Sportage

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2018 Kia Sportage Overview

Although it received a fourth-generation full makeover just last year, the Kia Sportage compact crossover SUV remains a work in progress. Kia had high hopes for the revamped 2017 Sportage and anticipated a possible breakthrough in the U.S. market, but those hopes haven't panned out. Since the debut of redesigned model, sales have actually dropped slightly, and the Sportage continues to fight for floor space in the automaker's showrooms against the more popular Forte, Optima, and Soul. Critics say it's not as powerful or attractive as more established competitors like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, or Mazda CX-5, and for 2018, Kia attempts to attract buyers by adding some new standard features and option packages.

Overall value and build quality continue to be the Sportage's strongest assets, and the 2017 redesign contributed to both by giving the compact crossover a new suspension, upgraded tech features, more cargo space, and additional premium materials—all at an affordable price. The Sportage also received a new exterior look with a sculpted hood, sloping roof, sweeping sidelines, and stylish rear end, although some reviewers weren’t thrilled with the new front end— particularly with the placement of the headlights and foglights and the shape of the grille. Critics note that the oversized "ice cube" fog lights and headlights are located too high above the grille, giving the Sportage more of a military than a suburban vibe. While all design is subjective, the Sportage's rounded front end does differ significantly from other Kias, especially when compared to the more elegant looks of the Optima and Sorento.

Kia offers the Sportage in LX, EX, and SX Turbo trim levels. All trims come standard with auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, and a rear roof spoiler, while the EX adds roof rails, heated side mirrors, and a windshield de-icer. The sport-oriented SX Turbo gets a more dressed-up exterior with satin chrome trim and door handles, metal-look skid plates, a unique gloss-black grille, LED fog lights and taillights, a power liftgate, dual chrome exhaust pipes, and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights with automatic leveling, dynamic light bending, and high-beam assist. Each trim rides on progressively larger alloy wheels, ranging from 17 inches for the LX to 18 inches for the EX and 19 inches for the SX Turbo.

The Sportage comes standard with front-wheel drive (FWD), although the automaker's Dynamax full-time all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is available as an option on all trims. The AWD system includes a driver-activated locking center differential for additional traction on slick or off-road surfaces. The 2017 redesign stretched the Sportage's wheelbase by 1.2 inches to 105.1 inches, while the overall length grew 1.6 inches to a total of 176.4 inches, resulting in a smoother ride and a more spacious cabin. The revamped chassis and suspension provide better stability and more precise handling, while redesigned shock-absorber housings do a better job of absorbing road imperfections. The SX Turbo adds firmer shocks for more dynamic handling and a revised front end with better ground clearance for greater off-road capability.

Power for the Sportage comes from a choice of two different 4-cylinder engines. A normally aspirated 2.4-liter unit producing 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque provides base power for the LX and EX trims. These performance numbers put it in the general range of its competitors, with the RAV4's 4-cylinder engine generating 176 hp and the CR-V's making 184, while the CX-5 does a little better, at 187 hp. Although adequate around town, the Sportage's base powerplant struggles at higher speeds and during aggressive maneuvers, due in part to the crossover's high curb weight, which ranges from about 3,300 to almost 4,000 pounds. By comparison, the RAV4 tops out at 3,655 pounds when fully equipped, and the CR-V tips the scales at 3,307 to 3,512 pounds.

Buyers who prefer more power from their Sportages can opt for the SX Turbo trim. As its name implies, it upgrades to a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that boosts overall performance slightly, delivering 240 hp and 260 lb-ft and shaving about 2 seconds off the 0-to-60 time (6.7 seconds versus the base engine’s 8.6 seconds). Both engines are paired with a 6-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission with overdrive, which comes standard on both FWD and AWD platforms. Fuel-economy numbers check in at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, and 26 combined for the LX; 22, 29, and 25 for the EX; and 21, 26, and 23 for the SX Turbo. The AWD system shaves a few notches off all those numbers, bottoming out at 20, 23, and 21 for the SX Turbo with AWD. By comparison, the Honda CR-V gets up to 34 mpg, while the Mazda CX-5 tops out at 31 mpg.

The longer wheelbase gives the redesigned Sportage extra cargo space as well as slightly more legroom for passengers. With the rear seats up, the Sportage now offers 30.7 cubic feet of storage space, compared to 26.1 cubic feet for the previous generation. Overall cargo capacity grows to 60.1 cubic feet, up from 54.6. At the same time, legroom in the second row increases to 38.2 inches. The Sportage continues to provide comfortable seating for 5 passengers, although the middle seat in the second row is still a tight fit. Upgraded cloth upholstery, a manually adjustable driver's seat, and a 60/40-split rear seatback with 17 recline settings come standard on the LX, while the EX receives leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and heated front seats. The SX Turbo further adds ventilated front seats and an 8-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat.

In terms of tech features, the Sportage LX comes equipped with keyless entry, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a 6-speaker audio system with a 5-inch touchscreen, and a reversing camera. The EX adds push-button start with a smart key, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the automaker's UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. At the top of the lineup, the SX Turbo gets a heated sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, alloy pedals, a unique digital instrument cluster, LED ambient lighting, a sunroof, and an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, satellite and HD radio, and an 8-speaker, 320-watt Harmon Kardon Surround Sound system.

The Sportage was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for 2017 and received a 5-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA) for 2018. The LX trim comes equipped with all the expected safety features, including hill-start assist, while for 2018, the EX gains rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot detection with lane-change assist. The SX Turbo receives lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, and parking assist with front and rear sensors as standard.

Current owners give the Sportage high marks, calling it comfortable, quiet, sporty, and reliable, with sharp handling, a smooth ride, good all-around visibility, and a solid list of standard features. On the downside, owners would like to see better performance and fuel economy, as well as improved steering feedback and an updated sound system. However, they do favorably compare the Sportage to more luxury-oriented competitors and note that it's easy to underestimate its capabilities, highlighting the fact that part of the compact crossover's problem remains the way it's perceived by prospective buyers. If Kia can solve that part of the equation and make a few key changes, it might have a real winner on its hands.

Updated

Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.

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Kia Sportage Questions

Kia Sportage?

Is it true that Kia did way with the spare tire in the 2018

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