Kia Forte problems are pretty bad (but better than the competition)

Kia Forte problems

Despite it being a best-selling car, Kia Forte problems (all model years) are very well known in the automotive community. There have been some severe and dangerous complications of this reasonably-priced compact sedan that potential buyers need to be aware of.

The 2010 model year Kia Forte is the most problematic, with severe engine knocking being a common complaint. That issue lasted until the 2015 model year, but by then, the Forte had become known for other annoying problems such as excessive road noise, faulty entertainment systems, and leaky taillights.

What problems does the Kia Forte have?

Despite the Forte’s popularity as a budget-conscious choice in the automotive market, a handful of annoying (and dangerous) issues have plagued this car for years:

Engine issues (of all kinds)

Owners have complained (for years) about knocking noises coming from the engine. On average, this starts happening around 100k miles, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix. In other words: it doesn’t stop until the engine is replaced. Ouch.

It’s not guaranteed to happen, but it’ll hurt when it does. A full engine replacement on a Kia Forte runs about $4,000 – and that’s for a used one with a lot of miles on it.

  • Engine knocking has been one the Forte’s longest-running problems (from 2010-2015) so listen very closely for odd noises coming from the engine bay during the test drive.
  • In 2017, a different engine issue emerged around the 10k mile mark. Drivers noted a rough running engine, resulting in the need to replace the ignition coil. Fortunately, this repair is much less costly at only a few hundred dollars. Much better than replacing the entire engine, eh?
Kia Forte engine
Don’t get too attached to the engine in your Kia Forte. You may need to replace it at some point…

Improperly sealed tail lights

Some 2017 Forte owners have reported water leaking into the taillights due to improper sealing during assembly. This $700 repair happens at around 20k miles. Yes, the car will still be covered under warranty at 20k miles, but it’s an annoying inconvenience nonetheless.

Defective sound system

Newer models of the Forte have upgraded connections for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. However, a commonly reported issue across all Kia Forte models is that the sound system stops working completely at around 75k miles.

The good news is that this is a simple software glitch that can easily be fixed at home by the owner. Doing a hard reset (as explained in the owners manual) will fix it. Most of the time at least.

Malfunctioning door locks

In the 2020 model, there are defects in the rear door lock that often requires replacement. Not only that, it repeatedly failed side-impact testing, which doesn’t give me any confidence that it’s the best car to be hauling the kids around in.

Don’t worry though. This can a common issue on many cars. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things I talked about in my list of 2010 Honda Fit problems.

Excessive road noise

Many Kia Forte owners have reported that it is very noisy on rough roads. This is even something I complained about in my 2017 Kia Forte review. It’s a nice car, but wow…it’s noisy.

driving a 2021 Kia Forte
This is me driving a 2021 Kia Forte. What you can’t see is me looking extremely satisfied that it’s far quieter than the 2017 version.

Is the Kia Forte expensive to fix?

According to CarEdge.com, Kia Forte owners can expect to spend almost $6,000 in maintenance and repairs in the first ten years – with most expenses incurred in the latter five years. This is about $1,000 less than other popular sedans in it’s price range.

Expenses also tend to depend on how well the car is maintained. It’s essential to have the vehicle serviced regularly and to keep a regular maintenance schedule (changing oil, tires, service the battery, replacing air filters, etc.).

Recalls

Quite often, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – or a vehicle manufacturer – will decide that a vehicle has not met minimum standards of safety. When that happens, the car is recalled.

As you’ve read so far, the Kia Forte has lots of problems (as most budget cars do). Some of them are serious enough to warrant a recall being issued. And in the case of the Forte, many have been many issued over the years:

2010-2013

  • Airbags and restraint devices. As a result of this defect, the frontal airbags may short circuit, and the seat belt pre-tensioners may become disabled, increasing the risk of injury to occupants in an accident.
  • Brake light switch. When brakes are applied, the brake lights may not illuminate. This can be dangerous to not only yourself, but everyone else on the road.
  • Cruise control. The user may not be able to disengage the cruise control, leading to a higher risk of crashes.

2011

  • Powertrain. An improperly manufactured transmission fluid cooler hose can lead to a leak that may cause the vehicle to become immovable.

2013

  • Seat belts. The seatbelt retractor may not have been adequately screwed into place, allowing the retaining plates to break and cause injury to the occupants.

2012-2015

  • Brake pedals. The brake pedal stopper pad can deteriorate due to the switch plunger not retracting as it should. This can allow the car to shift out of Park without using the brake pedal.
  • Engine oil leaks. The engine compartment may catch fire because of oil or fuel leaks.

2014

  • Electrical system. The Forte’s cooling fan resistor may overheat and melt, resulting in a fire.

2017-2018

  • Engine and engine cooling. The oil pump traps foreign particles which can cause oil pump failure, which can lead to engine damage. If the engine stalls, it can increase the risk of an accident.

2019

  • Powertrain and axle shaft. The driveshaft may not have been heat-treated properly, which can cause it to break and increase the risk of a crash.
  • Lamp and reflective devices. The driver may experience reduced visibility due to unaligned headlights.

2021

  • Airbag/restraint control module. The airbag sensor may not detect the presence of a child in the front passenger seat, leading to increased injury or death to a child.
2021 Kia Forte rear end
Perhaps the least flattering angle of the 2021 Kia Forte. I like this car, but…I can’t think of anything nice to say about this pic.

Is the Kia Forte a reliable car?

I’ve always been a pretty big fan of the Kia Forte. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s often a decent choice when faced with other options at the airport rental car lot.

I’m not sure I could ever buy one of my own based on all the problems it has, but…what car in this price range doesn’t have it’s fair share of issues? In terms of Kia Forte reliability:

Websites, such as RepairPal.com, give the Kia Forte a 4.5 out of 5.0 for reliability. Several factors contribute to this higher than average reliability score:

  • Low repair cost: This is an average of $451 a year, compared to other compact cars with an average of $526/year.
  • Less severe repairs: The probability of having a serious or significant repair is only 9%.
  • Less frequency of repairs: Forte owners have unscheduled repairs an average of 0.2 times per year.

One of the other features most appreciated by owners is the excellent gas mileage. Not only that, the warranty is fantastic. Just like every other vehicle in the Kia lineup, the Forte comes with a 10-year/100k mile warranty.

Despite all of the problems I’ve listed out above, the Forte is a long-lasting, easy-to-handle car that can easily last between 100,000 – 200,000 miles.

Compared to 2013 Ford Focus problems (or even 2013 Toyota Camry problems), they are far less migraine-inducing when it comes to overall reliability.

What model years are the most reliable?

The Kia Forte offers value and reliability and has proven to be an excellent car over the last ten years – at least compared to the competition. The third generation models (launched in 2019) have proven to develop fewer problems than their predecessors.

The upgraded infotainment system (audio/video), specialized safety features, telescopic steering column, and climate control improvements have appealed to car shoppers everywhere.

What model years are the least reliable?

For those looking to purchase a used Kia Forte, I recommend that you avoid the 2010 model altogether.

It is not unusual for the first year of any vehicle to be one of the worst and most unpredictable, as the manufacturing kinks have yet to be discovered and worked out.

Owners have lodged thousands of complaints against the 2010 Forte because of high repair costs that begin at relatively low mileage.

Keep in mind that the 2017 models (while not as problematic) are incredibly noisy. I experienced this first hand on a road trip from Nevada to Arizona once, and it nearly drove me insane. In comparison, I recently drove a 2021 model that was silky smooth and as quiet as a Cadillac.

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