Compact SUV Comparison: 2017 Kia Sportage
More than just an interesting face.
Starting Price: $23,885
Above Average: Most things
Below Average: Few things
Consensus: The totally redesigned Kia Sportage has very quickly proved itself one of our segment favorites
450 Miles in 89 Words
Whether you’re drawn to the new Sportage by its distinctively designed front end or in spite of it, Kia’s compact SUV only gets more appealing by the mile. Over two days and 450 miles of driving, the Sportage demonstrated strength after strength with refined driving manners, user-friendly operation and an accommodating interior. But the Kia didn't stop impressing when the driving was done. Crunching numbers back in the office, the Kia proved a standout in predicted resale value, qualifying this well-rounded SUV as one of the segment's smartest buys.
A Closer Look
The 2017 Kia Sportage finished in the top half of our rankings across almost every one of our primary evaluation categories. Here’s an overview of just how consistently the Sportage performed, followed by a closer look at the findings behind each rating:
The 2017 Kia Sportage proved perfectly pleasant on the highway, as did most of the SUVs in our drive. As SUVs big and small continue to get quieter, smoother riding and more efficient, they’re becoming even better long-haul travel partners. The Kia’s comfortable ride, supportive driver's seat and good highway steering feel each received praise from multiple testers, which is especially impressive considering those have long been three key areas of weakness for Kia. Highway power was adequate in the best sense, especially considering the Sportage was among the most fuel-efficient SUVs in our test according to both EPA estimates and our own results.
The Sportage is just as comfortable in the city, combining smooth and satisfying acceleration with similarly responsive steering feel and predictable braking behavior. Good side bolstering on the front seats also enhances the around-town experience by reducing the effort it takes to hold yourself in place while cornering, even at daily-driving speeds. Our editors rated outward visibility as just okay, a common trade-off in any category's more design-oriented vehicles. Helping to overcome these compromises, our 2017 Kia Sportage EX tester included a good backup camera with dynamic guide markers that display the car's rearward path. We also appreciated the front parking sensors that make it easier to inch confidently toward the back wall of your garage, for instance.
Our 181-horsepower Sportage EX was perfectly competent in the curvier mountain sections of our two-day drive, but shoppers truly interested in maintaining some measure of fun/performance should consider stepping up to the 240-horsepower Sportage SX Turbo. And for driving feel truer to that of a sporty car, the Mazda CX-5 is the compact SUV to beat.
The new Sportage gets more appealing with familiarity thanks in large part to the satisfying interior. The clean design is easy to appreciate right away -- “no low-grade irritations to attract from the whole,” one editor said -- but the real appeal is just how easy and convenient it is. The button layout is clean and simple, and many testers praised the inclusion of both volume and tuning knobs. Similarly, the gauges are "big, good and well shielded from glare." We also noted the solid and refined feel of the transmission selector. That might seem like a small thing, but it’s another sign that Kia has gotten to a point where it's now able to refine the details that distinguish a good car from a great one.
There are newer infotainment systems out there, but Kia’s attractive, functional and easy-to-use UVO system remains a favorite of the Kelley Blue Book editorial staff. A straightforward Bluetooth phone pairing process was called out, as were the well-marked and accessible USB outlets. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibilty are two more highlights, and the Sportage received style points for what is arguably the best-looking navigation map in the segment.
The 2017 Kia Sportage EX treats back-row passengers to reclining seatbacks, reading lights, air vents and a good center armrest with cupholders, plus USB and power ports. Headroom and legroom are both good, and a wide door aperture makes it easier for passengers three, four and five to get into and out of the Sportage. Our test vehicle also featured a panoramic sunroof, an appealing nicety that benefits rear-seat passengers even more than those in front.
The Sportage’s rear cargo area ranked in the middle of the pack -- CR-V was the clear leader and Outlander Sport was the clear lagger -- but nice touches included an especially flat load floor with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down, plus a power tailgate with an auto-opening feature that senses the key and opens automatically in case you walk up to the rear of the car with your hands full of shopping bags or while juggling. The Sportage’s rear seats have to be folded down from the second row, while some competitors offers levers in the cargo area.
The 2017 Kia Sportage EX with front-wheel drive has EPA-estimated city/highway/combined fuel economy of 22/29/25 mpg, placing it in the middle of the pack behind the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V, both of which are rated at 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. Using those combined mpg numbers and assuming 12,000 miles/year and $3 per gallon, the Sportage will drink an additional $17 per month in gas. That’s not a lot, but it’s worth keeping in mind as a tie-breaker. It's also worth noting that the Sportage returned above-average to exceptional fuel economy on many of the highway-intensive legs of our test.
While Kia has long offered more features for less money than many of its competitors, along with an exceptional warranty, below-average resale values have long negatively impacted its cars’ overall value when viewed over a full ownership cycle. Today, Kia and sister-brand Hyundai are boasting above-average resale values in many of the segments in which they compete. The 2017 Kia Sportage continues that positive trend, and the Kelley Blue Book number crunchers expect the new Sportage to hold its value very well. Smart, value-oriented shoppers are close to running out of valid reasons to not buy a Kia.
Inside and Out: 2017 Kia Sportage EX
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