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2017 Kia Sportage Test Drive Review
Crossovers can be sensible and practical (read: boring). Happily, the Kia Sportage is among the crossovers that know how to have fun, too!
Compact crossovers offer car buyers the best of both worlds. They have the ride height, available all-wheel drive (AWD), and added cargo space of more rugged vehicles. But they also typically feature a car platform, which allows for smooth handling, a spacious interior, and improved fuel economy. It’s seriously having your cake and eating it, too, so it’s no wonder this segment is the fastest growing corner of the new-car market.
With so many options now, it’s almost hard to keep up—and harder to stand out! So to rise above the cacophony, Kia made some noise itself, with the bold styling of the Sportage. But the Sportage is more than just a unique face, as it boasts a sporty ride, great technology, and most importantly—it offers solid value.
Look and Feel
The Sportage joins the crowded compact-crossover ranks, which include the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Jeep Cherokee, Hyundai Tucson, and a whole bunch more.
And this crew of SUVs is constantly getting updated—it’s like a constant barrage of new. That’s great for the consumer, but it’s also a bit overwhelming—there's so much information to ingest for the average car buyer. But there is a great deal to appreciate with what Kia has done with the Sportage. It will never beat its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Tucson, at its own game in terms of being the upscale option, so Kia went for sporty and bold instead, with great results.
The Kia Sportage has truly “out-there” styling, highlighted by bug-eye headlights, large quad-foglight clusters, and the copper paint job. Squint at it at times and you can even see a hint of Porsche Macan in the styling. If you purchase one of these, you'll stand out in the parking lot for sure.
The Sportage also has a rather spacious cabin, especially for the rear seats. Even with an upright seating position, you’ve got plenty of head- and legroom. Note the cut of the rear doors near the top and back. They were designed to provide a full-size opening when getting in an out.
Fit and finish are strong, and the seats provide a good deal of comfort and refined stitching. You’ve also got a great, massive moonroof with a power shade that slides all the way back with the push of a button. Overall, it's a great place to spend a commute.
Trims for the Sportage are LX, EX, and SX Turbo. The base LX and midrange EX both come with a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine making 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Our SX Turbo, as its name might suggest, features a turbocharged 2-liter four that puts out 240 horsepower with front-wheel drive (FWD) and 237 horsepower with all-wheel drive (AWD). Both versions generate 260 pound-feet of torque. Power gets sent to the front wheels or available AWD through a 6-speed automatic transmission.
You can also tailor your driving experience with the Drive Mode selector on the steering wheel. It offers Normal, Eco, and Sport driving modes, tweaking throttle response, shift points, and steering-wheel feel. The SX Turbo also has steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters—so if Sport mode doesn’t shift fast enough, you can up-and-downshift until your heart’s desire.
The base engine delivers frankly lackluster acceleration, but the Turbo engine is quick. I would not put it on the line next to the Porsche Macan the Kia borrows styling from, but the SX Turbo is certainly quick.
The Sportage also corners well, while steering is pretty well weighted and there is not a lot of body roll. Yet the suspension is soft enough to absorb bumps in the road. It’s a great blend of smooth and sporty.
The base engine has decent fuel economy, delivering 23 mpg city, 30 on the highway, and 26 combined with FWD, and 21 city, 25 highway, 22 combined with AWD. The Turbo gets 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined with FWD, and 20 city, 23 highway, and 21 combined with AWD. In our time driving, we found fuel economy of 19.3 mpg combined. That’s not great at a time when 30 mpg is becoming the expectation in this segment.
According to Kia, the Sportage supposedly has improved sound deadening. The previous car must have sounded like a freight train, because the new Sportage has a lot of road noise. We hope you won't mind playing the radio loudly to combat that road noise.
Form and Function
Some new compact SUVs, like the Honda CR-V, go for form over function. Honda’s dash area looks sharp, but I had to put my phone and wallet well away from where I could easily reach them. The Sportage delivers both form and function, with plenty of cubbies and cupholders, places to put my keys, my phone, you name it. The center console is deep, and there are little cubbies for rear passengers, too.
With that in mind, the Sportage goes for quality over quantity on the cargo front. Despite its clever storage solutions, the Sportage has just 30.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up. Fold that rear seat, and the cargo space grows to only 60.1 cubic feet. That's respectable, but far from the front of the pack. Rivals like the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, and Honda CR-V all have more like 75 cubic feet on tap. If cargo space is a priority, you may want to look at something other than the Sportage.
The Sportage comes standard with Bluetooth hands-free calling and streaming music, steering-wheel-mounted audio and hands-free buttons, and a 6-speaker stereo with SiriusXM support. You can upgrade to a Harman Kardon premium sound system with subwoofer and external amplifier.
At the center of the dash is Kia’s touchscreen system, called UVO. The base screen measures 5 inches, while 7- and 8-inch touchscreens are available. UVO has a very sensible layout, easy-to-read fonts, and crisp graphics.
But good graphics are only half the battle, so Kia offers UVO eServices. It connects your car to your smartphone and features a parking-location reminder, roadside assistance, and more, as well as the ability to save points of interest.
The Sportage offers support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; this is optional for the LX and standard for the EX and SX Turbo.
The Sportage comes with the expected complement of front and side impact airbags, traction control, a reversing camera, LATCH child-seat anchors, and more. It also offers high-tech safety features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and of course, forward-collision warning and avoidance.
But there are a couple of omissions, like the fact that you can’t get adaptive cruise control at all on this car, and you can’t even opt for the high-tech stuff on the base model. At a time when the Toyota RAV4 is offering its high-tech safety suite as standard, it makes safety seem like an exclusive item.
The Sportage is an IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) 2017 Top Safety Pick. It earns the best score of Good in all phases of crash testing, and its crash-avoidance tech earns the best score of Superior. However, the Sportage earns a middling score of Acceptable for its LATCH ease of use and the worst score of Poor for headlight testing.
The Sportage earns a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Base MSRP for the 2017 Kia Sportage is $23,200 for the LX. An EX starts at $25,700, and an SX Turbo starts at $32,700. Some might consider that a tall price for a compact SUV—and they'd be right to think so. But the SX comes fully loaded—Kia offers no option packages on this vehicle. Start loading a CR-V or Escape with options, and its price will shoot past $33,000.
The Sportage is also backed by an impressive 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 5-year, 60,000-mile basic warranty. Compare that to the CR-V’s 5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty and just a 3-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty. The Sportage offers peace of mind in addition to its great tech and fun ride.
Kia needed to make the Sportage look bold to stand out in a crowd. But for all its wild styling, neat color, and sporty ride, one of the greatest attributes of the Sportage is its value. That it looks and drives great only add to that value!
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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