Kia's long suit has been value, and part of that value was getting a lot of features for the money. The 2015 Kia Sportage stands that on its head by having the second highest sticker price among the six compact crossover SUVs in this test with a sticker of $33,975, surpassed only by the $36,420 Jeep Cherokee. However, you shouldn't feel shortchanged since the Sportage, thanks to its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, is the most powerful of this sextet by far, boasting 260 horses.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility of not being a leadfoot if you want to return decent fuel economy. The EPA ratings reflect the Sportage's muscle with 19 mpg city/25 highway for a combined 21 mpg.

From a styling standpoint, the Kia Sportage is handsome with its signature "tiger nose" grille, sharp character lines and compact size. The interior design is equally competent, with crisp execution, comfortable seats and intuitive controls -- in particular the UVO infotainment system, which is second only to Jeep Cherokee's excellent UConnect in ease of use. The quality of the materials, including the leather, is good, but the cabin lacks extensive use of soft-touch surfaces and trim accents that at first glance comes off as a bit Spartan. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the panoramic sunroof and creature comforts such as heated/ventilated front seats, dual zone climate control, pushbutton start, steering wheel controls and a rearview camera all contribute to the MSRP's bottom line.

2015 Kia Sportage at a Glance
2015 Kia Sportage Bar Graph

Although there is plenty of room for up to five passengers, the compact size of the vehicle is felt in the cargo area, which, with the second row folded down, offers only 54.6 cubic feet. Still, the hatch is large and the liftover fairly easy to negotiate when moving things in and out of the cargo bay.

The Kia's strength is primarily in its drivetrain, which includes a 6-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the other vehicles in the test, the Sportage had no trouble keeping up with traffic or climbing long grades in the desert, while keeping the cabin cool. The suspension is taut, which is consistent with the engine's sporty performance, so ride is not the Sportage's forte.

Overall, the Kia delivers on the sport part of the Sportage name with dynamics that are competitive with the Mazda CX-5. Along with the sporty nature, Kia also offers additional peace of mind with its 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. It all adds up to an attractive package for young families as well as the young at heart.

Here's how the Kia Sportage stacks up against the competition:

Kia Sportage vs. Honda CR-V

Even though the Sportage boasts 75 more horsepower than the Honda CR-V, the reigning sales champ of the segment returned in 2015 with a facelift and revamped 2.4-liter engine coupled with a CVT. As a result, the Honda delivered smooth performance and considerably more fuel economy than the Kia. The CR-V is also roomier, especially when hauling cargo with its 70 cubic feet of space. However, when it comes to infotainment, the Sportage's single screen UVO beats the twin-screen Honda setup hands down. More 2015 Honda CR-V

Kia Sportage vs. Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee costs more than the Kia Sportage and looks it. The interior has a better use of soft touch and upscale trim to go with its comfortable seating and class leading UConnect infotainment system. The Jeep also is the only vehicle in the test with a 9-speed automatic. Still, the Kia holds its own thanks to the power of its 2.0-liter turbo compared to the heavier-feeling Jeep and its 184-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. More 2015 Jeep Cherokee

Kia Sportage vs. Mazda CX-5

The Sportage is the closest competitor in handling to the Mazda CX-5, though the latter has sharper, more communicative steering and a better balance of ride and handling. Though the Kia was almost $6,000 pricier than the CX-5 as tested, the higher level of content underscores the Sportage's intrinsic value. More 2016 Mazda CX-5

Kia Sportage vs. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

In this matchup, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport comes out as the scrappy underdog when compared to the Kia in terms of equipment and performance. While the Outlander has only 168 horsepower, it has good looks, a killer Rockford Fosgate sound system, navigation and 6.1-inch touchscreen for about $3,000 less. Although the Outlander is well equipped and handsome, it has a less expensive feel to the cabin materials than the Sportage. More 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Kia Sportage vs. Toyota RAV4

Like the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV 4 has a package that is quite generous in accommodation, both in the seating and cargo areas. And the interior accents and materials are definitely a cut above. The RAV4, which as tested cost only $28,110, represents serious competition to the Korean automaker when it comes to delivering the goods. That price includes features like a moonroof, 6.1-inch Entune touchscreen, dual zone climate control and a backup camera. The Sportage, by comparison, offers more power and engaging dynamics. More 2015 Toyota RAV4

More Compact SUVs

Build and price your own 2015 Kia Sportage, read our full review or check out our Compact SUV Buyer's Guide to see even more options in the segment.

 

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