment isn’t always the best either, as evidenced by the 2022 Mazda3. The base 2.0 Sedan trim usually costs around $21,150, and the range-topping 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus taps out at $34,750. The two turbo trims are predictably the only ones with the turbo engine, capable of 227 horsepower.

CR only tested the 155-hp four-cylinder offering, but even that powertrain offers excellent acceleration. CR also praised its silent operations and responsive handling, though it’s not as sporty as other Mazda cars. 

Consumer Reports also griped that some of the steering controls were challenging to operate, and the infotainment screen doesn’t have touch-operated controls. Rear-seat room is also very limited, and the sloping roofline makes the row hard to access.

Why is the 2022 Kia Forte so bad?

A gray 2022 Kia Forte GT compact sedan driving through a desert highway
2022 Kia Forte | Kia America

The Kia Forte comes standard with 147-hp four-cylinder engine, paired with a CVT and FWD. Consumer Reports determined that this powertrain needs more than 8 seconds to reach 60 mph, but power delivery is smooth nonetheless. It also gets exceptional gas mileage, rated at 31/41 mpg city/highway.

A turbocharged engine with 201 horsepower is available, but it’s probably not worth the $23,490 entry fee. Consumer Reports actually praised the Kia Forte’s handling, saying that it had improved considerably compared to previous model years. However, the Forte is reportedly the loudest car in its class, with elevated interior and exterior noise levels. 

The Forte’s suspension is also too stiff to provide any comfort. You’ll likely feel any minor road imperfection, and each seat is much too low to the ground. Every trim only comes with thin cloth upholstery, though higher trims can have synthetic leather inserts.

Because the car is so low to the ground, seat access for taller drivers is very difficult. CR says that lower-back support for the front seats is minimal, but at least you get a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The cabin is much roomier than the back row, sacrificing seat space for more floor area.

Like the Mazda3, the Forte’s sloping roofline makes it hard for any backseat rider to get comfortable. On the plus side, the Forte has over 15 cubic feet of cargo space, and its load floor lies flat. Just be wary of loading larger items, as the trunk lid’s exposed hinges can snag or damage precious cargo.

The 2022 Kia Forte’s interior materials are barely justified by its low price. While the dashboard has some padding, the rest of the cabin gets a hideous black plastic treatment. 

Why not buy the 2022 Subaru Impreza instead?

The Subaru Impreza has the highest overall score in the compact sedan category on Consumer Reports. Its base trim is only $205 more than the Kia Forte’s, and it comes with slightly more horsepower. Its fuel economy isn’t as good as the Forte’s, but its 28/36 city/highway mpg rating isn’t bad at all for the compact sedan segment.

The Subaru Impreza also has added utility thanks to standard AWD, and the suspension stays comfortable on bumpy roads. CR also appreciated the Impreza’s quiet and roomy interior. Judging by the Impreza’s above-average reliability, it will stay running longer than any given Kia Forte.

RELATED: Car and Driver and Consumer Reports Disagree on the Kia Forte