By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.4
Over the years, the Kia Sportage has evolved from a rudimentary 4x4 SUV into a stylish and powerful compact crossover SUV. The 2015 Kia Sportage plays in a tough crowd against established competitors like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, not to mention Nissan's excellent new Rogue, all of which offer more interior space. As a counterpunch, the Sportage emphasizes the first five letters of its name, with a firm suspension and a powerful available turbocharged engine. While the smaller interior and cargo space, not to mention the stiff suspension, may turn off some buyers, the undeniably sporty Sportage has carved out a niche for itself against its competitors. Of course, the standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty may have something to do with that.
If you're looking for the tall ride height, all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction and flexible cargo carrying capacity of a compact SUV, but you demand extra style, power and creature comforts, the 2015 Kia Sportage deserves a good long look.
While the Kia Sportage is definitely stylish, it's not particularly thrifty at the fuel pump, and is handily beaten by nearly all of its major competitors. The Sportage is also not as roomy as its competition, especially when it comes to cargo, and the ride quality can be downright harsh.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2015 Kia Sportage is essentially the same as last year's model, which received numerous visual and mechanical enhancements.
Driving Impressions The Kia Sportage comes in two flavors: competitive and aggressive. The standard 2.4-liter engine delivers 182 horsepower, and it's easily competitive with the standard engines you'll find in a Honda...... CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, or many other compact SUVs. What you won't find is anything quite like the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and its 260 horsepower, which turns the Sportage into the class jock. However, both Sportage models come with an unexpectedly stiff suspension, which unfortunately doesn't pay off in handling. Instead, there's a bouncy ride, but too much body roll, essentially the worst of both worlds. We also found the Sportage's high beltline and narrow windows somewhat limit 360-degree visibility, which is the exact opposite of what most SUV buyers want in this kind of vehicle. However, the steering feel is pretty good, and the brakes definitely stop the Sportage quickly.
If you like fresh air and the feel of the sun on your face, the big panoramic sunroof available on the Kia Sportage will deliver plenty of both.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE
Power hungry buyers will love the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder on the 2015 Sportage. Offered exclusively on the SX trim, its 260 horsepower is the most in its compact SUV class.
Generally speaking, we like the 2015 Kia Sportage interior. The comfortable front seats and simple controls make it easy to drive around town. Rear passengers will like the roomy rear seats, but if you're looking to haul cargo, the modest 54.6-cubic-foot cargo hold you have with those seats folded may not cut it as well as a Honda CR-V, which offers over 70 cubic feet of cargo space. That said, we like the anti-bacterial cloth on EX models, which helps eliminate odors and stains. While we're fans of the panoramic sunroof, we'd prefer the sunshades were power operated, not manual.Exterior
Kia calls its signature grille design a "tiger nose," although we're not sure we see the resemblance. Regardless, swept-back headlights flank the distinctive grille, fitting with the sharp lines and narrow side glass of the Sportage. 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 Sportage's sporty appearance, however, but its available all-wheel drive and nearly seven inches of ground clearance make it a capable compact SUV.
Base Kia Sportage LX models come with a 6-speaker audio system that includes Bluetooth, USB and SiriusXM satellite radio, and steering-wheel mounted buttons for audio, phone and cruise control. An Active Eco system helps drivers save fuel, and rear-seat passengers get their own air conditioning duct. Also included is a tilt/telescoping steering column and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Sportage EX and SX models add Kia's UVO infotainment system, Infinity premium audio system with a subwoofer, back-up warning system, rearview camera, a cooling glovebox and automatic climate control. The SX gets exclusive high-intensity headlights, plus the turbocharged engine and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The most important stand-alone option on the Kia Sportage is all-wheel drive, which adds $1,500 to the price of any model. You can enhance the LX with UVO eServices and the Popular package which bundles a backup camera and keyless entry. The EX Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, leather trim, and voice-navigation with SiriusXM traffic. SX buyers have the option of choosing the same Luxury package.
The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder under the hood of LX and EX Sportage SUVs may be overshadowed by its turbocharged cousin, but with advanced fuel injection and competitive power and torque, it's no slouch. But, yeah, we have to admit we like the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the SX. Who wouldn't? With 260 horsepower delivered smoothly through its 6-speed automatic transmission, it gives you the power of a V6 engine. Like the turbo, the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is connected to a 6-speed automatic which can be shifted manually. While both engines are competitive in power, they lag the field in fuel economy.
182 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg (front-wheel drive), 19/26 mpg (all-wheel drive)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,850-3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 mpg (front-wheel drive), 19/24 mpg (all-wheel drive)
The 2015 Kia Sportage compact SUV starts with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a bit more than $22,500. The additional features of the EX model start at about $26,000, while the turbocharged SX is right under the $29,000 mark. Note that all-wheel drive adds $1,500 to the price of any Sportage. A fully loaded SX will run you about $34,000 when you add the Luxury Package and all-wheel drive, but we think a better bet is the mid-level EX, which lacks the turbo's power, but gets better fuel economy. Be sure to check KBB's Fair Purchase Price before you buy to see what others are paying for the Kia Sportage in your area. Residuals won't be quite as good as the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester, but probably on par with the Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4, and better than the Nissan Rogue, Jeep Compass and VW Tiguan.