2013 Honda Civic Versus 2014 Kia Forte

Civic_Forte_1

Our long-term Honda Civic is getting much more use this summer as competitors flow into our test fleet. While a few may have grumbled about us pitting the redesigned 2013 Civic against the outgoing and outdated 2013 Toyota Corolla, they shouldn't have much to complain about with us pitting it against the even more thoroughly overhauled 2014 Kia Forte.

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However, there was a bit of a disparity this time around too. Our Forte test car was a fully loaded EX trim with a 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The base Forte comes with a 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder that is more comparable to the Civic's 140-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder, the car's only engine apart from the hybrid and Si versions.

If the engine wasn't a big enough difference, the nearly $6,000 bump in the Forte's MSRP and all the associated goodies arguably didn't make for a fair fight. Would the results of driving the two be as one-sided as the numbers implied? Editors David Thomas and Joe Wiesenfelder took the two on a loop of city, suburban and highway driving to find out.

Interiors

Interior quality: Forte
David Thomas: Going from the top-end Forte EX to the base Civic LX was pretty shocking in terms of everything the Forte was sporting, including the nice leather seats and gadgets. But the Civic didn't feel cheap in comparison. I liked the sporty cockpit design of the Forte too.

Joe Wiesenfelder: I'm favoring the Forte. The 2013 Civic's interior is definitely improved over the 2012, and it's elevated overall by the bright displays, but the Forte's interior quality is evenly high in all directions. I compensated for the additional features; we've seen more modest versions of the Forte, too, and it's damn nice.

Acceleration: Forte
JW: Forte has this one in the bag. Between the stout engine and six-speed automatic, it has acceleration to spare, and the transmission is nice and responsive.

DT: There were only a few times I thought the Forte actually "blew away" the Civic, but it was clearly faster in most situations.

Braking: Forte
DT: The Forte didn't wow me in the braking department, but it is nearly impossible for me to say the Civic was significantly superior. This is a hard one to call.

JW: Though this is a clear improvement over the previous-generation Forte, I agree the matchup here is pretty close. The only difference I felt was under heavy braking where the Forte retained better pedal feel and linearity than the Civic, possibly because of our Civic's rear drum brakes. A Civic EX might fare better with its four-wheel discs, which are standard on the Forte.

Handling: Civic
JW: This is another example of vast improvement over the Forte's previous generation, but it's not quite enough to overtake the Civic. Its road holding and controllability are good, but more refinement is needed, and its steering doesn't compare to the Civic's. The user-selectable power assist is cute, but it doesn't translate to the Civic's spot-on assist and feedback at virtually any speed.

DT: I was utterly confounded by the Forte's selectable steering modes. The most confidence-inspiring in tight turns was the Comfort setting, while Sport didn't add anything to the handling dynamics. Overall, the poor steering feedback on any of the settings had me choosing the more predictable Civic.

Noise: Forte
DT: One thing I noticed immediately in the Forte was just how quiet the cabin was. The door shut with a nice thud that felt more solid than the respectably solid thunk of the Civic. On the road the Civic — even though quieter than the 2012 — let a lot more noise seep in, especially at higher speeds.

JW: Forte has this one. Even though its engine is a little raspy at high revs, it seldom intrudes — sort of the opposite of the smooth-revving but audible Civic. I noticed the tires singing pretty loudly, but it was only on certain surfaces and was probably more noticeable because the noise signature was inoffensive overall.

Ride: Forte
JW: The Civic's ride quality is emerging as its leading downside. Even the Corolla felt more comfortable! The suspension is expertly designed and capable, but its firmness wears on me — and this is with our car's 15-inch wheels and tall sidewalls. I found the Forte more livable, even with its 17-inch wheels.

DT: I drove my parents in the Forte the following weekend, and they were impressed that a compact Kia had such a smooth ride. Compared to the Civic there was no question it won out.

Civic_Forte_gas

Mileage: Civic
Whether you look at EPA ratings or the trip computers from our route, the Civic bests this higher-powered Forte significantly. The Civic is rated at 28/39/32 mpg city/highway/combined while the 2.0 Forte is rated 24/36/28 mpg. The less powerful Forte is only marginally better at 25/36/29 mpg.

During our drive, the Civic's trip computer read 35.5 mpg while the Forte displayed 32.6 mpg. The difference is smaller than the EPA suggests. Combined EPA mileage is 14% better for the Civic, and in our driving we saw only 9% better. But since both were showing returns between combined and highway ratings — which are closer to 8% better for the Civic — the results seem quite accurate.

*We filled up both cars at the same gas station at the same time and reset trip computers before this test. Weather was mild.

Seats

Seats: Forte
JW: This is a highly subjective aspect. For me, the Forte was more comfortable. More than anything, it's about the Civic's lumbar support: There's too much, and you can't back it off.

DT: If they were base model to base model it might be a hard choice, but if we're comparing the cars as-tested, the heated and cooled driver's seat in the Forte has to win out even if comfort wasn't its strong suit.

Kiamm

Multimedia: Forte
DT: Here's where $6,000 in extras pay off. The Forte had a full navigation system with large digital screen, voice-activated music search and an upgraded stereo. I didn't find the sound quality that terrific though, but it is still a step over the Civic's four-speaker set-up.

JW: This is the unfair part of the fight. Of course the Forte was better. As for the stereo, I'd have to test a base Forte to know for sure, but it's hard to imagine it's as bad as the Civic's. ...

Fortewinner500

Results
The Forte wins seven out of the nine categories with its upgraded engine and features to go along with a higher price tag. Although we're thinking with a 30% edge in price the Forte should easily win.

Related
Follow Our Long-Term Fleet
Research the 2014 Kia Forte
Research the 2013 Honda Civic

Comments 

Skankzilla

Would some of these opinions have changed if you had compared it to a loaded up Civic with similar options?

Anonymous

How was this article published? You aren't even comparing models with similar features. Of course the Kia wins.

Patrick

You're comparing apples to oranges here. This is a joke, right? This article should never have been published.

jjthejetplane

Useless comparison with such a difference in packages. Big waste of time.

Molly

I have to agree with the comments. This article makes absolutely no sense and as said previously is comparing apples to oranges. WHY are you even thinking of considering to compare an LX Civic to a loaded Forte? A loaded Civic would have made much more sense. Kia is stepping up the design well but I think we all know which one to trust at the end of the day, LX or not.

Tony

Let me tell you about packages. When you pack a Civic, it cost like a Benz. Interior Quality, acceleration, noise and ride will not improve anyways. Thankfully, there is still a Mazda3, where you don't have to choose, this or that - it will give you all, ride, handling, steering, interior, seats.

Joe Peanut

The comparison is between the $20,000 Forte EX and the $17,000 Civic LX. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to compare them in similar trim levels? The Civic EX costs about the same as the Forte Ex, so why not compare those instead?

I've never driven a Kia, but I keep hearing good things about the new forte.

Julio

Get the Civic EX with Nav and Leather THEN compare them. Many reviewers state that the 360 watt audio system has very solid sound, even if it isn't earth shattering. This article is null and void to me.

I am biased toward Hondas. They seriously run forever!

Tony

Again, I don't see a problem with this comparison here, even if the trims are different. Because the way this one done.
Interior quality - Civic Adds leather but the dash remains the same
Acceleration - Honda has only 1.8 unless Si involved but that is a totally different beast. So, EX and LX acceleration will be the same.
And Honda noise will always be the same

Tony

On the positive note, go check Nissan Juke Nismo. You can get one for around 22k and this is a really cool car.

Thanks for the feedback. An apples to apples comparison of the entire compact field is in the near future.

As we say at the beginning of THIS article, we have a long-term Civic and wanted to see how it held up to other compacts that arrived on temporary loans. We can't control the trim level of those loans most times.

We fully understand and agree with the argument that this isn't a fair fight. But sometimes Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson.

In almost every section of the story we also detail how the trim levels might impact the results.

And if we really wanted to argue: If you are a price-focused compact sedan shopper the test shows that the Civic gets better mileage and costs less while still winning points in other areas.

jackson

This is the worst comparison article I have ever read in my life.

Mike

http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1303_compact_sedans_the_big_test/


They tested them pretty evenly in this test and they still picked the Forte. I have driven them, they are very nice.

Mike D

Awesome! Can't wait 'til next week when the new Toyota Prius goes head to head with a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500. Should be very interesting!

Mike D

Sorry for my previous sarcastic comment... I didn't realize until after it posted that you guys have already heard it all. After reading the managing editors comment, I get why you compared the two. Also, for anyone who owns, owned, or has driven a newer Civic- but knows next to nothing about the Kia Forte (like myself), it provides a good way of describing the drive characteristics of the Forte in a such a way that we Civic people can better get a sense of how it performs, etc.

Lance

Man, what a bunch of whiners. The authors plainly stated up front why they did the comparison and constantly mentioned that the results might have been different if the trim levels had been more equal. I found the article interesting even if the trim levels were different. I guess people just like to hear themselves bitch.

Julio

To Mister David Thomas, would Kia be able to provide you guys with a forte less loaded? If this was a "this is what they have to offer basis", well then, I can't really say this is null and void since you only have so much control.

William G

Does the Kia have the legendary reliability and durability that the Civic has? No. That alone would make my decision. Why have a "fully optioned" Forte when the reliability isn't there?

J

This article is clearly biased. Honda's are more reliable any day, and have the highest resale value. This is a joke.

carma

I think the reviewers did a good job of taking the differences in equipment into effect to give a fair comparison of just the cars. Looks like Kia is the new king of this segment unless the new corolla pulls off a coup. J, I had to chuckle at your comment about hondas being more reliable - Kia offers a 10 year warranty. Why doesn't Honda match it?

AladdinSane

Carma: I agree. Speaking for myself I find Honda's warranty to be quite poor especially against its Korean competition.
Peace...
AladdinSane :-)

Wayne

I would be happy to grab either one if the forte 2.0 costs $20000 and the civic 1.8 costs $17000 here..

they cost an astonishing $39000 (forte) and $36000 (civic)here in Malaysia.

Michael Campanello

What a shock...the loaded to the max car was more likable than the stripped down car. Compare your test Civic to a loaded up Civic EXL Navi, and I'm sure you'll like that better too. Listen...cars are made up of parts. The more parts you put into a car, the more expensive they are, and they usually perform better, are quieter, and are more desirable. But nobody even mentions a very critical point, here. There will come a day when the Kia owner AND the Honda owner will want to sell their car. Honda will ALWAYS win with resale value.

Michael Campanello

@ carma. Hondas are indeed more reliable...they just are. Kia offers a 10 year warranty to entice buyers such as yourself. They have a great warranty but they are more often than not, always in the shop. I would take a Honda over Kia even if the Honda came with NO warranty. Don't get me wrong, Kia and their parent company Hyundai have come a LONG way over the last 10 years, but they are no Honda.

John

Not so sure about Honda quality being better then Kia. I own a 2007 Honda Civic LX, and a 2010 Kia Forte SX and I can tell you that the Forte is a much better car. Both cars have 80,000 mi. The Honda has had electrical problems, and a cracked block due to casting issue. The Kia has been to the dealer twice for a noise in the drivers seat. 9 times since 2007 Civic would not start in the morning and dealer can not duplicate. I have friends who own Honda, and Toyota and love the look and ride of my Forte, but say they would never buy a Kia. I think they are people who are loyal to one car brand and feel like they were cheating if they went out and purchased a Kia. On another note I paid a $1000.00 more for the Honda, and I recieved less of a car. Just my opinion from a Honda/Kia owner.

Jim Dayton

"

This article is clearly biased. Honda's are more reliable any day,"


LOL, I'm sure Pontiac owners were saying the same thing about Toyota back in the 70s. Hyundai/Kia have come a long way now, not only are the vehicles stylish but the reliability regular tests out among the highest in the auto industry, people seriously need to stop living in the past.

I did not agree with that article.Sry but Honad is more reliable any day

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