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September 3, 2019

2019 Kia Forte GT vs 2019 Honda Civic RS Turbo

There is no greater cynic than a Honda Civic fanboy. Whether that has to do with the cult following of the 1990s Civic SiR, or because they happen to be better keyboard warriors is a debate best left for another day, but the fact of the matter is: they’ll defend their beloved compact, maybe to the death.

Unfortunately for these people, they need to wake up. The cult status of the Civic as a brand aside, it’s facing extreme competition from all sides. Sadly, their acerbic nature comes out whenever something else other than Honda’s compact wins at anything. Bracing for what could be yet another source of fanboy tirade, the top-trim RS Turbo faces its most convincing competitor yet, the Forte GT. Already beating Honda’s compact in the latest U.S.-based J.D. Power APEAL study, it’s time to see if Kia can also turn the tables around in the Philippines.


This is a tough one to call. The Honda Civic has been in its best shape in years, buoyed by the fact that it’s seen a refresh just this year. The changes are fairly minor—limited only to a new front bumper, an extra RS badge in the grille, and those tasty-looking 18-inch wheels. Without a doubt, the long body and low stance are the right foundations to lay down a chiseled, slightly angry looking design. Even more surprising is how it’s managed to withstand the test of time—something no one could have predicted three years ago when it first hit the market.

While Honda’s embraced the Japanese anime robot culture, Kia’s gone the European route with the Forte. Foregoing crisscrossing lines and exaggerated details, the Forte is understated and definitely more grown-up. For some, it looks too subdued, but a closer look though reveals a spattering of details here and there. Using the DRLs as an integrated design element is neat, and so is the full-length Heckblende taillights. As the GT variant (not just GT Line, mind you), the high-gloss black grille has a nice mesh pattern, interwoven with red elements (again, it’s all about being subdued). The high-gloss body kit continues all throughout the car up until the lip spoiler. Honestly, the Forte GT would have stood a chance, if only they opted to fit in standard 18-inch wheels (it only runs on 17s).

Winner: Honda Civic RS Turbo


With both of these compact sedans proclaiming they’re designed with a sporty intent; they both offer a predominantly black interior with some aluminum trimmings thrown in. However, they do differ in execution, resulting in a different look and feel. As suggested by its exterior, the Civic goes high-tech. The low-slung seats, all-digital gauges, and a touchscreen audio system make it feel like you’re piloting a spaceship than a compact sedan. It was so gimmicky that the revamps for 2019 are focused on improving usability like the removal of the poorly-executed touch sensitive slider on the steering wheel, and the addition of physical knobs and buttons on the 7-inch infotainment screen. Sadly, the overall response from the two digital screens is painfully slow, taking moments to go from menu to menu.

Avoiding gimmicks and concentrating on a proper driver’s environment is the primary reason why the Kia Forte GT wins this round. Fit and finish are surprisingly at par with the Civic, but the Forte just blends all the different elements better. The traditional analog gauges are straightforward and easy to understand, while the infotainment’s giant 8-inch display is legible—even to the car tailing behind you. Easily though, the best part of the Forte are the areas which actually come in contact with the driver. Peter Schreyer’s Teutonic influences are certainly coming out there with the sport seats, steering wheel, and shifter feeling more in line with a Golf GTI than anything else.

Winner: Kia Forte GT

Space and Practicality

Almost nothing separates these two in terms of space. Kia will be quick to point out that the Forte has slightly more rear legroom, but it’ll take a tape measure to properly quantify that. As it stands, both have equally good head-, shoulder, and legroom for both front and back passengers. Interestingly enough, Honda’s decision to mount the seats low means a bigger sense of space for the back passengers (at the expense of harder ingress/egress). Couple this with the absence of rear air vents and soft-type seat backing (the Forte uses hard plastic), and three full-grown adults sitting abreast will find it a more comfortable experience.

Storage areas for small items like loose change and mobile phones are plenty on both vehicles, though their execution varies. In the Forte, it’s found as a two-tier vertical shelf in front of the shifter, and a pair of cupholders and a lidded center consoles near the center; while in the Civic, it’s a two-tier horizontal shelf in front of the shifter then a convertible lidded center console that doubles as cupholders. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. If you remove your wallet when you drive, the Forte’s for you. If you regularly buy giant drinks at a drive thru, the Civic’s the way to go. Both though offer fast 2.1-amp charging capabilities and integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Winner: TIE


The Honda Civic, particularly the RS Turbo is the current performance barometer by which other compact cars are measured against. True enough, 100 km/h comes in at about 7 seconds—befitting the figures generated by its turbocharged 1.5-liter engine. With 173 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque, there’s some nice shove, especially when the gas’s floored. Don’t mistake it for a pocket rocket though. Opting for a more mature feel, the Civic is now more about smoothness and civility along with the tractability. The CVT is the RS Turbo’s weakest point. While it’s great for the traffic crawl, it takes a split-second for it to adjust for any abrupt throttle input. Fuel economy is 8.1 km/L.

Compared to the aurally-numb character of the Civic’s engine, the Forte GT’s very own forced induction 1.6-liter engine is ear-gasmic. With a sport-tuned exhaust, there’s already some telltale rumble at idle. From there, it only gets better. Let her rip, and it’ll let out a crack and pop when you let go near the redline. Producing some 204 horsepower and 265 Nm of torque, it outguns the Civic’s outputs; but, because of a heavier curb weight, its 0-100 km/h end up being a close match (some say a 0.1 second difference, in favor of the Forte). The accompanying 7-speed dual clutch is responsive, and surprisingly civil with none of the shift shock or jerkiness commonly plaguing this kind of gearbox. Once or twice though, you’ll feel the clutch slipping between first and second gear—but that’s down to indecisive throttle inputs than anything else. For as long as you’re committed with your right foot, it’s alright. Fuel economy fairs better at 8.77 km/L.

Handling-wise, the Civic and Forte GT are at the opposite sides of a coin. The Honda manages to oblige when tossed around corners, but you get a sense that it does so with cold-hearted, clinical precision. The steering is planted and secure, with plenty of grip while the ride is balanced between sportiness and comfort. The transition to sportier Michelin tires does result in more tire noise permeating the cabin. Meanwhile, the Forte GT is emotional and hot-tempered. If its crack and pop exhaust doesn’t prepare you enough, toss it through a bend and you’ll see what it’s capable of. The steering is weighty and precise. The cornering ability is impressive, going through transitions willing and ably. It also remains behaved—like it’s made to eat mountain roads for breakfast. That said, be careful when you put the power down, it can easily snap into torque steer. Also, the ride is definitely stiffer. Still, it’s a livable aspect because the fun factor simply outweighs the slight discomfort; unless you happen to drive your mother every day.

Winner: Kia Forte GT

Value for Money

This is where things really get interesting. The Forte GT is supposed to be, at least in other countries, a competitor against the Civic Si—the one-down from the Type R variant. Yet here, it sits at just P 42,000 more than the RS Turbo. You can look at this either as Kia trying its value positioning in the performance sedan market, or Honda simply gouging the Filipino car enthusiast.

On one hand, the Forte GT does have the performance-oriented features—features that enable it to battle compact cars a notch higher. But, take a closer look and you’ll see some sacrifices to shoe-in the price below the P 1.7 million range. Its biggest crimes? The lack of a one-touch up for the driver’s window and opting to put a meager lap belt for the center rear passenger. On the other hand, it has power seats for both front occupants, rear vents for the back, and front and rear proximity sensors—all three which are absent in the Civic RS Turbo. In short, neither are terribly loaded, nor are they beacons of value.

Winner: TIE


Priced at P 1,608,000 for the Civic RS Turbo and P 1,650,000 for the Forte GT, these two compacts represent the priciest options in the segment. They also are the only two turbocharged offerings (unless you count the MG 6). At this point, even Honda fanboys will agree that the Civic RS Turbo isn’t the glowing car it once was. Though critics will surely say that it was a victim of the excise tax, its refresh this year was a lost opportunity to add feature that’ll make the price more palatable.

By relying simply on its turbocharged engine, and perhaps a bit of its heritage, Honda has made its compact more vulnerable to competition. If the likes of the Corolla Altis and Mazda3 aren’t worrying enough, an out of left field challenger like the Forte GT should be. It may not be a landslide win for Kia, but it’s a win nonetheless. As it stands, it should serve as a wakeup call for Honda and its fanboys—the competition has certainly caught up.

Winner: Kia Forte GT

2019 Kia Forte GT vs 2019 Honda Civic RS Turbo
Ownership 2019 Kia Forte GT 2019 Honda Civic RS Turbo
Year Introduced 2019 2016 (Refreshed: 2019)
Vehicle Classification Compact Compact
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan 4-door sedan
Seating 5 5
Engine / Drive F/F F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.6 1.5
Aspiration Turbocharged Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4 I4
BHP @ rpm 204 @ 6,000 173 @ 5,500
Nm @ rpm 265 @ 1,500-4,500 220 @ 1,700-5,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~ Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 7 DCT CVT
Cruise Control Yes Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.77 km/L @ 16 km/h 8.01 km/L @ 15 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,640 4,649
Width (mm) 1,800 1,799
Height (mm) 1,450 1,416
Wheelbase (mm) 2,700 2,698
Curb Weight (kg) 1,335 1,305
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc Disc
Tires Kumho Ecsta HS51
225/45 R 17 W (f & r)
Michelin Pilot Sport 4
235/40 R 18 Y (f & r)
Wheels Alloy Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes Yes
Front Seatbelt 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelt 3-pt ELR x 2,
2-pt Lap x 1
3-pt ELR x 3
Traction / Stability Control Yes Yes
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes Yes
Parking Sensors Front & Rear, with Rear Camera No, with Rear Camera
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED LED
Fog Lamps Yes Yes, LED
Auto Lights Yes Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers No Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) 8-way Electric 6-way Electric
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) 2-way Electric Manual
Seating Surface Leather Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40 Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes Yes
Power Door Locks Yes Yes
Power Windows Yes Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Dual Zone, with Rear Vents Dual Zone
Proximity Key Yes Yes
Audio System Stereo
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6 6
Steering Controls Yes Yes


  1. J.D. Power is a Marketing and Advertising firm.

    1. JD Power is the bible on car research no fanboyism just scientific market research

  2. One acronym on why i won't choose the Civic. C-V-T. Enough said.

    1. CVTs are more reliable than DCTs. Honda's CVTs are much better than Toyota's and Subaru's as well.

      But hey, fuel economy nor reliability isn't your priority, apparently, so each to his own.

    2. Yeah, i dont really care about the fuel economy as long as the drive makes me happy, and im not keen on the reliablity either because i change cars every 4-5 years.

      And about your other post regarding the toxic mindset of Filipinos,I definitely agree. The competition is catching up, i remember when Toyota answered us why their Hiluxes (G variant) does not have backup sensors, they said its because the rear bumper is metallic, which doesn't really make sense since i can see XLTs, Bt-50s to have same metallic rear bumpers but still have sensors.

      Then as a terrific surprise, they offered to put sensors, but the owner would have to buy it as an accessory.


    3. Toyota's stuck with the past. Just look at the Land Cruisers which are basically dinosaurs.

      And really, reliability and fun-to-drive can co-exist. I own a Honda City and my dad has a Forester, but they aren't fun to drive (And the Subaru isn't reliable at all).

      But if you've driven a Kia Forte or a Mazda 3, then you'll have a great time. :)

  3. Mazda and Honda fanboys will defend their cars to the death, as much as TGP will defend Mitsubishi whatever happens.

    Kia is much better now. I've ridden the Sorento; it has better space and shorter than the CX-9, and better driving with a way better infotainment system (and price) than the Pilot. The new Rio is much better than any compact out there. The Forte is awesome.

    The problem? The Filipino's toxic habit of sticking to old stigma. "Korean cars break easily." "Honda/Mazda the best!" "L300 is still better than any Alphard because it's cheap and we care crap about safety and regulations." "Nothing beats Adventure and Crosswind"

    1. good one! good one! I actually rush to the comments section whilst eating my popcorn. I thought the slugfest has began just like in the previous articles over the years. now that i've seen this part of the page its time to read it.

    2. Good luck na lang sa aircon ng kia lol. Maganda na porma pero yun nga lang. Aircon weakest point ng mga korean cars.

  4. Too bad the Focus (i believe) has been discontinued. The entry level variant gives almost the same performance level at a bargain price of P1.05M

  5. I meant discontinued here in the Philippines


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