Under the hood is a carryover 2.0-liter I-4 running on the Atkinson cycle and is estimated to make 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. It can be couple to either a standard six-speed manual or Kia’s first CVT, dubbed Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT). The automaker worked to ensure its first gearless transmission didn’t have a rubber band feel, which resulted in the addition of a “shifting” logic to make it feel like a conventional automatic. It also features a chain-type belt to help reduce the rubber band effect. Kia wrapped the transmission case in a sound-insulating cover to improve NVH and to ensure that the CVT doesn’t get noisy. The Korean automaker is expecting the new powertrain combination to get 35 mpg in the combined cycle.
Inside, the 2021 Forte comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which is the centerpiece of its minimalistic cabin. The updated infotainment system comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on all models and can now read text messages on phones linked via Bluetooth. Additional features include full LED headlights, a 320-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system, and a wireless phone charger. A full suite of active safety tech will be offered on the 2021 Kia Forte including blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, which bundles together automatic emergency braking and forward collision braking.