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The Good

The 2009 Kia Sportage offers a slew of standard safety features, a sleek exterior, ample interior space, and with the right package, plenty of power, performance, and amenities.

The Bad

The inline-four engine that comes with the base '09 Sportage trim doesn’t provide enough pep, its gas mileage is not great, and highway driving can be bumpy and noisy.

The CarGurus View

Kia has clearly worked hard to make its 2009 Sportage one of the better-looking compact SUVs on the market without sacrificing safety or handling in the process. Others in the class may offer more power or better gas mileage, but the Sportage delivers quality across the board.

At a Glance

If you’re looking for a compact SUV that won’t break your budget, can handle poor weather conditions, offers plenty of space on the inside for people or cargo, and handles like a car around town, then you must take a look at the 2009 Kia Sportage.

Six trims are available – LX (with the I4 engine), LX V6, and EX V6, each of which is available with front-wheel drive or full-time, electronically controlled four-wheel drive. Both LX trim levels offer a manual or automatic transmission, while EXs come with the automatic only.

As it has since its inception in the 1990s, the Sportage continues to improve in 2009. Already sporty last year, the Sportage’s front end gets a facelift for ’09 with a reshaped bumper, headlights, taillights, and grille to make this crossover even more stylish.

Most reviewers praise the interior space and comforts offered by the Sportage as well as its handling. And there is no question that the Sportage provides enough safety features to satisfy even the toughest critics. Add Kia’s 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty and you get a vehicle that provides all the necessities in a package that's easy on the eyes.


The LX I4 comes with, and is obviously named for, its inline, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine capable of 140 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 136 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The LX V6 and the EX V6 have a 2.7-liter V6 under the hood that can produce 173 hp at 6,000 rpm and 178 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm.

The I4 comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive, while the V6 is mated to a four-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission with overdrive, which is also an available option for the I4. Another option for both engines is a full-time, electronically controlled 4WD system.

The five-speed, 4x2 manual transmission delivers the best gas mileage, at 20/25 mpg, but the five-speed 4x4 is not far behind with 19/24. The four-speed automatic 4x2 with the I4 gets 19/25, while the same transmission with the V6 delivers 17/23, slightly better than the four-speed automatic 4x4’s 17/21.

The I4 has a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, while the V6 can pull 2,000 pounds.

Ride & Handling

The Sportage’s 4WD system delivers most of the power to the front wheels during normal conditions, but can send as much as half of that power to the rear wheels when the front slips. The 4WD, coupled with its 7.7 inches of ground clearance, can handle most weather conditions and light off-road driving.

The Sportage’s steel unibody chassis is supported in the front with independent MacPerson struts, coil springs, and a stabilizer bar, and in the back with an independent dual-link suspension with struts and another stabilizer bar.

The I4 engine offers plenty of power for around-town driving and mild commuting, but you may feel the need for a little more pep from the V6 for anything more taxing. The Sportage handles well in city environments for an SUV with its responsive steering, good sight lines, and car-like feel, though it's not as smooth on the highway as others in its class.

The 11-inch vented-disk front brakes and the 10.2-inch solid-disk rear brakes (11.2 inches with the 4WD system) have an excellent feel and guarantee fast, reliable stopping.

Cabin & Comfort

All the Sportage's controls are clearly marked, easy to use, and within easy reach of the driver. Opinions on the quality of the interior material vary, ranging from quality to cheap.

There is little debate, however, about the ample seating capacity of the Sportage (103.9 cubic feet of passenger volume), thanks in large part to its long wheelbase (103.5 inches). The front seats offer plenty of legroom and even more headroom, and the rear seats are generous as well. With the back seat up the Sportage has 23.6 cubic feet of cargo volume, and it offers 66.6 cubic feet with the seats down. And those rear seats fold down, 60/40, in one easy motion to provide a flat cargo area. The tailgate window opens independently, offering another cargo convenience.

Both LX trims come with a six-speaker, AM/FM/CD stereo system while the EX adds a cassette player, subwoofer, and external amplifier. Sirius Satellite Radio and a USB input for MP3 players are standard for all trims.

Adjustable headrests and an eight-way, manually adjustable driver’s seat come standard with all three trims, but what the seat is covered with depends on the trim. The EX trim's standard upgrades include a navigation system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, remote keyless entry, rear cargo cover, cargo net, and Moquette cloth seat trim.

A sport package (optional for the LX V6 and the EX) includes foglights, a black mesh grille, a rear spoiler, sport gauges, and an upgraded sound system. An available luxury package for the EX includes body-color bumpers, leather seats and trim, heated front seats, deluxe scuff plates, automatic headlights, and an ECM mirror with HomeLink.


You don’t have to pay extra for safety within the Sportage family, as all three trims come standard with all the same safety systems – dual front airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, four-wheel, antilock disc brakes, Electronic Stability Control, a traction control system, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The result of all that attention to safety features? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Sportage a five-star crash safety rating.

What Owners Think

The consensus seems to be that the I4 engine doesn’t provide enough power to move this SUV effectively and too often demands “pedal to the floor” driving. But a move up to the V6 seems to solve that problem for most owners.

Drivers like the feel of the Sportage in cramped city conditions, bad weather, and rougher terrain, but, again, performance on the highway is not its strongest suit.

And the majority of owners rave about the Sportage's interior – roomy, convenient, and efficient. Plus they like the reshaped grille, headlights, and bumper that give the 2009 Sportage a shapely look that is a far cry from the Sportage of the 1990s.


After working at gas stations and car washes in high school, driving across the country more than a dozen times and even living on the road in a well-outfitted truck, Tim O'Sullivan finally started putting some of his automotive knowledge to work when he began writing for CarGurus in 2008. He's also an award-winning journalist and the Sports Editor at the Concord (NH) Monitor.

What's your take on the 2009 Kia Sportage?

2009 Kia Sportage Top Comparisons

Users ranked 2009 Kia Sportage against other cars which they drove/owned. Each ranking was based on 9 categories. Here is the summary of top rankings.

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