The Sportage no longer boasts budget quality to match its budget price. Gone are the cheap materials and lackluster suspension. Now the Kia Sportage has looks inside and out that align with the brand’s upscale aspirations. You’ll find soft-touch leather on the dash, modern LED lighting, and advanced safety features that rival the Japanese heavyweights. All for thousands less than much of the competition. Go ahead, it’s ok to love this little Kia.
The Sportage is one of the safest and most reliable compact SUVs on the market. With an MSRP of $23,200, it’s also competitively priced. There’s a lot to like about this little crossover. The interior is upscale and loaded with features, even in the base model. Improved handling and ride quality fix the most common complaints about previous generation Sportage models. Optional advanced safety technology and unique styling further compel shoppers to give this Kia a hard look. In terms of value per dollar, the Sportage is one of the best compact SUVs you can buy.
The Sportage is available with two different engines. The first, a 2.4 Liter Dual Overhead Cam inline 4 cylinder that makes 181 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm is available on the LX and EX trims. This power is good for a 8.5 second zero to sixty time. The SX Turbo trim packs a Turbocharged 2.0 Liter inline 4 cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm, enough to make the jaunt from zero to sixty in just under 7 seconds. Both are paired with a Sportsmatic electronically shiftable six-speed automatic transmission.
The SX Turbo receives paddle shifters for a more engaging shifting experience, though most probably won’t use them. The steering feel is much better than previous generation Sportage models, but still lacks the feedback and refinement of some competitors, like the Mazda CX-5. The suspension is firm and this SUV handles nimbly as a result but you’ll definitely feel road imperfections. Perhaps the most impressive improvement is the sound dampening in the cabin. Previous models suffered from severe wind and road noise that has been drastically reduced with this model, though we wouldn’t call it quieter than competitors. The noise is there, just not enough to be bothersome.
The brakes are some of the best in the class and stopped this SUV well in both wet and dry weather without much loss in performance. Overall, the performance of this Kia is on par, if a bit sportier than much of the class. The SX Turbo trim is best for those who want that extra grunt when they need it since the torque is available at lower rpm than the other trims and is one of the quickest SUVs in the compact crossover class.
Undoubtedly a strong point, hop inside the Sportage and you’ll find a well-appointed cabin that’s appealing to the eye. Controls are well laid out and intuitive. The thick, flat-bottomed steering wheel is definitely one of the better steering wheels on the market. The cloth seats are also some of the best around, though a bit on the firm side. That’s a good thing if you’re looking for support but not if you want to be coddled with comfort. The side bolsters do a good job of keeping you in place during spirited driving. Move up a trim and the leather seating surfaces are even better and more adjustable, including power lumbar support for backs that need it.
The rear seats have sufficient legroom for the Sportage’s size and offer seven different reclining angles to find a seating position that’s just right. The soft-touch materials on the dash add to the upscale ambiance and feature matte silver trim. The 5-inch touchscreen in the LX trim is rather small and makes it tough to use and hard to see the rearview camera when reversing. We’d recommend the 7-inch model, available with the Popular Package or standard on higher trims.
This system also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which are seamless user-friendly interfaces that most will find worth the extra money. Cabin storage is excellent for an SUV of this size with plenty of nooks and crannies to stash your stuff. Available power programmable, hands-free liftgate makes the accessing up to 60.1 cubes of cargo space a snap. 30.7 cubic feet with the seats up is spacious for the segment. The cargo floor can be removed to allow an additional few inches of space to fit taller items. The one weak spot of the interior is the rear vision, as the rear roof pillars create large blind spots and a small rear window. Fortunately, a rearview backup camera is standard and alleviates this problem when parking. The Sportage offers an exceptional interior at a budget price and provides excellent utility for all your needs.
In a class that broadly conforms to conservative styling in an effort to garner mass market appeal, the Kia Sportage features a fun, refreshing youthful design. The headlights sit higher on the hood than many SUVs, making it appear taller than average. The unique grille is large and oddly shaped, giving the Sportage a distinctive design. Depending on which trim you choose, there may be no fog lights, halogen fog lights, or peculiar 4 bulb LED fog lights that really enhance the design.
The body’s lines flow well from front to rear, where tasteful tail lights stretch across the entire rear fascia. The SX Turbo features LED tail lights that make this budget SUV stand out. This models 19-inch alloy wheels are an awesome design as well. We think the Kia Sportage is one of the better-looking compact SUVs, do you agree? Let us know in the comments below.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Kia Sportage a 5-star overall safety rating, their highest rating despite a 4-star front crash test rating and 4-star rollover rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, known for its more rigorous tests, gave the Sportage even higher marks.
The Kia received a “Good” rating in all crash tests and the additional designation of “Top Safety Pick+,” their highest award. Additionally, the available front crash prevention technology is rated “Superior,” the highest rating possible. Headlights were a weak spot, with all trims receiving a “Poor” rating despite the SX Turbo’s Bi-Xenon projector beam headlamps. However, given this SUV’s price and the availability of modern safety features like full curtain side airbags, lane departure warning, and Autonomous Emergency Braking, we’d rate the Sportage as better than most when looking for a safe SUV. Keep in mind, this is the 2017 and newer models. Older models do not have the same safety profile. They lack modern advanced safety technology and have no side curtain airbags.
JD Power awards the Kia Sportage a 3.5 out of 5 predicted reliability rating which means it’s better than average. There’s one National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall for a faulty tow hitch wiring harness that causes the trailer brake lights to stay on, affected model owners can have the harness replaced at a Kia dealership free of charge. Consumer Reports offers a 4 out of 5 predicted reliability rating, noting an increase in reliability since previous generation Sportage models. 2015 and earlier models had a troublesome infotainment system that often failed to pair properly via Bluetooth. Additionally, the screen would occasionally freeze and malfunction, especially when attempting to use the steering wheel mounted controls. Some owners also complained of window seal failure that caused excessive road noise.
All Sportage models may be affected by a faulty throttle position switch that causes a stumble and poor acceleration, Kia has released an improved part that can alleviate this concern. It’s not an expensive problem to fix, costing roughly $250. The infotainment system in all models may fail to function due to a software glitch, owners report the problem can be fixed via “hard reset.” Simply unplug the negative battery terminal for twenty seconds then reattach and your problem should be solved. There are a few niggles and gripes about the Sportage but none of them are very serious. Given the minor nature of these problems, we’d recommend the Sportage as a reliable compact SUV.
The Ford Escape is perhaps the most alluring alternative to the Kia Sportage. It’s upscale interior and exterior are a touch more refined than the Kia’s. The 2.0 Liter Ecoboost model makes 7 more horses and twenty more pounds of twist that are available at much lower rpm than the Kia. The Kia is still a tenth or two of a second quicker to sixty, but wider power band in the Escape makes it quicker in most real-world driving applications. The transmission is a touch smarter in the Ford. We’d also have to rate the Escape’s handling higher than the Kia’s, but not by much.
Where the Ford really shines is combining these fun to drive characteristics with a composed and comfortable cabin. The Escape somehow manages to retain these qualities without sacrificing performance, no small feat. The SYNC 3 infotainment system is adored by all, while the Kia’s UVO system has suffered reliability issues in the past, though it has improved. We think the lower trimmed Sportage models may be better buys than comparable Escape trims, but once you move up to the SX Turbo, the 2.0L EcoBoost Escape makes for a tough competitor.
The Sportage LX has an MSRP of $23,200, equipped with a 2.4 Liter Dual Overhead Cam 16 valve inline 4 cylinder engine with Gasoline Direct Injection and dual continuously variable valve timing, an electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic, front wheel drive, motor driven power steering, matte black front grille with chrome trim, bright chrome window trim, body color door handles, rear spoiler, power-adjustable outside mirrors, sound-absorbing front windshield glass, privacy glass, heated rear glass with timer, variable intermittent windshield wipers, rear washer wiper, projector beam headlights, auto light control, LED daytime running lights, 17 inch alloy wheels, 6 speaker audio system, 5” touch screen infotainment system with SiriusXM and auxiliary support, rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free, Active Eco System, 12-volt power outlets, tilt and telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, rear center armrest with cup holders, woven cloth seat trim, 6-way adjustable driver’s seats, front seat back pockets, 60/40 split rear seat with 7-step recline, leatherette door armrest covering, full length side curtain airbags, rollover sensor, traction control system, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Brake Assist System, Downhill Brake Control, side-impact door beams, and front and rear crumple zones. The LX Popular Package costs $1,100 and provides roof rails, windshield de-icer, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, solar control glass, and Tricot cloth seats with YES essentials fabric treatment.
The LX Cool & Connected Package builds on the above package with UVO 7 inch infotainment display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, dual-zone automatic temperature control, and auto defog system for $900. All Wheel Drive can be equipped for $1,500. The EX trim starts at $25,700 and adds a gloss black grille, bright chrome door handles, roof rails, heated outside mirrors, solar control glass, windshield de-icer, projector beam front fog lights, 18in alloy wheels, UVO infotainment system with 7 inch touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB 2.1 charger port, push button start, Smart Key with immobilizer, dual zone automatic temperature control, auto defog system, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, leather seat trim, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather gearshift knob. The $2,100 EX Premium Package installs a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, power folding outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink, LED interior lighting, and heated steering wheel.
The EX Technology Package can be added to the above package and installs Harman Kardon Surround Sound Audio, voice command navigation, smart power liftgate, high beam assist, space saving spare tire, parking assist with front and rear sensors, lane departure warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, and ventilated front seats for $2,900. You can equip All Wheel Drive for $1,500. The SX Turbo equips a 2.0 Liter Turbocharged with Gasoline Direct Injection, larger front brakes, gloss black grille with satin chrome trim, satin chrome door handles, chrome side-sill trim, power folding outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators, panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, smart power liftgate with power programmable height adjustment, Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge projector beam headlights, dynamic bending light, high beam assist, LED front fog lights, 19 inch alloy wheels, space saver spare tire, LED rear combination lamps, and chrome dual exhaust outlets. $1,500 extra will install All Wheel Drive to your Sportage.