2020 Kia Forte Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Defective doors and electrical system issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

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The 2020 Kia Forte is a fun sedan that appeals to a large market. The automaker calls this vehicle a “power player,” but customers don’t seem to be impressed. Research shows trouble with the air bags, electrical system and structure.

Click on other model years to view more problems: 2019   2021   2022   2023

Problems with the Air Bags

Since 1998, all new vehicles needed to be equipped with air bags. More than two decades later, automakers are still having trouble perfecting the design.

Just read this NHTSA complaint. “I was turning left through a green light onto a city road when a car coming from the left side ran a red light going 50 miles an hour in a 35 miles an hour road, crashing into the side of my car. It hit the front driver’s side tire and door, but was hit so hard that my car moved forward about 8-10 feet. My car is supposed to have a sensor directly where the other person’s car hit mine but none of the air bags went off. Even though this car is supposed to have side airbags for those types of collisions.”

Kia has chosen to remain quiet on air bag malfunctions for the time being. There are no communications and an absence of guidance for technicians. Instead, customers are left on their own, hoping that an accident doesn’t occur. Let’s just say that air bags are this Kia’s “forte.”

2020 Kia Forte Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Power Train
Electrical System
Vehicle Speed Control
Air Bags
Electrical System:ignition:anti-theft:immobilizer/proximity:key/sender
Engine And Engine Cooling
Exterior Lighting:headlights:bulbs

Electrical System Problems

Moving onto the electrical system, owners complain of just as many defects causing trouble.

Here is one left on the NHTSA website. “While vehicle in motion on a city street, several warning lights popped up on the dashboard: Electronic PWR steering, electronic stability indicator, TPMS tire pressure, malfunction indicator lamp, autonomous emergency brake, adaptive front lights and low tire pressure warning lights. At the same time that all those lights turned on (while in motion) the odometer and speedometer needle stopped registering speed and dropped to zero on both gauges along with the temperature gauge as well. I proceeded to put the hazard lights on and pull over safely. Once stationary I placed the car in Park, then the gear shift locked up and would not unlock. After about 20 minutes of being stationary on the side of the road, I was able to engage the gear shift, place it in Drive and proceed down the road. While the vehicle was in motion the warning lights proceeded to stay on and the speedometer/odometer were not registering speed throughout the remainder of my trip.”

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What is causing the transmission problems?

It turns out that Kia is aware of other electrical system errors too. Service Bulletin #TSB_ELE200 discusses trouble with the TCM logic and IVT that could cause incorrect gear ratios, fluid pressure and circuit performance. There aren’t too many people keen to have their new car malfunctioning in such a grand way, especially when it diminishes drivability. It seems that this Forte doesn’t have the “power” after all.

Problems with the Vehicle Structure

Aside from the mechanical construction of this Kia car, there are also defects found with the structure itself.

Here is what one Edmunds user had to say. “Defective rear door lock that I had to subsequently have replaced, requiring 4 days back at the dealer.  Suggest checking all mechanical workings before purchase.”

What is causing the defective doors problems?

Sadly, there is more than a malfunctioning door lock to be concerned with. In fact, the NHTSA is currently investigating Kia because of a major safety issue. The left rear door failed the side impact testing, allowing the rear passenger dummy to experience a thoracic injury. It is estimated that the spine acceleration measures more than 82 G’s during the simulated crash. The moral of the story is, if you have to ride in a Forte, avoid the back seat for your own safety.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Kia pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Alia B

    Just got a 2020 Kia Forte Gt in September of 2022 had about 62,000 miles in the second owner. I’ve had a few problems with the dealership not fully checking the car like when I left the back window didn’t go down or my fluids weren’t fully checked for the wiper fluid. They screwed me over on the price and interest rate (first time financing a car didn’t know what I was doing). Anyways I’ve kept up with all the regular maintenance this past year I don’t drive my car hard at all either. I’ve gotten my car broken into 5 times over this past year KIA won’t do anything for helping with cost of damages for the windows and steering wheel column because my car isnt being “targeted”. Anyways Now it’s September 2023 my car breaks down I’m at 80,102 miles. It won’t go in reverse. I tow it to the shop. Shop diagnoses the problem as the shifting actuator. First problem the dealership I take it to ordered the part, then a month goes by apparently Kia says that part is not “order able” they have to get two separate parts instead. They get those parts a week later Now it’s November. They’ve been struggling with it since. They call me today December 18th 2023 saying that after talking to Kia Tech line after testing many things they tested other actuators and apparently more than one is down and that Kia suggests for them to replace the whole transmission. Kia won’t cover because they only cover transmission issues up to 60k miles. So now I’m leaning on IF my certified pre owned warranty will cover it. I’m so over having a Kia I should not have to be replacing this thing so early on. I need help and advice I feel like I’ve been screwed over.

  • M W

    I leased my 2020 Kia forte LXS in May 2020. As of August 2023, I have put 28,750 miles on it and I’ve had virtually no problems. Occasionally, the Apple CarPlay/screen may blank out. Easily solved by unplugging and replugging. Outstanding fuel economy that’s for sure. I would recommend the vehicle.

  • Helena O

    Last year I had issue with the speedometer going over 100mph when the car physically was going like 45-50mph. The passenger window doesn’t go down all the time, my battery just dies with no indication while drive and when parked, I’ve asked the dealership is this normal and the response is “yes”
    Glitches with the screen when phone is hooked up for apple car play.

  • Curt

    So where did the mice come from, Kia or your garage?

  • Charles

    With less then 30,000 miles the car has been back in the shop twice
    The culprit is window motors
    The one on the rear drivers side stopped working and had to be replaced while the one on the passenger side had a short that ran the battery down
    Before the battery went dead it got so hot you could smell electric wires burning and the weather stripping that runs along the door melted
    Getting it towed even though it was under warranty was terrible
    The dealers service center wanted me to jump it and bring it to them
    I asked them if they could send a tow truck to get it
    They told me to call Kia roadside assistance which I did
    The tele-prompt system is a total quagmire
    In having talked to other Kia owners who have used the service in short Kia roadside assistance is terrible

  • Crystal

    I’ve had to replace the battery it cuts off and I’m constantly changing the lights in it inside and out the electrical problem is the worse I don’t recommend it at all .

  • Angelina

    Within two months of driving my brand new 2020 Forte off the lot, the transmission gave out while driving on the highway and could have killed me. This car has been nothing but problems. The car is actually back once again being fixed due to the collision sensory randomly going off and slamming on the brakes when nothing is in front of me. The screen in the car also goes black often and does not work at all.

  • SW

    I got my 2020 Kia forte in June of 2020. I took it to the dealership three weeks ago because the engine light was on. I received a text message from the mechanic on April 19th that I need a new engine. They told me when the engine is installed there are certain items that should be done with the engine. The engine air filter and cabin air filter should be changed. The PCV should be replaced. The belts should be replaced. A Fuel service and throttle body cleaning should be done. The costs of these services come to $820 plus tax. I’m kind of confused because I’m thinking if I get a new engine all these things should be done right?

  • Ashley

    Only problems I have had in my 2020 Kia Forte,
    The screen of the radio has a small bubble in the bottom corner, my radio also goes blank, will still play music, but can’t see gps from time to time. I also hate how the back seats headrests are not adjustable.

  • Robert

    Just bought mine last year in the engine is gone out already.

  • Matt

    Has anyone had problems with the Bluetooth Quitting and the the touchscreen going black or rebooting on it’s own or the back up camera still running when going forward in drive my 2020 forte lx has been at the dealership twice and they still haven’t found anything wrong it’s going back in to dealer in 2 weeks to get looked at again

  • Helen

    the one who has no problem with Kia forte 2020 are lucky as it is not reliable. it is not trustworthy car to drive. I had accident because of the steering. it was out of control that I couldn’t even stop it. If you want to be alive then rethink about buying Kia forte.

  • Delma P

    Bought a new 2020 Kia Forte end of Jan 2021 as of yesterday sep 8 2021 I barely made it to Kia dealer. Car was jerking and gradually getting worse. Yesterday when pulling away from stop signs or after a red light car would barely move or shift was at 10 to 13 km Mechanic diagnosed problem transmission has to be replaced

  • Delma P

    I have had two mice in my car one appeared on my leg while driving swiped at him don’t know where he went. Then had one in dash of car left mouse dirt looking at me when I got in swiped him out open door. Liked my upholstery ate some above window. My new 2020 Kia Forte I bought r red bd of Jan 2021

  • Doug l

    My 2020 Kia forte had a mouse in it to,and I put out a mousetrap and got him good.

  • Jesse J

    I have a 2020 Kia Forte LXS. I’ve had it for about 8 months and not a single problem. Sorry about this lady’s luck but this is only one single incident. Hardly qualifies as a worry for the rest of us.

  • Stephanie

    While vehicle is in motion on a city street, several warning lights popped up on the dashboard: Electronic pwr steering, electronic stability indicator, TPMS tire pressure, malfunction indicator lamp, autonomus emergency brake, adaptive front lighting, and low tire pressure warning lights. At the same time that all those lights turned on (while in motion) the front collision warning came on and caused problems with acceleration well. When parked, I shut the car off and the ignition locked and I couldn’t get it turn back on.

    Called the dealership and they immediately said I had a rodent problem. I opened my car hood and looked for any evidence of rodent problems and found nothing. Took it to the dealership and they reported that they found a nest and chewed wires . I asked for them to show me and was walked out to the garage where they had what looked like a rodent nest and a red wire with the black tubing that the wire runs through sitting out.

    So even though Kia is aware of the problem, trust me when I say they will tell their customers that it is rodents and not covered under warranty. I have approximately 9000 miles on my car and have had it for a year.

    Where do I need to go from here?

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