By KBB.com Editors
Those who remember the original Sportage SUV probably won't recognize the current model. Gone are the body-on-frame architecture, harsh ride and weak enginenot to mention the questionable reliability. The newest Sportage derives its underpinnings from a car chassis to give it a smooth ride, improved handling and better crash test results. The trade-off is an inability to tackle true off-road terrain (the Sportage lacks a proper high/low transfer case and locking differentials), but heavy snow and mud are still easily managed. And, while the humble Sportage must contend with flashy newcomers such as the Honda CR-V and Dodge Nitro, many people will find its low price and long list of standard features preferable to just another pretty face.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're on a modest budget but don't want to give up comfort or convenience, you'll appreciate Kia's approach to the compact SUV segment. And, while its V6 engine produces little more power than Honda's in-line four, you'll appreciate the V6's smoothness with every tip of the accelerator.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're an individual who cherishes an established nameplate, Kia (despite dramatic sales growth) lacks the long history of some other brands. And though Kia has definitely made strides versus segment leaders from Toyota and Honda, the Sportage might be a shade down from them in product refinement.What's Significant About This Car?
No Major Changes for 2007.Driving It Driving Impressions
Kia's product team has hit the sweet spot in achieving a ride/handling balance completely appropriate to the target consumer. With a curb weight of some 3,400 pounds, the Sportage is no lightweight. That fairly substantial heft is reflected in a feeling of solidity from the unit body structure. Suspension settings are biased toward comfort, and while the steering provides some feedback, it seems almost artificially induced. The V6 engine, while offering two more cylinders than the 2007 Honda CR-V (Toyota now offers a V6 with its RAV4), doesn't seem any more responsive than the Honda when connected to the standard four-speed automatic. We'd view the Sportage's on-road demeanor as creditable, although not entertaining.Favorite Features
We come away most impressed by the Sportage's distinctive design. In an era of generic styling emanating from many Asian studios, it's refreshing to see something truly distinctive without the carmaker resorting to "shock and awe."
Quality Interior Appointments
Five years ago, one peek at an interior in a Hyundai or Kia was all you needed to know to determine its origin or price point. That's certainly not the case today, with Kia employing improved plastics and upholstery throughout the lineup. On top of improved quality is true utility, with easy ingress and egress, in combination with a fold-flat rear seat that provides real stowage capability.
Most Sportage prospects will be pleased by its interior, combining real functionality with a number of upscale touches. Thankfully, the Korean car industry has finally embraced quality plastics, with an almost quantum improvement in both appearance and texture. Our test EX offered attractive cloth upholstery, which felt comfortable and appeared durable. The instrument panel, while not overly informative, offered easy-to-read gauges, while the center-mounted cluster employed controls easily identified and appropriately ergonomic. Adding to its upscale appeal were aluminized accents on both the instrument and door panels. Seating position is appropriately upright and, while the standard sunroof encroaches slightly on rear-seat headroom, most adults will find either front or rear seating to be generous. As with most compact SUVs, the fifth passenger's area is marginal, albeit available.Exterior
The Sportage represents a dramatic departure for the Kia design palette. As opposed to the original, discontinued in 2002, the newest Sportage replaced the curvaceous, almost organic look with something more akin to Origami. While not, to many eyes, beautiful, today's Sportage certainly has spunk, with a get-up-and-go attitude accentuated by short overhangs, a relatively wide track, ample tires (235/60-16 all-season radials) and generous headroom. The hatch features an opening window for convenience. A dual exhaust system with chrome tips accentuates the Sportage's not-quite-cute Sport-Ute pretensions.Notable Standard Equipment
Kia's tagline, "The Power to Surprise," is abundantly evident when viewing the Sportage's window sticker. A high level of standard equipment is part of Kia's core strategy. Available in either LX or EX variants, the Sportage enjoys an almost opulent level of equipment, even at its $16,495 base price. Young families will appreciate the safety benefits of Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control (TCS) and, at the EX level, a tire pressure monitoring system. Audiophiles will enjoy an AM/FM/CD system with six speakersEX models enjoy MP3-compatibility. Privacy side glass is standard across the board, while a sunroof is included on the EX at no additional charge. Finally, while we wish the roof rails offered more than the stated 100-pound capacity, they are included in the base window sticker price for both versions.Notable Optional Equipment
With all that is standard the customer is left with little to add. Of course, the less expensive LX gives the customer more variables, although many of those would be dealer-installed. On the EX, a luxury package includes body-colored bumpers, leather seats and trim, heated front seats, automatic headlamps and a six-disc CD changer.Under the Hood
The base LX utilizes a fairly conventional (for the category) 2.0 liter in-line four, while the EX benefits from the 2.7 liter DOHC V6. It, along with the Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape, were among the first to offer six-cylinder power in the compact utility category. As noted above, we were not blown away by the responsiveness of the V6. It will meet consumer expectations, but we don't believe it will exceed them. The four-cylinder should be reserved for light duty onlyno full loads, light towing and little exposure to work at high altitudes.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 (2WD manual), 22/27 (2WD automatic), 22/26 (4WD manual)
173 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
178 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 (2WD automatic), 19/23 (4WD automatic)
The Kia Sportage LX, equipped with a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $16,495. Our test EX, with standard V6, four-speed automatic and optional four-wheel drive, had an MSRP of $23,490. Some modifications at the dealer level add real value (dealer-installed audio and/or entertainment systems, anti-theft systems, etc.), but many are in the guise of unnecessary additions that simply drive up the price. Also be aware that, despite one of the industry's best warranties, a Kia will not offer the return on investment in the form of resale value enjoyed by Honda or Toyota owners. The Sportage does, however, retain values similar to the Jeep Compass and better than the Dodge Nitro and Ford Escape.