By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/14/2011
The first Kia Sportage was a rugged, but not terribly reliable, compact SUV with a body-on-frame chassis that made it a good low-cost alternative to the Jeep Wrangler. But, while the Jeep Wrangler has grown larger and less fuel-efficient, the 2012 Kia Sportage SUV has transformed into something altogether different. The 2012 Kia Sportage is now a clever compact SUV with a car-like ride, great fuel economy and an impressive level of overall quality and reliability. No longer a rugged off-road vehicle, the 2012 Kia Sportage compact SUV now competes with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevy Equinox and Ford Escape. Beyond its head-turning styling, feature-laden standard-equipment list and available turbocharged engine, the 2012 Kia Sportage has one of the best standard warranties in the business, covering the powertrain for 10-years/100,000-miles.You'll Like This Car If...
If you need the room and versatility of a compact SUV, but you want something that is fun and sporty to drive, the 2012 Kia Sportage tops a very short list. Its affordable price makes up for its middle-of-the-road resale values, and its available 260-horsepower turbocharged engine is a rarity in this segment.You May Not Like This Car If...
Not everyone will be drawn to the 2012 Kia Sportage SUV's polarizing looks. Those looking for a more traditional compact SUV with a large cargo bay should look to the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forster or Toyota RAV4.What's New for 2012
The 2012 Kia Sportage SUV has a slight increase in fuel economy for both the 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter turbocharged engines. All models receive improved rear suspension dampers and more sound insulation, while LX trims have new 17-inch wheels and low-rolling-resistance tires. EX trims with cloth seats get a new anti-bacterial, anti-soil fabric that also repels static build-up.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2012 Kia Sportage's taut suspension and powerful engine choices put the "sport" in Sport Utility Vehicle. Compared with its nearest competitors, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, the 2012 Kia Sportage SUV rides a bit stiffer, but delivers better cornering and recovery from sharp dips in the road. The nicely-weighted steering feels good in your hands and delivers predictable response to rapid inputs and quick adjustments. The 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines both offer ample power in any driving situation, with our favorite being the turbocharged version in the Sportage SX. The 2.4-liter is more than capable in climbing steep hills and handling quick passing maneuvers, but the turbocharged 2.0-liter adds a new level of driving fun. The 2.0-liter turbo also feature gasoline direct injection technology that helps it attain good fuel economy without sacrificing power.Favorite Features
More sun equates to more fun and this dual-section sunroof lets the rear-seat occupants stare at the wonders above.
2.0-liter turbocharged engine
Found in the 2012 Kia Sportage SX, the 260-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine makes the car surprisingly quick and a lot more fun to drive.
The edgy exterior design of the 2012 Kia Sportage SUV carries over into the interior with a wildly (some say over-done) futuristic-looking dash, stylish cloth or leather seating and plenty of features to keep techno-savvy drivers happy. Functionally, there is much to like inside the 2012 Kia Sportage SUV, with a big, roomy rear seat that can be folded flat to make a modestly-roomy 54.6 cubic-foot cargo hold. While useful, the Sportage's cargo bay is not quite as large as those in the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, both of which offer more than 70 cubic feet of cargo space. Cloth seating surfaces are standard and feature a number of colors and patterns to help owners better customize the Sportage. EX trims feature special anti-bacterial cloth that helps eliminate odors and stains that can accumulate over time. We like a number of the 2012 Kia Sportage's interior options, but the panoramic sunroof's manual sunshades don't strike us as very useful and should be power-operated.Exterior
The 2012 Kia Sportage SUV's sleek design includes sharp lines, narrow side glass and Kia's signature "tab" front grille. Penned by Kia's Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer (the same man responsible for the Audi TT) the 2012 Kia Sportage SUV is a huge departure from previous designs, and even leaves most of its competition looking rather outdated. The clever interplay between the dark lines surrounding the grille, lower air ducts, and painted wheel inserts give the Sportage a keenly sinister appearance. The Sportage's high beltline and big wheel and tire combo make it look a bit like a hopped-up VW GTI. Don't be fooled by the 2012 Kia Sportage's sporty appearance, however, as its available all-wheel drive (AWD) and nearly seven inches of ground clearance make it every bit a compact SUV.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2012 Kia Sportage SUV is offered in four front-wheel-drive trim levels: Base, LX, EX and SX, with AWD available on all but the Base. Standard equipment across all trim levels includes air conditioning, power accessories, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a rear under-floor storage compartment and a satellite-radio-equipped audio system with four speakers. Some notable standard features that come with the EX and SX trims include Kia's UVO infotainment system, back-up warning system, push-button start, a cooling glovebox and auto-climate control.Notable Optional Equipment
All of the options available for the 2012 Kia Sportage come in the form of packages. Some noteworthy highlights of the Sportage option packages include a navigation system, heated front seats, a cooled driver's seat, a panoramic sunroof and a premium audio system with a subwoofer.Under the Hood
The 2012 Kia Sportage SUV's new 2.4-liter engine is robust and fuel-efficient and should suffice for most drivers' needs. Costing a bit more is the turbocharged 2.0-liter, which provides V6-like power and 4-cylinder fuel economy. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which delivers impressive fuel-economy numbers and can be shifted manually. A 6-speed manual transmission is available, but only on the base trim level.
2.4-liter in-line 4
176 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
168 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 (front-wheel drive, manual), 21/30 (front-wheel drive, automatic), 20/27 (AWD, automatic), 19/25 (AWD, manual)
2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4
260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,850 - 3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (front-wheel drive), 20/25 (AWD)
The 2012 Kia Sportage SUV comes with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $19,000. Stepping up to the LX trim level adds about $2,300, with the EX trim coming in at just under $25,000. The turbocharged SX trim starts at around $28,000 but, when it's topped with every option, that price can creep past $32,000. A look at the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com shows what others are paying for the Kia Sportage in your area, so be sure to check it out before you buy. As for residuals, we expect that the Kia Sportage won't hold its value as well as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 SUVs, but it will be on par with that of the Nissan Rogue and Jeep Compass.