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The list of cheap, small sports cars isn’t long these days, but there are some new models joining the ranks. Many have sung the praises of the Elantra N, but there is another newcomer from the Korean contingent that doesn’t get as much attention. In truth, the Kia Forte GT delivers plenty of fun and function, but is it a match to the Golf GTI hatchback? In some ways, we think it might be a better option.

The Forte GT takes the smiles-per-dollar crown

Kia Forte GT in silver
2023 KIA Forte GT | KIA

No matter how much we like the new Golf GTI, its price has gotten out of hand. Meanwhile, the Forte GT delivers an engaging and versatile driving experience for about $6,000 less than its German rival. That’s not an insignificant chunk of change, it makes the Forte GT seem like a great value when checking out affordable sports cars.

Of course, the Forte GT also delivers less power than the GTI, but in terms of real-world performance, the two are closer than they might seem. The Korean four-door manages a 6.7-second sprint to 60 mph when equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. The same setup in the new GTI gets you there just a half-second quicker.

Close-up of Forte GT shift paddle
Dual-clutch paddles in the Forte GT | KIA

In initial testing, the Forte GT offers a roadholding average of 0.87g compared to 0.97g in a Car and Driver skidpad test. However, the GTI comes out of the box with high-performance summer tires while the Kia arrives with all-season rubber around its 18-inch wheels. On equal tires, the Forte GT would likely sit in the GTI’s tire tracks around a corner. That thought is only bolstered by the Kia’s tighter turning radius, which is a full inch smaller than the Volkswagen hatch.

Both cars get a dual-clutch automatic transmission as an option, along with standard adaptive sport suspension and uprated brake packages. And while the warranty isn’t the only thing that matters, the fact that the turbocharged Forte GT is covered for a decade or 100,000 miles means a lot more confidence to enjoy the car’s performance day to day.

Forte GT vs Golf GTI: Which car is more practical?

2023 Golf GTI
2023 Golf GTI | Volkswagen

The Golf GTI has long held the practical sports car crown, but the Forte GT is here to challenge that notion. For cargo space, it’s no contest – the GTI’s hatch is good for 22 cubic feet of space, while there are just 15.3 cubes available in the Kia’s trunk. However, if we’re counting just the space from the top of the back seats to the load floor, cargo space is damn-near identical in both cars.

Interior space puts the two sports cars closer than one might think as well. The Forte GT is a touch wider than the GTI, so rear-seat passengers have more space to get comfortable. There’s more front and rear legroom in the Kia as well, making it a more functional choice for driver and passengers alike. The only area where the GTI has an edge is rear-seat headroom, which is just 0.6 inches greater than in the Forte.

Defining driver experience is a personal choice

Interior of the Golf GTI
VW Golf GTI Interior | Volkswagen

For some, value for money matters. In that case, the Forte GT is a hard car to pass up. However, there is no doubt that the MK8 GTI offers a more upscale cabin experience than the Kia. The only question that matters, then, is which factor means more?


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