The 2019 Kia Forte compact sedan makes its world debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. (Kami Buchholz)

2018 NAIAS: 2019 Kia Forte gets 'smart' CVT

Kia’s 2019 Forte compact sedan gets the spicy exterior design cues of the Kia Stinger fastback sports sedan and improved mpg with the first production 'intelligent' variable transmission from parent Hyundai.

"We’re a newcomer to the CVT (continuously variable transmission), but we’ve also had the benefit of learning from everybody who’s been before us,” Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning for Kia Motors America, said in an Automotive Engineering interview prior to the 2019 Kia Forte’s world debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

The in-house-engineered IVT is considered a next-generation CVT. “We tried as much as possible to make the IVT feel like a normal step-transmission,” Hedrick said. To accomplish that, Kia engineers built the IVT with adaptive style shift logic and a chain-link-type belt instead of a push belt--an industry first in the compact class.

Hedrick said that having a next-generation CVT with smooth, linear acceleration will appeal to drivers accustomed to a conventional automatic transmission.

“When you drive the car with the IVT, it feels like an automatic because of the step shift-like feel. It’s more natural, more responsive. And the IVT avoids the ‘droning’ that can occur when you accelerate. And more importantly, it delivers all the benefits of a wide gear range that a CVT offers,” Hedrick said. Kia’s IVT has a sound-insulating transmission cover.

The third-generation Forte is expected to have the same rated power (147 hp/110 kW) and torque (132 lb·ft/179 N·m) as the 2018 Forte. “We’re expecting a jump of 3 mpg in the combined city/highway,” Hedrick said, pointing out official U.S. EPA fuel economy ratings will be announced closer to the vehicle’s launch date later in 2018.

Either a 6-speed manual transmission or the IVT will be mated to Kia’s second-generation  2.0-L 4-cylinder engine, part of the Hyundai 'Nu' family. “We’ve added a lot of knowledge to the Nu engine that we’ve learned from working with our hybrid systems--cooled EGR system, Atkinson cycle--and a lot of other details to get the efficiency up even higher,” said Hedrick.

The 2019 Forte’s structure has more hot-stamped components and advanced high strength steel. Engineers also put an emphasis on increasing the rigidity, netting a claimed 16% overall stiffer body-in-white for a quieter cabin and better handling. New subframe designs help improve lateral responsiveness, and the steering feel has improved with enhancements to the motor-driven power steering system.

Next-generation Forte retains its 106.3-in (2700-mm) wheelbase while overall length increases from 179.5 in to 182.7-in (4640-mm). Overall width grows from 70.1 in to 70.9 in/1801 mm). The cargo capacity also increased (from 14.9 cft3 to 15.1 ft3/427 L).

Other changes for the 2019 model: exterior design cues from the Stinger fastback sports sedan, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay availability, and a standard 8-in color touchscreen.

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