By Matt Degen
All-new for 2017, the Kia Sportage compact SUV is sharply dressed inside and out, boasts loads of technology, safety and comfort amenities, and continues to offer one of the best warranties in the business. As a rival to best-selling crossover SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, the Kia Sportage more than holds its own. Introduced over two decades ago, the Sportage is Kia's long-running nameplate, but this new, 4th-generation model is further proof of Kia’s setting the pace or at least keeping right on top of it in a competitive segment. The Sportage touts good value, great looks and a strong roster of available features, but trails others in fuel economy, especially when outfitted with the uplevel turbocharged engine.
If you want a small SUV with high style, an excellent warranty and the latest safety features like automatic emergency braking, put the Kia Sportage on your shopping list. Available features like climate-controlled seats, harman/kardon audio system and turbocharged engine can make this mainstream SUV feel like a premium one.
2017 marks the fourth generation for the Sportage. Kia's compact crossover SUV is all-new, with a slightly larger exterior, roomier interior and the latest technology including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
With both powerplants and the standard automatic transmission being carried over from the previous generation, the new Sportage's road manners aren't drastically different. The 2017 Sportage compact crossover SUV is...
... a welcome companion on almost any road. And while it's easy to label the Sportage Turbo the fleetest model with its 240 horsepower, in reality the standard 181-horsepower 4-cylinder is surprisingly eager. It delivers power smoothly -- no turbo lag as it's naturally aspirated -- and plays very well with the standard 6-speed automatic transmission. Unless you're a speed freak, we recommend this standard engine, especially in light of its better efficiency. The Sportage's electric power steering has been improved to feel more natural, and its suspension has also been reworked to reduce harshness. In general, the Sportage drives nearly on par with the all-around-star in this segment, the Honda CR-V, but lacks the athleticism of the sporty Mazda CX-5.
KNOB, SWITCHES, OH MY!
While other automakers have embraced finicky touch-based controls for audio, climate functions and the like, Kia has mercifully stuck with switches. Good-looking ones, too. Another thoughtful aspect: The switchgear and display screen are gently angled toward the driver to enhance visibility and reach.
LUXURY AMENITIES, MAINSTREAM PRICE
Not long ago, features like climate-controlled seats, heated steering wheel, a harman/kardon audio system and power tailgate were the stuff of luxury SUVs. Now all that and more is available on a mid-trim Kia Sportage. It all proves that you don't need to spend premium money to get premium amenities.
The Sportage's 2-row, 5-passenger interior is an enjoyable place to be, with a good driver’s seating position and improved outward visibility. The cabin’s thoughtful features include various storage compartments, and both a 12-volt power outlet and USB outlet for 2nd-row passengers. Also available is a huge panoramic sunroof. Rear-seat room is more than acceptable, and the seats recline for comfort and flexibility. Cargo space isn't as vast as that of a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but at 30.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 60.1 with it down, it's still good. Even the rear floor can be positioned lower.
The Kia Sportage retains its athletic stance and sloping roof, but it's different enough from the outgoing model to draw interest. Most notable is the fresh front end, which features Kia's "tiger-nose" grille. Some of our editors immediately fell for the new design, while others preferred the bigger gape of the outgoing model. Kia says every body panel is new, and we especially like its sweeping rear taillights. SX Turbo models look the part with dual-exhaust outlets. All-wheel-drive (AWD) models have slightly more ground clearance than front-drive (FWD) versions and a unique front fascia for a steeper approach angle.
The 2017 Kia Sportage is available in three trims: LX, EX and SX Turbo. A base LX comes nicely equipped with a 5-inch touch-screen display and rearview camera, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB input and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, drive mode selector (Sport, Normal and Eco), and automatic headlights. We recommend the mid-trim Sportage EX, which includes Kia's newest UVO infotainment system with 7-inch capacitive touch screen, CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity, power-adjustable driver's seat, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, roof rails and solar-control glass to reduce heat buildup. All Sportage models come with Kia's excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
All Sportage models are available with a Dynamax AWD that includes locking differential for improved traction on slick surfaces. In addition to the lineup's most powerful engine, the top-line SX Turbo model includes many features that are optional on the EX: navigation with 8-inch touch screen, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate with programmable height adjustment and hands-free operation, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. Ironically, the premium 320-watt harman/kardon sound system lacks a CD player, but its Clari-Fi technology improves the sound of digital music files.
Both 4-cylinder offerings in the 2017 Sportage are carried over from the last model, but each has been retuned for better fuel economy. They're both down in horsepower from the prior models -- just 1 for the standard 2.4-liter engine, a more significant 20 for the turbo 2.0-liter -- but each has more than enough gusto to get the job done. Fuel economy remains mid-pack, if that. At best, FWD models earn ratings of 23-mpg city/30 highway, while a turbo AWD Sportage gets a middling 20/23. All models come connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Kia Sportage can tow up to 2,000 pounds.
181 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
175 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (FWD, LX trim), 22/29 mpg (FWD, EX trim), 21/25 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm (237 horsepower for AWD models)
260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,450-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/26 mpg (FWD), 20/23 mpg (AWD)
The 2017 Kia Sportage has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $23,885 for a base LX model. The more recommendable mid-trim EX starts at $26,395, and the top-line Sportage SX Turbo jumps to $33,395. Adding AWD to any model runs an additional $1,500. At these prices, the Sportage undercuts the market-leading CR-V, coming in a few hundred dollars to thousands less for comparable trims and/or features. For example, if you want a leather interior, the Sportage EX comes with it, but you'll have to spend $3,000 more to attain it on a Honda CR-V via the EX-L model. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Sportage. The Sportage's resale value has traditionally been mid-pack, trailing leaders like the CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester.