Sedans might not be as popular as they once were, but those who appreciate good fuel economy, comfortable ride quality, and affordability know the value a good compact sedan can offer. The 2023 Kia Forte and 2023 Volkswagen Jetta are both great examples of the form, with spacious cabins, lots of standard tech and safety features, and a fair dose of design and style.

On the other hand, they’re also rather different in terms of available options and top-end performance, so let’s see how they compare in a bit more detail.

2023 Kia Forte

The 2023 Kia Forte carries forward last year’s updates to continue with a stylish exterior, a spacious cabin, and lots of value for its $19,690 starting price. Standard features include wireless smartphone integration, an 8-inch touchscreen display, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist. The Forte GT ($24,390; not to be confused with the GT-Line) offers an upgrade to a more powerful engine and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Kia Forte Highlights

Efficient base engine: The 2023 Forte’s base model is the LX, previously known as the FE, and while it’s not the most powerful in its class, it’s one of the most efficient, scoring 34 mpg combined and 41 mpg on the highway.

Fun and sporty Forte GT: With a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (or an optional 6-speed manual), the 2023 Forte GT is fun to drive and responsive. Best of all, it’s still rather efficient, scoring 30 mpg combined and 35 mpg highway.

Well-equipped GT-Line trim: Though it lacks the upgraded engine and transmission options of the Forte GT, the Forte GT-Line gets a range of significant equipment upgrades, including a 10.25-inch central touchscreen display, keyless entry with pushbutton start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, and more.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Forte models for sale near you.

2023 Volkswagen Jetta

2022 Volkswagen Jetta

The 2023 Volkswagen Jetta brings European style and feel to the compact sedan segment despite being built in the brand’s Puebla, Mexico plant. Its unique style and spacious interior help it stand out relative to its competition, as does the sporty Jetta GLI. The Jetta starts from $20,665, or $31,585 for the Jetta GLI.

Volkswagen Jetta Highlights

Sporty Jetta GLI variant: The 2023 Jetta GLI scores a 228-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s also rated for 258 lb-ft of torque. Routed to the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual (standard) or a 7-speed dual-clutch (optional), the GLI is fun to drive and able to adjust to the road conditions thanks to its selectable driving modes — the latter feature being shared with the SEL model.

Efficient base engine: In the non-GLI models, the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is quite efficient, helping the Jetta to score at least 40 mpg in all non-GLI trims, no matter if you pick the 6-speed manual transmission or the 8-speed automatic.

IQ.Drive driver assist features: You’ll have to level up to the SEL trim to get it (or the GLI with the 7-speed dual-clutch), but the IQ.Drive suite of safety features adds a host of modern systems, including lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and more.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Jetta models for sale near you.


The Forte and Jetta share similar base engine power figures, fuel economy, overall size, passenger space, and trunk volume. Both also offer manual transmissions and sporty variants.


The 2023 Kia Forte offers a somewhat younger look and feel, but that may suit the young-at-heart just as well. The 2023 Volkswagen Jetta, on the other hand, is a bit sportier in Jetta GLI form, so those seeking more power may face an easy decision. Both the Forte and the Jetta are efficient and comfortable, however, so it’s hard to go wrong with either. Ultimately, the decision comes down to style, feel, and your personal preferences on features.

2023 Kia Forte 2023 Volkswagen Jetta
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter 4-cylinder 1.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm 158 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm 184 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission CVT 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 34 mpg (30 city/41 hwy) 35 mpg (31 city/41 hwy)
Also Available 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder; 6-spd manual; 7-spd dual-clutch automatic 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder; 6-spd manual; 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 10 years/100,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 4 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 106.3 inches 105.7 inches
Overall Length 182.7 inches 186.5 inches
Width 70.9 inches 70.8 inches
Height 56.5 inches 57.7 inches
Turning Diameter 34.8 feet 36.7 feet
Headroom, Front 38.8 inches 38.5 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.5 inches 37.2 inches
Legroom, Front 42.2 inches 41.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 35.7 inches 37.4 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.1 inches 55.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.3 inches 54.0 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 96.0 cubic feet 94.7 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 15.3 cubic feet 14.1 cubic feet

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