KBB Editors' Overview
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, somewhat harsh ride and moderate engine power. The 2008 Kia Sportage derives its underpinnings from a car platform to give it a smooth ride, improved handling and better crash-test results. The trade-off is an inability to tackle the harshest sorts of off-road terrain (the Sportage lacks a high/low transfer case and locking differentials), but heavy snow and mud are still easily managed. And, while the humble Sportage must contend with perennial favorites, such as the Honda CR-V and Jeep Liberty, many people will find its low price and long list of standard features quite tempting.
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 New for 2008
No major changes for 2008.
Kia's product team has hit the sweet spot in achieving a ride and handling balance completely appropriate to the target consumer. With a curb weight of roughly 3,400 pounds, the 2008 Kia 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 the steering provides some appreciated feedback. The V6 engine, while offering two more cylinders than the 2008 Honda CR-V (Toyota 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, but, for an SUV, being creditable is more important.
The Sportage's distinctive design is modern, clean and attractive. 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
Kia has made great strides in quality, with improved plastics and upholstery throughout the lineup. On top of improved quality is true utility, with easy ingress and egress and 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. The Korean car industry has embraced quality plastics, with an almost quantum improvement in both appearance and texture. The attractive cloth upholstery gives an impression of comfort and durability. The instrument panel has easy-to-read gauges and the center-mounted cluster has controls that are easily identified and appropriately ergonomic. Adding to the upscale appeal are 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, in the center of the rear seat, is somewhat marginal.
The 2008 Kia Sportage represents a dramatic departure from the original Sportage design, which was discontinued in 2002. Today's Sportage wears a curvaceous, almost organic look, 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 SUV intensions.
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, especially considering its price range. Young families concerned with safety will appreciate the 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 speakers -- EX 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 as standard equipment.
Notable Optional Equipment
With all that is standard the customer is left with little to add. 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, amplifier and subwoofer.
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. We were not overly impressed 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 only -- no 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: 20/25 (2WD, manual), 19/25 (2WD, automatic), 19/24 (4WD, manual)
173 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
178 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 (2WD, automatic), 17/21 (4WD, automatic)
The 2008 Kia Sportage LX, equipped with two-wheel drive, a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $17,000. The EX, with V6, four-speed automatic and four-wheel drive, is close to $23,500. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. It shows the typical transaction price others have paid for the 2008 Kia Sportage in your area. 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, Dodge Nitro and Ford Escape.