Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2017: Small SUV

By KBB.com Editors on November 15, 2016 6:00 AM
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Next Winner

2017 Kia Sportage

The all-new Kia Sportage knows exactly how to delight its buyers

It's hard to get a car full of editors to agree on everything. That task of alignment is doubled when it comes to deciding which 2017 compact SUV is the Best Buy of the year. For starters, last year's winner, the 2016 Honda CR-V, is all-new for 2017 but wasn't ready in time for our testing. Neither was the refreshed-for-2017 Nissan Rogue. Those hang ups, however, only narrowed the wide field of competitors by two crossover SUVs. There were plenty of other worthy candidates, including a new Ford Escape and our eventual winner, the all-new 2017 Kia Sportage.

The Sportage that Kia sent to us for Best Buy testing mirrored the vehicle we recommended in our expert review of the 2017 Sportage -- it was a front-wheel-drive EX model which starts at $26,395 and comes deliciously well equipped (all-wheel drive is available at every level for $1,500). If you're looking to spend the least you can, but still reel in a Sportage that drives like a Best Buy, the base LX model starts just under $24,000 and is very worthy of your attention.

Both the LX and EX versions of the Sportage come with a 181-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain combination won't bring any sports cars to their knees, but it will get you up to highway speed and around any dawdling drivers just fine, especially when you dial up the added responsiveness of Sport mode on the standard drive-mode selector. This combination also delivers a slight bump in fuel economy over the previous model and up to a 2,000-lb towing capacity. If you really feel the need to compete, the top dog in the Sportage family -- the $33,395 SX Turbo -- brings 240 horsepower, a bustling helping of low-end torque (acceleration!), and just about every feature that the new Sportage offers.

What gives the Kia Sportage its Best Buy crown for 2017? Three very important traits:

So Easy to Live With

The new Sportage is a cinch to live with and drive. Its interior is comfortable for all. The driver gets big, easy-to-read gauges and logical controls inside, and a commanding view of the outside world. All four corners of the little Kia are easy to see when parking or backing up (aided by the standard rearview camera). Everybody gets to enjoy quality materials and touch points throughout, as well as a quiet, easy-riding interior. The second row seats fit tall adults, and while the rear cargo area isn't the biggest in the class, it is comparably close and the flat floor is accommodating.

More Features for Less Dollars

Even at its base LX level, the 2017 Kia Sportage comes loaded with standard features. In addition to the usual Bluetooth phone/streaming audio and USB port, the list of interior highlights includes a 5-inch touch screen, automatic headlights, steering-wheel-mounted controls for audio and cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a center armrest for the second row, and remote keyless entry. Outside, every Sportage gets a rearview camera, aluminum-alloy wheels, and body-color outside mirrors and door handles. Additionally, the base Sportage's praise-worthy safety equipment includes hill-start assist and Downhill Brake Control to assist in descent of steep hills without having to worry about braking, only steering.

Moving up just $2,500 in price will put you into a Sportage EX which is where the value of a Sportage really hits its full stride. In addition to the Kia's very user-friendly UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the EX puts you in leather upholstery, heated front seats with power adjustments for the driver, and adds dual-zone climate control, push-button start, and a rear USB charge port. Sportage EX exterior delights include 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights with gloss black trim, roof rails, and heated outside mirrors. Best $2,500 you ever spent.

A few editors were disappointed by the absence of smart cruise control and lane-keeping assist (both available in competitive vehicles). So if either of those is an essential for you, take note.

Short, Medium and Long-Term Value

Everything about the Kia Sportage is on its way up: The 10-year/100,000-mile engine/drivetrain warranty is still the best in the biz and lasts longer than most people will own their cars (the mileage limit is the real end of warranty). Fuel economy is good (with a peak city/highway mpg number of 23/30 for a front-drive LX model), comfort is higher than ever and resale value is now competitive with some of the segment’s most established players. The American public is more open to Korean cars than ever -- a valid opinion reinforced by the excellent build quality and materials in the 2017 Kia Sportage EX crossover SUV we tested.

More 2017 Kia Sportage

For a deeper dive into the new Kia Sportage, check out our full review. If you've got Kia fever and feel ready to commit, build and price your own Sportage to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more. If, however, you want to see what else is out there in small crossover SUVs, then don't miss our Compact SUV Buyer's Guide.

Inside and Out: 2017 Kia Sportage

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