Would you rather ride around in a Carnival or a Sedona? While a Carnival sounds like a lot more fun, it may depend on where you’re driving, as many Arizona residents might want their chosen city to…

Next-generation Kia Sedona expected to use global Carnival name

2022 Kia Carnival
Kia is expected to adapt its global Carnival nameplate to the long-running Sedona minivan when it receives this stylish new update later in the year.

Would you rather ride around in a Carnival or a Sedona? While a Carnival sounds like a lot more fun, it may depend on where you’re driving, as many Arizona residents might want their chosen city to be displayed on their vehicle.

This said, Kia Sedona owners may not have a choice if they choose to trade up to the brand’s fourth-generation minivan when it arrives later this year as a 2022 model, or so claims a VIN decoder published by the Sedona Forum, which sourced its information from the NHTSA.

The mid-size three-row van, set to debut with an entirely new look that says goodbye to the current model’s comparatively conservative front fascia and more fluid lines all-round, and hello to a much more angled, distinctive and upscale design, may be adopting the Carnival nameplate in order to maintain global continuity, which helps a brand make the most of advertising market bleed and more.

2022 Kia Carnival
The new Carnival looks even more SUV-like than the current Sedona.

Someone watching an NBA basketball game in Asia, for instance (a regular occurrence in some countries), might not realize that the Kia Sedona shown on the HD scoreboard is in fact their market’s Carnival, or alternatively that the Carnival seen by North American F1 fans on electronic billboards around the upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the new Jeddah Street Circuit is actually their Sedona (not that any of these marketing campaigns actually exist). Kia did something similar years ago by aligning the name of their Canadian-market Magentis mid-size sedan (the basis for the Sedona, incidentally) with the U.S.-specific Optima, and more recently rebadged this car the K5 in both markets in order to align with the newly redesigned model’s global marketing push.

2022 Kia Carnival
The Carnival should help push Kia further upmarket in the minivan sector.

The van debuted last June in Kia’s home market of South Korea, showing off its sharp new styling and a completely redesigned, more luxurious interior to go along with it. The ultra-plush Hi Limousine variant, boasting business class-seating and premium level refinement, won’t likely enter our market, but the current Sedona raised the bar significantly in the North American minivan segment when it arrived for the 2015 model year, and has steadily been improved since, so we can expect to be impressed with its top-line trims when they arrive.

Initial photos show available twin-screen digital displays that join a configurable gauge cluster and multi-information display up with an extremely large centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen, similarly in concept to Mercedes-Benz with its MBUX system, while the model incorporates a knurled metal-edged rotating gear selector on the lower console, similar to Hyundai and Genesis (and Kia K5) models, putting an end to the traditional gear lever that’s still being used in today’s Sedona.

2022 Kia Carnival
A digital gauge cluster that visually blends into a large infotainment touchscreen will be available.

This will continue to control an eight-speed automatic transmission, connecting through to a 3.5-litre V6 engine making 294 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque, which is a significant bump up from the current model’s 276 hp and 248 lb-ft. Other markets will also have the option of a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline-powered model, and a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, the latter good for 202 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, but no one should expect that mill here.

Kia doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive Sedona variant at this time, and it looks as if this will be the case for the Carnival as well, based on information from the aforementioned NHTSA documents and an update by South Korean auto portal Autocast, which also reports that no gasoline-electric hybrid version will be offered either. This will be seen as a negative by environmentally-focused buyers, especially considering Toyota’s new Sienna is only offered with a hybrid power unit that includes standard all-wheel drive. Additionally, Chrysler has long offered a plug-in hybrid Pacifica with real EV driving capability, not to mention an AWD powertrain in its conventionally-powered model.

2022 Kia Carnival
Seating for up to eight should be available.

We can expect details about the Canadian-spec 2022 Carnival to surface sometime this spring, at which point we’ll know more about how this intriguing new entry will stack up against the recently redesigned Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, plus the always strong-selling Stellantis group—FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and Peugeot—vans, now including a Chrysler rebranded, entry-level version of the pricier Pacifica minivan dubbed Grand Caravan in order to gain some name recognition advantage from one of Canada’s best-selling nameplates (this model is called Voyageur in the U.S., which ironically pays no heed to the market-bleed concern noted earlier).

2022 Kia Carnival
We shouldn’t expect this ultra-luxe Hi Limousine variant in our market.

When it goes on sale later this year, Kia probably won’t increase the new 2022 Carnival’s entry price by much over the current 2021 Sedona’s base LX trim MSRP of $32,295 plus freight and fees, although it’s quite possible a more luxurious variant could push up the current top-line Sedona SX Tech’s window sticker beyond $42,795. Additional 2021 Sedona trims in between include the $34,695 LX+ and the $38,695 SX, while CarCostCanada was reporting up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, and get this, the automaker’s Dodge brand is selling off its now-discontinued 2020 Grand Caravan with up to $11,780 worth of available incentives.

To learn more, check out their 2021 Kia Sedona Canada Prices page, and make sure to find out how a CarCostCanada membership can help you save money by making you aware of manufacturer financing and leasing rates, telling you about any available factory rebates, and always giving you dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating over a new vehicle. Additionally, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Android Play Store, so you can have all this important information when you need it most, at the dealership.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Kia

Guessing which vehicles will take home the annual North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards is easier some years than others, but most industry experts had 2020’s crop of winners chosen…

Chevrolet, Kia and Jeep win 2020 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The entirely new mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has won the North American Car of the Year. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Guessing which vehicles will take home the annual North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards is easier some years than others, but most industry experts had 2020’s crop of winners chosen long before this week’s announcement.

The actual name of the award is the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) despite now having three categories covering passenger cars, a sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

Just 50 automotive journalists make up the NACTOY jury, from print, online, radio and broadcast media in both the United States and Canada, with the finalists presented in the fall and eventual winners awarded each year at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, although this year’s presentation was changed to a separate event at Detroit’s TCF Center (formerly known as Cobo Hall/Cobo Center) due to the 2020 NAIAS moving its dates forward to June 7-20 this year. The NACTOY awards were first presented in 1994, with the Utility Vehicle category added in 2017.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The new Corvette promises supercar performance and exotic cachet for a pauper’s price. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Of note, nomination requirements include completely new vehicles, total redesigns, or significant refreshes. In other words, the nominated vehicle needs to be something most consumers would consider new to the market or substantially different from a model’s predecessor. Also important, the finalists earned their top-three placement by judging their segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for money.

The selection process started in June last year, with the vehicle eligibility determined after three rounds of voting. NACTOY used the independent accounting firm Deloitte LLP to tally the votes and kept them secret until the envelopes were unsealed on stage by the organization’s President, Lauren Fix, Vice President, Chris Paukert, and Secretary-Treasurer, Kirk Bell.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The new Corvette’s interior appears much more upscale than previous generations. (Photo: Chevrolet)

The finalists in the “Car” category included the Chevrolet Corvette, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Supra, with the final winner being the new seventh-generation mid-engine Corvette, a total game changer for the model and sports car category. Interestingly, it’s been six years since a sports car won the passenger car category, so kudos to Chevy for creating something so spectacular it couldn’t be ignored, while Toyota and Hyundai should also be commended for their excellent entries.

“A mid-engine Corvette was a huge risk for Chevy’s muscle-car icon. They nailed it. Stunning styling, interior, and performance for one-third of the cost of comparable European exotics,” said Henry Payne, auto critic for The Detroit News.

2020 Kia Telluride
The new 2020 Kia Telluride is as close to premium as any mainstream volume branded SUV has ever been, Hyundai Palisade aside. (Photo: Kia)

The “Utility Vehicle” finalists included the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride and Lincoln Aviator, with most industry insiders believing one of the two South Korean entries (which are basically the same vehicle under the skin, a la Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia) would take home the prize, and lo and behold the Kia Telluride earned top marks.

“The Telluride’s interior layout and design would meet luxury SUV standards, while its refined drivetrain, confident driving dynamics and advanced technology maintain the premium experience,” said Karl Brauer, Executive Publisher at Cox Automotive. “Traditional SUV brands take note: there’s a new star player on the field.”

2020 Jeep Gladiator
The new 2020 Jeep Gladiator is everything we all love about the Wrangler with the added convenience of a pickup truck bed. (Photo: Jeep)

Lastly, “Truck” of the year finalists included the new to us Ford Ranger, the entirely new Jeep Gladiator, and the Ram HD (Heavy Duty) 2500 and 3500, with the sensational new Gladiator getting the highest marks. Incidentally, you’d need to look all the way back to 1999 to find a Jeep that won its category, that model being the Grand Cherokee.

“What’s not to like about a pickup truck with not only a soft-top removable roof but even removable doors? If you want massive cargo-hauling capability or the ability to tow 10,000 pounds, buy something else,” said longtime automotive journalist John Voelcker. “The eagerly awaited Gladiator is a one-of-a-kind truck, every bit the Jeep its Wrangler sibling is … but with a pickup bed. How could you possibly get more American than that?”

Of note, NACTOY is an independent, non-profit organization, with elected officers and funding by dues-paying journalist members.

Find out more about the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Jeep Gladiator at CarCostCanada, where you can get trim, package and individual option pricing, plus rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. While the Corvette is not yet available, you can get up to $1,000 in additional incentives on the new Telluride, and factory leasing and financing rates from 4.09 percent for the new Gladiator. Make sure to check CarCostCanada for more.

Back when first driving a 2016 Sorento, I found myself reveling in its sumptuous supply of soft-touch cabin surfaces including Nappa leather, wowed by the mainstream volume-branded rarity of finding fabric-wrapped…

2019 Kia Sorento SXL Road Test

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento could earn its top spot on the sales charts with styling alone, but it offers so much more than just good looks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back when first driving a 2016 Sorento, I found myself reveling in its sumptuous supply of soft-touch cabin surfaces including Nappa leather, wowed by the mainstream volume-branded rarity of finding fabric-wrapped roof pillars all around, impressed by its large full-colour high-resolution infotainment touchscreen, surprised by its small but potent 240-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain, and buoyed by its general goodness overall.

You’d think with not much changing since then, plus an even more potent V6 on the menu, it would remain high on my list of praiseworthy mid-size crossovers, and indeed it does except for one important detail, since testing the latest 2019 Sorento I’ve also spent a week with the all-new 2020 Telluride, so I’m no longer recommending the Sorento quite as highly for three-row crossover SUV shoppers. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The refreshed 2019 Sorento gets new LED taillights, redesigned bumpers and much more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Granted the optional seven-seat Sorento’s price range slots in much further down Kia’s model hierarchy, starting at $32,795 for the EX 2.4 and topping off with this as-tested 3.3-litre V6-powered $49,165 SXL for 2019, compared to a new premium-level base of $44,995 and considerably higher climb up to $53,995 for the larger Telluride’s SX Limited with Nappa. As one would expect, the advent of the Telluride and expected arrival of a completely redesigned 2021 Sorento sometime next year has already resulted in Kia reshuffling the carryover 2020 Sorento’s trim lines, with the base LX FWD and this top-line SXL being axed from the lineup, so you’d better get a move on if you want either.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The top-line Sorento’s grille looks the same as before, but the LED headlights and lower front fascia are entirely new. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As for what we should expect from the upcoming 2021 Sorento, it will likely follow the current-generation Hyundai Santa Fe that shares its underpinnings, the latter model now only available with two rows and a maximum of five occupants, because Kia’s parent brand has introduced its own version of the Telluride this year as well, dubbed Palisade. That new seven-passenger Hyundai starts more affordably than the Telluride, in fact, with a base price of just $38,499, so it’s likely next year’s Telluride will gain a lower-end SX trim to slot under the current base Palisade in order to provide a three-row SUV option for less affluent Kia buyers once this seven-occupant Sorento is gone. Got that?

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
These dynamic directionally-adaptive full LED headlights are standard on SX and SXL trims for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I said earlier that not much had changed since the Sorento’s 2016 redesign, but in fact it received a mid-cycle update for 2019, featuring an ever-so subtle restyling, a new eight-speed automatic transmission for its optional 3.3-litre V6, and unfortunately the discontinuation of the 2.0-litre turbo-four that I paid tribute to at the beginning of this review (a strange move, being that most rivals are replacing their top-line six-cylinder engines with turbo fours to improve fuel economy, but likely a stopgap measure before the next-generation Sorento arrives).

Specifically, the 2.4, which makes 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, is now used for LX FWD, LX and EX 2.4 trims, while the 3.3, good for 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, adds strength to the LX V6, EX, EX Premium, SX, and SXL models. The six-speed automatic carries over for four-cylinder powered Sorentos, with the new eight-speed only benefiting the V6, while you may have already guessed that all trims but the LX FWD incorporate Kia’s all-wheel drive system.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
SX and SXL trims get a smaller quad of LED fog lamps in new taller, more V-shaped chromed bezels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The eight-speed auto was added for its fuel economy advantages, although its ability to stay within the engine’s most formidable rev range due to shorter shift increments helps performance as well, still Kia will be touting its claimed rating of 12.5 L/100km city, 9.7 highway and 11.2 combined, which compares favourably against the 2018 Sorento V6 AWD in the city, its rating of 13.2 L/100km obviously thirstier, yet oddly doesn’t do anywhere near as well on the highway, the outgoing model achieving a more advantageous 9.3 L/100km rating. So what exactly did Kia use the new eight-speed transmission’s two final gears for? The V6 eight-speed combo is better for those that spend most of their driving time in town, and promises a 0.2 L/100km advantage in combined city/highway travel, but from a fuel economy standpoint the upgrade hardly seems worth the effort.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Our top-tier Sorento rolled on these gorgeous 19-inch chrome alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Just in case you were questioning how well the old 2.0-litre turbo-four compared, it managed a rating of 12.3 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.0 combined, whereas this engine combined with the new eight-speed automatic in the totally redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe (which rides on the same all-new platform architecture the 2021 Sorento will adopt) is rated at 12.3 city, 9.8 highway and 11.2 combined—yah, go figure.

As for the base 2.4, it manages 10.7 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 9.5 combined with its FWD driveline, which represents a significant improvement in the city over last year’s Sorento with the same powertrain that could only muster 11.2 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.9 combined despite no stated changes (so it must come down to gear ratio modifications), while the 2019 Sorento 2.4 AWD gets a claimed 11.2 L/100km city, 9.0 highway and 10.2 combined rating, compared to 11.5, 9.3 and 10.5 last year.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
SX and SXL trims get quicker-responding LED taillights that look especially good at night. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Speaking of claims, Kia says this 2019 Sorento includes a new grille, but I certainly can’t see any difference from the outgoing one, although the hood and lower front fascia have changed, the latter particularly noticeable at each corner where top-tier SX and SXL trims’ trademark quad of LED fog lamps have been halved in size and now combine with what appear to be slatted brake vents just below, not to mention they’re now surrounded by taller, more V-shaped chromed bezels.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
If you haven’t experienced a Kia lately, try a top-line Sorento on for size and then compare it to luxury Japanese and American brands. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The chrome door handles, side window surrounds and silver roof rails were part of my 2016 SX model too, but the chrome rocker mouldings, 19-inch chrome alloy wheels, and totally reworked rear bumper filled with metal brightwork too, are new. The update makes the Sorento a bit classier than the outgoing model’s sportier look, chrome often having this effect.

Also part of the 2019 makeover, revised headlamps and taillights include full LEDs at both ends in SX and SXL trims, plus LED daytime running lights embedded within the headlights and the aforementioned LED fogs. Lesser trims utilize new projector beam headlamps with LED positioning lights, projector beam fog lamps (on LX V6 trim to EX Premium), and conventional taillights in an attractive new design. Additional outer changes include new alloy wheels ranging from 17, 18 and 19 inches and shod with 235/65R17, 235/60R18 and 235/55R19 all-season tires depending on trim, plus new colours.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento provides more soft-touch surfaces and premium details than any mainstream competitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Inside, the 2019 Sorento features a new steering wheel, a mostly digital primary gauge cluster filled with electroluminescent dials to each side of a TFT speedometer that doubles as a fully functional colour multi-information display, plus improvements to the centre stack and infotainment system, the latter now including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. New optional wireless smartphone charging adds a level of convenience I happen to really appreciate, while newly available advanced driver assistance systems include lane keeping assist and driver attention warning.

The latter two safety features are only part of the top-line SXL trim line, that model also the only trim to provide forward collision-avoidance assist, which is unusual in a market that’s now starting to offer automatic emergency braking in base models, but it’s not out of the ordinary to require a move up to a mid-range trim for blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, these two features standard with the Sorento’s EX model. The rest of the Sorento’s safety equipment is the usual standard fare, included right across the board.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The semi-digital gauge cluster gets a large high-resolution centre multi-info display that doubles as a speedometer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The aforementioned base LX FWD starts at just $28,295 and is therefore quite the value proposition when compared to the rest of the mid-size field that are all priced higher, especially when considering it comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlamps, chrome door handles, a leather-wrapped multifunction heatable steering wheel, Drive Mode Select with default Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart settings, three-way heated front seats, a 7.0-inch infotainment display with aforementioned Apple and Android smartphone integration and a backup camera, plus six-speaker audio, and the list goes on and on.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The centre stack consists of two interfaces, the top one housing infotainment and the lower one for dual-zone auto HVAC, etc. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Adding AWD to the base LX increases the price by $2,300 to $30,595 yet also provides roof rails, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition and a wireless phone charger, while the same trim with the V6 and AWD increases the base price by $4,500 to $35,095 and ups content to include fog lamps, a sound-reducing windshield, turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control with auto-defog and separate third-row fan speed/air-con adjusters, UVO Intelligence connected car services, satellite radio, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, a third row for seven-occupant seating, trailer pre-wiring, plus more.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The highly accurate navigation system boasts nicely detailed mapping. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

For $2,300 less than the LX V6 AWD and $2,200 more than the LX AWD, four-cylinder-powered $32,795 EX 2.4 trim includes the just noted fog lights, powered driver’s seat, and seven-passenger capacity of the six-cylinder model while adding a glossy grille insert and leather upholstery, whereas the $38,665 EX with the V6 and AWD builds on both the LX V6 AWD and EX 2.4 with 18-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, an upgraded Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster, express up/down powered windows with obstacle detection all-round, and a household-style 110-volt power inverter, while EX Premium trim starts $2,500 higher at $41,165, yet adds such luxuries as front and rear parking sensors, power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear door sunshades, and a powered liftgate with smart access.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
This hidden cubby includes a wireless smartphone charger and plenty of other plug-ins. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Those wanting to step up to a true luxury experience that rivals some premium brands can opt for the Sorento SX that, for $4,000 more than the EX Premium at $45,165, provides most everything already mentioned plus 19-inch alloys, a chrome grille, stainless steel skid plates front and back, a stainless steel exhaust tip, chromed roof rails, dynamic directionally-adaptive full LED headlights, upgraded LED fog lamps, bar type LED taillights, sound-reducing front side glass, illuminated stainless steel front door scuff plates, perforated premium leather upholstery, and a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen endowed with rich colours and deep contrast, plus crisp resolution and quick reaction to tap, pinch and swipe finger gestures. The included navigation gets nicely detailed maps and accurate route guidance, while SX trim also features superb 10-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio, three-way ventilated front seats, heatable rear window seats, and more.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The leather-wrapped gear lever connects through to an all-new 8-speed automatic, while SX and SXL trims incorporate an electric parking brake. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, the as-tested Sorento SXL costs another $4,000 for an asking price of $49,165 before freight and fees, which incidentally is still quite a bit less than most fully loaded rivals, some of which don’t even offer the level of high-grade equipment included in the previous trim, but over and above everything noted earlier this SXL adds softer Nappa leather upholstery, an electromechanical parking brake, a 360-degree surround parking camera with a split screen featuring a conventional rear view with dynamic guidelines on the left side and an overhead bird’s-eye view on the right, plus high beam assist headlights, adaptive cruise control, and more.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento’s top-line seats are ultra-comfortable and covered in plush Nappa leather. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I sourced pricing for all 2019 Sorento trims, packages and standalone options from CarCostCanada, where you can also find money-saving rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. In fact, there are up to $6,000 in additional incentives available to you on the 2019 Sorento right now, so make sure to check it out.

You’ll need to head down to your local dealership to drive the Sorento, and when you do I’m guessing you’ll be impressed. The V6 is ultra-smooth, as is the new eight-speed automatic that shifts almost seamlessly and quickly no matter the driving mode it’s set in. I left it in default Comfort mode most of the time, but Eco mode was smooth as well and ideal for saving fuel, while Sport mode allowed the engine to rev higher and the gearbox to shift quicker, while Smart mode is a best of both world’s scenario that takes note of how you’re driving, the terrain and other parameters before automatically choosing the ideal mode.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The panoramic sunroof provides plenty of overhead light. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The suspension is wonderfully smooth, yet when pushed through tight corners it handles well for such a large SUV. Overall it’s on the sportier side of seven-passenger competitors, yet it’s excellent seats, pampering soft surfaces and other near-luxury qualities make it one of the more comfortable in its class.

With respect to the driver’s seat, EX trims and above get four-way powered lumbar support that will ideally apply pressure to the small of your back no matter your stature, while the LX V6 and EX 2.4 trims’ two-way lumbar is more of a hit-and-miss scenario. Interestingly, four-way lumbar isn’t even a given in the upper-crust luxury-branded mid-size SUV class, with the industry’s best-selling Lexus RX 350 only making it available with its $63,950 Luxury or $69,850 Executive packages, and not available at all if you want the model’s even pricier two F Sport upgrades, while four-way powered lumbar isn’t even available with Infiniti’s QX60. Another bonus for the Sorento is a lower driver’s seat cushion that extends outward to comfortably cup below the knees for an extra measure of support. The Nappa leather is also impressive, and in fact some of the nicest you’ll find in the mainstream volume sector.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Little touches like these piano black lacquered seatback appliqués really set the Sorento SXL apart. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While the second-row is very roomy and nearly as comfortable as that up front, the Sorento’s rearmost seats are best for smaller to medium-sized kids, with the Telluride your better option if needing to transport larger teens or adults in the very back. 

Some details that are especially nice include the piano black lacquered trim pieces on the backsides of the front seats, that are rarely seen on anything this side of a Bentley or Rolls-Royce. It’s an old English luxury look not used much these days, but a quick look back at my 2019 Genesis G90 review (a car that shares underpinnings with the now discontinued—in Canada—Kia K900) where hardwood is used in the same way, helps us realize where Kia came up with the idea (you’ll need to scroll through the photos until you get to the back seat). The Sorento SXL also includes black lacquered trim on the steering wheel, dash and centre console, plus across each door, but as nice as it looks when new I’m concerned it will scratch easily as it ages.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Second-row roominess is generous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Anyone regularly loading long cargo like skis into the very back will no doubt appreciate how Kia split up the second row. Instead of the usual 60/40 divide, while takes one of the window seats out of action when the smaller portion is laid flat, the Sorento incorporates what I believe to be the best 40/20/40-split solution, which allows both rear passengers to enjoy the more comfortable and visually optimal window positions, plus the previously noted heatable rear cushions if so equipped. This feature, normally only offered by pricier European SUV makers, is a major dealmaker for me, and should be considered by those choosing an SUV for practicality.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
If you need more third-row space than this, check out the 2020 Kia Telluride. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I also appreciated the folding seat release levers attached to the cargo wall, which lower each side automatically. To be clear, the 20-percent centre portion needs to be done manually, this portion only dropping automatically as part of the 60-percent portion on the driver’s side, whereas some vehicles actually include three levers so each portion can drop individually, but this is still a much better system than any competitor in this class offers.

The seats drop right down and lock securely into place, resulting in a spacious, flat-loading floor that measures 2,082 litres (73.5 cu ft) behind the first row in the lowest two trims or 2,066 litres (73.0 cu ft) in the LX V6 and above, 1,099 litres (38.8 cu ft) and 1,077 litres (38.0 cu ft) respectively behind the second row, and 320 litres (11.3 cu ft) behind the third row. There’s a bit of extra storage space under the removable cargo floor, which even allows the retractable cargo cover to be securely stowed away when not in use.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Kia provides a handy storage area below the load floor that securely locks the retractable cargo cover away when not in use. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s these types of details that make the Sorento such a cut above most competitors. This is true for many of Kia’s models, the new Telluride noted earlier especially impressive. The Korean brand often goes above and beyond its competitors, clearly setting itself apart, which is necessary for one of Canada’s newest brands. They lack the luxury of resting on their laurels, and even this well-proven Sorento, a model that’s served Canadian buyers mostly unchanged for years, proves this point as well today as it did in 2015 when generation-three arrived.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento’s 40/20/40-split second row could be a dealmaker for skiers or anyone else needing a more practical family hauler. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

No wonder the Sorento has maintained sales leadership amongst its three-row mid-size SUV peers, its year-to-date Q3 sales of 12,997 units well ahead of every seven-row competitor, with the next most popular Toyota Highlander at just 10,205 deliveries, Dodge Durango with 8,082, the Ford Explorer at just 6,955 (although it’s changing over to a new 2020 design this year, so we’ll cut it some slack), VW Atlas with 6,682, Honda Pilot with 5,886, Chevy Traverse with 4,669, Nissan Pathfinder with 4,564, GMC Acadia with 3,589, Mazda CX-9 with 3,166, Subaru Ascent with 3,027, and now discontinued Ford Flex with 2,418. By the way, the new 2020 Telluride has only been with us since March yet found 2,386 new buyers, while the Palisade, introduced in June, has already earned 2,369 new sales.

Count them up. That’s 15,383 (mostly) three-row mid-size sales for Kia, which is a 50-percent advantage over next-best Toyota. Not bad for a comparative upstart, and proof that combining good looking design with sound engineering and lots of bang for consumers’ bucks results in success.

It seems every time I’ve had opportunity to get behind the wheel of Kia’s new Stinger something has come up. Either the car was damaged by a wayward journo or got decommissioned before I could get…

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line Road Test

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Kia Stinger GT-Line makes a dramatic pose, and this is on the base model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It seems every time I’ve had opportunity to get behind the wheel of Kia’s new Stinger something has come up. Either the car was damaged by a wayward journo or got decommissioned before I could get my hands on it, the latter usually due to me being out of town, but just a few days back from my regular winter sojourn in the tropics has me eyeing up a lovely California Red painted Stinger GT-Line in my driveway. 

As premium as this car looks, complete with standard automatic dual-function LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, body-wide bar-type LED taillights, cool dark chrome exterior trim with the same dark chrome used for the side mirror caps, these additionally adorned with LED signal repeaters, not to mention sharp looking 18-inch machine-finished alloy rims on 225/45 rubber, plus chromed dual exhaust and more, it’s hard to believe this GT-Line is actually the model’s most basic of trims. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s four-door coupe design is totally different than anything else in the mid-size sedan class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course the Stinger starts at a fairly substantive $39,995 plus freight and fees, but despite its somewhat bargain basement Kia nameplate it borders closer to premium territory than most anything else in the mid-size class. And yes, the Stinger is a mid-size sedan. I’ve seen some refer to it as a compact because it rides on the same underpinnings as the Genesis G70, which is a compact luxury competitor that goes up against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, etcetera, but despite having similar wheelbase lengths at 2,910 mm (114.4 in) to 2,835 mm (111.6 in), both longer than the Kia Optima’s 2,805-mm (110.4-in) wheelbase, the Stinger’s 4,830 mm (190.2 in) overall length stretches 145 mm (5.7 in) farther than the G70, and only comes in 20 mm (0.8 in) shorter than the Optima. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
LED headlamps, 18-inch alloys and plenty of sporty design detailing come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Likewise, at 1,870 mm (73.6 in) the Stinger is 20 mm (0.8 in) wider than the G70 and 10 mm (0.4 in) narrower than the Optima, while its height measures 1,400 mm (55.1 in), which is identical to the G70 and 70 mm (2.7 in) lower than the Optima. Those still wanting to call the Stinger a compact will need to take note that it measures a full 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the Forte sedan (a fairly large compact) with a 210-mm (8.2-in) longer wheelbase, while it’s also 70 mm (2.7 in) wider. In other words, it’s clearly a mid-size model, with a longer wheelbase and more width than the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord too, albeit slightly less overall length and height. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The LED headlights offer up plenty of eye-candy inside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Its long, low and wide dimensions lend to its four-door coupe-like stance, a sporty profile that’s backed up by dramatic styling and a pampering cabin, at least for its mainstream volume brand status. This isn’t Kia’s first foray into premium territory either, nor is it the South Korean brand’s most lavish. Look no further than the Mercedes S-Class/BMW 7 Series-sized K900 for such pretensions, a car that might only be upstaged for all out luxury by the Volkswagen Phaeton amongst non-premium brands, but like that outlandish VeeDub the K900 didn’t gain enough sales traction to merit continued availability in Canada, and therefore is now finished in our market (it’s still available south of the 49th mind you). 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
These hood “vents” aren’t functional, but they look great. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While the K900 was truly impressive, it was nowhere near as viable in Canada as this Stinger, which is considerably more affordable, targets a more popular market segment, and focuses more on performance than luxury. In fact, amongst its mid-size competitors I would’ve previously said it comes closest to targeting the Dodge Charger than anything else available, until the Volkswagen Arteon arrived earlier this year. The Arteon, which is based on the European Passat, has effectively replaced the old CC four-door coupe. Other than being smaller and mostly lighter in weight than the near full-size domestic challenger, the two near identically sized and similarly powered imports are basically going after the same performance-oriented buyer (in the Stinger’s base trim at least), although with a single-trim base price $8k higher than the Stinger the new Arteon is pushing quite a bit further into the premium market. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Black chrome mirror caps add a custom look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Incidentally, the Stinger’s curb weight ranges from 1,729 – 1,782 kilos (3,812 – 3,929 lbs) with its as-tested 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, or 1,873 – 1,889 kg (4,129 – 4,165 lbs) with its optional V6, while the Arteon weighs in at 1,748 kg (3,854 lbs) and the Charger hits the scales at 1,823–1,980 kg (4,021–4,530 lbs). While lighter than the Dodge, the all-wheel drive Kia and VW models are nevertheless quite a bit heavier than the aforementioned mid-size front-drivers, giving the Stinger, at least (I’ve yet to test the Arteon, which is booked for late August), a more substantive and therefore premium feel. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
There’s more black chrome throughout the rest of the Stinger design, while these base wheels are stunning. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It really does reach to a higher level inside, with luxury brand details such as fabric-wrapped A, B and C roof pillars, a soft-touch dash with a really nicely finished padded instrument panel, plus soft door uppers front and back. All of the switchgear is nicely fitted with good damping, some even aluminized for an upscale look and impressive feel, while the perforated leather is certainly good for a base model from a volume brand. 

Now that I’m talking features, standard kit includes a heatable leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel that’s sized ideally for performance and feels good in the hands, plus a leather and chrome adorned shift knob (ditto), piano black interior trim, comfortable and supportive heated eight-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-folding side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED interior lighting, ambient mood lighting, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s really my only point of contention, being that it’s a bit small and doesn’t fit flush within its fixed upright mounting and therefore looks outdated. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The LED taillights extend across the Stinger’s entire backside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It incorporates the usual rearview camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and Kia’s exclusive UVO Intelligence connected car services bundle, while the nine-speaker audio is pretty decent for a base system, even including standard satellite radio, and the wireless phone charger is a mighty impressive standard item too. 

A proximity-sensing key fob gets you inside and a silver metallic button ignites the engine, again all standard kit, while the electromechanical parking brake releases automatically. The aforementioned backup camera joins standard rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert to make sure the Stinger’s glittering paint remains scratch free, the latter item packaged together with standard blindspot detection. Once facing forward, simply choose the most fitting Drive Mode Select setting from Smart, Eco, Comfort, Sport or Custom, leave the eight-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission in Drive or slot the lever into manual mode to make the most of the standard steering wheel paddles, which is the best way to get all 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque out of the direct-injected turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Kia carries the Stinger’s sharp looking exterior design into the interior where build quality and refinement are also very good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s just the base powertrain, but thanks to 100-percent of its torque coming on at just 1,400 rpm, and all four wheels engaging the tarmac simultaneously the base Stinger pulls strongly from standstill right up to highway speeds and beyond. Its dual exhaust makes a nice rorty note, complementing the engine’s sonorous tone, the Stinger providing an enjoyable audio track to go along with its rapid acceleration. Certainly the base engine isn’t as intensely satisfying as the optional twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6, that beast making 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque (no optional powertrain is offered in the Arteon), but the turbo-four is a compromise I’d be happy to live with, especially when factoring in its much friendlier fuel economy of 11.1 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.7 combined, compared to 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 for the V6 respectively, both incidentally aided by auto start/stop technology. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Most of the interior’s upper half is soft touch, while all the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The last thing you’ll be thinking about when coursing down a circuitous mountainside road is fuel efficiency, the Stinger’s fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup, with gas shocks and dynamic dampers, tautly sprung for a firm ride that grips like a sports car, yet despite this athleticism it’s hardly punishing, the suspension plenty compliant. 

Braking is strong too, four-cylinder models utilizing 320 mm (12.6 in) vented discs up front and 314 mm (12.4 in) solid rotors in the rear, with the upgraded powerplant receiving a more robust Brembo braking system featuring 350 mm (13.8 in) vented discs in front and 340 mm (13.4 in) vented discs in back. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The base model gets a simpler instrument cluster, but it works well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Stinger’s long, lean shape not only splits the air easily for maximizing high-speed aerodynamics, it also provides a decent amount of rear headroom (about three inches above my five-foot-eight frame) while lending itself nicely to non-traditional cargo access, at least for the mid-size sedan segment. Where the Optima and most everything else in the class use a conventional lidded trunk, the Stinger follows the raked liftback lead provided by four-door coupe forerunners such as Audi’s A5/A7 Sportback, BMW’s 4 Series, Porsche’s Panamera, Aston Martin’s Rapide, and back down to reality, the Arteon, this Kia’s sizeable opening making the most from 660 litres (23.3 cu ft) of capacity behind the rear seats, or for that matter expanding on the rearmost volume to a total of 1,158 litres (40.9 cu ft) when those 60/40 split seatbacks are folded down. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The base 7.0-inch touchscreen was a bit disappointing. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yes, the Stinger is as practical to live with as it’s great to look at, wonderful to drive, and impressively finished. I’ll need to spend a week with the new Arteon to see if its higher price brings anything more than a German label, but its interior detailing will need to be mighty impressive to upstage this base Stinger GT-Line, and if recent experience with the Passat is anything to go by it may fall a bit short. With all options added the Arteon hits the road at just over $53k, which is more than even the highest priced GT Limited 20th Anniversary Edition of the Stinger that slots in at $51,495 and comes with special 19-inch alloy wheels, carbon-fibre inlays, red Nappa leather upholstery, plus red-stitched “Stinger” floor mats, whereas the mid-range GT starts at $44,995 and the regular GT Limited at $49,995 (check out the prices of all 2019 Stinger trims, packages and options at CarCostCanada, plus find out how you can save hundreds and even thousands through manufacturer rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing). 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
These leather-clad sport seats are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

These latter two trims get unique 19-inch wheels, an upgraded suspension with Dynamic Stability Damping Control (DSDC), sound-reducing front side door glass, auto-dimming side mirrors, stainless steel door scuff plates, stainless steel sport pedals, carbon-fibre-like inlays (replacing the piano black interior trim), shift-by-wire transmission control (which replaces the base model’s shift-by-cable system) a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, driver’s side memory, an under-floor storage tray, a large “full-width” sunroof, a gesture-control powered liftgate, and a luggage net. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The rear seating area provides plenty of space in all directions. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, the top-line GT Limited adds exclusive cornering headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, aluminum finish décor trim (in place of the carbon-fibre), a black headliner, a 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster, a head-up display (HUD) unit, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, premium Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, an upgraded driver’s seat with a four-way “air cell” lumbar support system, power-adjustable bolsters, and a powered lower cushion extension, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch centre touchscreen (that should be standard) with a 360-degree surround camera monitoring system and navigation, a 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio upgrade, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (that’s normally standard), lane keeping assist, and driver attention alert. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s convenient liftback adds to its overall livability. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So there you have it, another great car from a brand that deserves much more respect and success than it gets. Year-over-year sales of the Stinger have dropped off a bit over the first half of 2019, down 14.38 percent with 750 units down Canadian roads, but it’s getting pretty close to the Optima that’s (yikes) down 44.67 percent over the same two quarters at 872 deliveries. In case you’re wondering how it measures up to regular front-drive mid-size models, the Camry kills in this class with 8,586 unit sales over the same period (up 12.87 percent), while the Accord came in second with 5,837 deliveries (down 9.71 percent). As for the Arteon, it only found 184 customers so far this year, but it only went on sale this spring so we’ll have to wait in order to find out how well it does. The Passat, incidentally, only sold 474 units through Q2, which put it down 75.55 percent year-over-year. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s load carrying capacity is impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of the 14 models competing in the mid-size class (Stinger and Arteon included, and Charger considered a full-size/large car), nine have lost ground, one hasn’t been around long enough to quantify, and four have increased sales, while the Stinger’s small drop in popularity is much less worrisome than most peers, and more resultant of the entire segment’s downturn than disinterest in the car itself. I experienced just the opposite during my test week, with plenty of long smiling stares and positive nods as I drove by. The Stinger gets plenty of respect, and over the long haul should do a lot to raise Kia’s overall brand image. If you’re in the market for a great looking, sporty four-door with the practicality of a hatch, you should take a long look and a quick ride in the Kia Stinger.

The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde…

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited Road Test

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The 2019 Kia Forte is one great looking car, especially in top-line EX Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde Honda Civic or Toyota’s visually complex 2020 Corolla. 

Where both the Civic and Corolla succeed for being very good cars wearing extremely well respected nameplates, their styling is a bit more hit and miss. Obviously they appeal to enough peoples’ tastes to have become Canada’s best-selling and second-most popular cars (not including trucks and crossover SUVs), at least with respect to their four-door variants, but I personally believe the new Forte is easier on the eyes. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Sharp, clean, simple lines from front to back, the Forte should appeal to the majority of peoples’ tastes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This is true for the entire Kia lineup. Unlike both Honda and Toyota that have regularly been called out for design misses (Honda more for the bizarre and Toyota for the bland), Kia has long been making news for styling hits, with this latest Forte definitely holding its own in a crowded compact segment. Rather than making up for an awkwardly proportioned three-box layout with acres of plastic body cladding, the Forte starts off with a leaner, more sweptback profile that doesn’t need as much embellishment to look good. Certainly there’s some nice attention to detail from front to back, but the sporty upgrades on my top-line Forte EX Limited enhance this sedan’s overall design instead of overwhelming it. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The updated Forte shows a new take on Kia’s trademark notched oval grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Some noteworthy styling features start with a fresh version of the brand’s bisected oval trademark grille, filled with a sporty gloss-black insert above yet more glossy black detailing within an even sportier lower front fascia, this bookended by deeply sculpted corner vents incorporating horizontal LED fog lamps. A truly interesting set of available “X” accented LED headlights are positioned above, offsetting comparatively conventional taillights at the other end, albeit infused with complex LEDs within and connected in the middle by a rather nice narrow reflective centre lens. 

The rear deck lid, with its subtly integrated spoiler, is nicely done, while at the base the Forte’s hind end is yet more gloss black trim on the rear bumper cap, formed into triangular bezels housing the rear fog and backup lights, which hover over a diffuser-style lower garnish incorporating a chromed exhaust finisher, while the entire package rides on a smart looking set of twinned five-spoke machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
These cool looking “X” infused signature LED headlights are available from just-above-base EX trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Inside, the new Forte is more upscale and European-like than its predecessor and a number of compact competitors, its design coming across as conservatively tasteful, similar to what you might find in a premium brand. Most of the dash top an instrument panel is finished in high-quality soft-touch synthetics, as are the front door uppers, the door inserts, and armrests front to rear. I’m not going to say that Kia covers more surfaces in premium-level composites than average for this class, but the brand is well respected for being one of the first to push compact models into near-premium territory with respect to refinement and features, with most others now catching up. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The Forte provides some very sporty glossy black details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features in mind, EX Limited trim includes perforated leatherette upholstery that feels a lot more realistic than most fake animal hides, the perforations necessary up front to allow forced three-way ventilation to seep out. This trim also gets rear seat heaters for the outboard positions, while three-way front seat heaters are standard, as is a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. 

Yes you heard me right. The Forte’s standard steering wheel rim is leather-wrapped and heatable. Consider for a moment that Toyota doesn’t even provide Canadians with an option for heating a Camry’s steering wheel, even in top-line trim that costs nearly $24k more than the Forte’s $17,195 base MT trim, and $13k more than this top-tier $28,065 Forte EX Limited, while not offering ventilated front seats or heatable rear cushions either (make sure to find out about all 2019 Kia Forte pricing, including trim levels, packages and options at CarCostCanada, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
These 17-inch twinned-spoke alloys suite the Forte well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I don’t know about you, but after the last few winters we’ve experienced I don’t want to use my fingers for warming a steering wheel when embedded elements are readily available, and my rear passengers certainly shouldn’t be forced to freeze their butts off either. What’s more, why shouldn’t I be able to cool my derriere during July, August and the first half of September? Fortunately, Kia doesn’t cause us to ask such questions, but instead makes the first of these comforting features standard in one of their most affordable cars, and the latter two available (to be fair, the 2020 Corolla sedan offers a heatable steering wheel rim with an upgrade package, but no ventilated front seats or heated rear seats). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The upgraded LED taillights receive nicely detailed internals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to some other 2019 Forte improvements, Kia upgraded its stylish automatic shifter with a leather-clad palm rest overtop a satin-silver metallic grip, while surrounding it all in a stitched-leatherette boot that’s encircled by the same satin-silver surfacing. The Forte uses this classy matte silver treatment for the steering wheel spokes too, as well as for a decorative strip across the instrument panel and the trim around each corner vent bezel, not to mention the inner door handles and as an embellishment for the power window and side mirror switchgear, plus even for the handbrake’s thumb release button. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
All compact cars are more upscale than their forebears, and Kia helped to lead the charge in years past. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, a handbrake seems somewhat archaic in today’s world of electromechanical sophistication, but really it’s nothing I thought twice about during two weeks of testing. In fact, I only noticed this throwback to simpler times when taking notes on the last day. It exists for the base Forte’s six-speed manual, a transmission I wish was available in trim lines further up the car’s price range, like sister company Hyundai does with its impressive 200-horsepower Elantra Sport, a worthy Civic Si competitor that also gets suspension and styling upgrades. This said, if you don’t mind waiting another model year, last November Kia announced a new GT trim for the upcoming 2020 Forte that will provide all of the same performance updates as the Elantra Sport, but of course in Kia’s unique way. I’ll do my best to get into this car as soon as one is made available. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The Forte provides a more sophisticated Euro-inspired instrument panel design, when compared to some funkier competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Unlike that Elantra, the new Forte uses one single 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a carryover from last year that continues to dole out 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. While a relatively competitive engine in this class, this lone mechanical offering is not only a far cry less varied than the three engines Toyota is providing for its latest Corolla sedan (one now a hybrid), or the trio of powerplants available in Honda’s Civic Sedan (one being a 205-horsepower dynamo in the just-noted Si, and a realistic fourth powertrain being the hybrid used in the new Insight that’s little more than a face-lifted Civic Hybrid), it’s also not going to attract performance-oriented buyers. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
This supervision LCD/TFT primary gauge cluster gets added in EX trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In the previous second-generation Forte sedan, Kia offered Canadians two engine choices, the outgoing option being a more advanced direct-injected version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder just mentioned, albeit dubbed 2.0 GDI and producing a considerably more robust 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Earlier, when writing my “Garage” preview of this new 2019 sedan, I mused about this more potent engine possibly becoming a late arrival along with the redesigned Forte5, but Kia now shows this renewed five-door hatchback in 2020 form (set to arrive later this year, although for the time being it remains suited up in its previous 2018 gen-2 design) in the “Upcoming Vehicles” category of their retail website, with no sign of the upgraded GDI engine’s availability, but with the same base “2.0L MPI” powerplant as used for this sedan, plus last year’s (and the still current) top-line turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder as an option, still making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, while mated to a paddle shift-actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen is superb, plus quick to respond to inputs, and all features worked well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s understandable why Kia chose to simplify the Forte’s engine lineup when last year’s sales only came to 14,399 units (including the just-noted Forte5 hatchback), down 12.1 percent from 2017, which compares poorly to the Corolla’s 48,796 deliveries throughout 2018 (including its Corolla Hatchback—an excellent car, by the way), and the Civic’s leading 69,005-unit sum over the same 12 months (which included the Civic Sedan, Hatchback, and Coupe). 

I should probably also make mention of the previously noted Hyundai Elantra’s sales too, this highly popular model (that’s new in sedan form for 2020) finding a respectable 41,784 new Canadian customers last year (currently in sedan, Sport sedan, and five-door GT trims), albeit this was a 9.4-percent drop from the year prior. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The backup camera works very well thanks to a big screen, clear visuals and dynamic guidelines. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Another reason Kia may have solely gone for the less formidable powerplant comes down to the Forte’s base price and ongoing running costs, the Korean company probably assuming correctly that buyers in this price-sensitive segment wouldn’t want to pay a larger sum initially if the only engine offered was the more advanced GDI powerplant, nor more at the pump, being that the chosen MPI engine is more efficient. Looking back at 2018 Transport Canada fuel economy figures, the base MPI engine had a rating of 8.0 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined, whereas the more powerful GDI was rated at 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.3 combined. That’s a significant difference in a compact market segment that’s ultra-sensitive to seemingly ever-increasing pump prices. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Dual-zone automatic climate control gets added in EX Premium trim.

While we’re talking fuel economy, I should also point out that Kia has made considerable headway with its MPI engine in the new 2019 model, with the new six-speed manual-equipped base trim achieving a claimed Transport Canada rating of 8.6 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.6 combined, compared to last year’s numbers of 9.4, 6.8 and 8.3 respectively. Not quite as impressive yet still allowing for a noticeable improvement is this year’s all-new Hyundai/Kia-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) when compared to last year’s six-speed automatic, with the 2019 model receiving a 7.7 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.9 combined rating, and the 2018 car only capable of 8.0, 6.1 and 7.1 respectively. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The latest smartphones can take advantage of Kia’s wireless device charger, standard on just-above-base EX trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That CVT, which Kia smartly calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) in order to separate it from the deluge of CVTs taking over this market segment, is a $2,500 option with the base LX model and comes standard with all other trims, while it does almost as good a job of putting power down to the front wheels as it does at saving fuel. That’s high praise for a CVT, by the way, this being one of the better variations on the theme I’ve had the pleasure of driving in this class, and easily up to the task required by a comfort-oriented compact sedan. 

The Forte takes off quickly and smoothly enough, with both engine and transmission providing smooth, linear performance, plus not too much noise from ahead of the firewall. The powertrain works well in its Normal default mode, or for that matter its Eco, Sport and Smart “Drive Mode Select” settings, my preference being Smart mode as it automatically adjusts all of the above to maximize fuel economy, performance or any capability in between. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The Forte’s CVT is highly efficient and works very well for this class of car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Forte’s ride is smooth and comfortable too, while its handling is sharp and responsive unless pushed extremely hard through bumpy backroads. Unfortunately it utilizes a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle than either the Civic or new Corolla, the latter finally receiving an upgrade to its underpinnings for 2020, but Kia’s suspension tuning team deserves credit for making the most of this less appealing package, as its wonderfully smooth most of the time, and its rear tires don’t get unglued until those just-noted extreme limits are met. 

Keeping the Forte within its lane are the usual active safety features such as stability and traction control, while some nearly standard advanced driver assistance systems (they’re standard when upgrading to the CVT) include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), and Driver Attention Alert (DAA). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Three-way heated and three-way cooled seats set the Forte EX Limited apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, on top of everything already mentioned both manual- and CVT-equipped LX models include auto on/off projector headlamps, splash guards, body-colour mirror caps and door handles, heated side mirrors, air conditioning, a really nice new fixed tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display with tap, pinch, and swipe capability in some applications (plus immediate response to finger gestures), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera with helpful dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/MP3 radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio steaming, USB audio input and charging ports, cruise control, Hill-Assist Control (HAC), 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks that expand on a sizeable 434-litre (15.3 cu-ft) trunk, and more. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The seats are comfortable, the perforated leatherette feels real, and it all looks great. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you’d rather have 16-inch machine-finished alloys instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers you’ll need to upgrade to $20,995 EX trim, which also includes the noted LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, a gloss black grille with chrome accents, chrome window trim, aeroblade wipers, a chrome exhaust tip, satin chrome interior door handles, a supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster, a wireless device charger, rear climate ventilation, a rear centre armrest, tire pressure monitoring, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
This powered glass sunroof gets added in EX+ trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The move up to $22,495 EX+ trim includes all of the above while adding 17-inch machine-finished alloys, LED taillights, LED interior lighting, and a powered moonroof, whereas $25,065 EX Premium trim also features High Beam Assist (HBA) for the LED headlights, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, SOFINO synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, UVO Intelligence connected car services, a Smart release trunk lid that automatically opens when you’ve been standing behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket or purse, Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), and more. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Rear seating is spacious, comfortable, and benefits from outboard seat warmers in EX Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, my $28,065 EX Limited tester came with everything already noted as well as the ventilated front seats and heatable outboard rear seats I’ve gone on and on about, plus an upgraded multimedia infotainment interface with an accurate and easy-to-use navigation system, and finally a great sounding Harman/Kardon premium audio system. 

I should also mention that the driver’s seat was especially comfortable and, while only offering two-way powered lumbar instead of four, it neatly fit the small of my back ideally and was therefore quite helpful in minimizing lower back pain. What’s more, when set up with the Forte’s standard tilt and telescopic steering column, the car provided excellent ergonomics, even for my unique longer leg and shorter torso body type. On that note I’ve often had problems properly fitting into Toyota products, including the outgoing 2019 Corolla, because it didn’t provide enough telescopic reach for me to set its driver’s seat far enough rearward for optimal comfort and control, but no such problems with the Forte. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The Forte’s trunk is quite large and includes standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks for stowing longer cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Sitting behind the driver’s seat when it was set for my long-legged five-foot-eight height left me plenty of space to get comfortable, including more than enough room for my feet, approximately five inches ahead of my knees, another three and a half or so above my head, plus about five between the window ledge and my shoulder, and four beside my outer hip. The dual cupholder-infused folding centre armrest was ideally positioned for resting adult arms, but this is hardly unusual in this class, nor were dual rear vents fed through the backside of the front centre console, or the webbed magazine pocket behind the front passenger seat, but of course the previously noted rear outboard seat heaters, which kept my derriere comfortably warm, were much appreciated while taking notes. I also liked the tiny rear quarter windows that provided a little more light and visibility for rear passengers than some cars in this class that leave the C-pillars blocked off despite showing black glass on the outside. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The efficient 2.0 MPI engine is good for commuting, but performance fans will be able to opt for a 201-hp turbo in 2020 GT trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So, there you have it. The latest 2019 Kia Forte isn’t perfect, but it’s the best this model has ever been, and if it weren’t for lacking some optional power and a multi-link rear suspension it might just have earned best-in-class status. This said, the Forte addresses the majority of compact sedan buyers’ requirements, such as attractiveness, spaciousness, comfort, and safety, while going way above par when it comes to standard and optional features. Those who want more performance can currently opt for the sportier 2018 Forte5 hatchback and will be able to get into a redesigned version and the new Forte GT sedan in 2020 guise. Regular Forte sedans will still lack the power of some mainstream rivals and the high-speed handling benefits of an independent rear suspension, but the value-oriented way Kia is approaching this compact class seems like a good compromise from a smaller market player, and reason enough for anyone to consider this impressive compact sedan.