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2018 Kia Sportage

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2018 Kia Sportage Expert Review

By Keith Buglewicz

KBB Expert Rating: 8.9

With last year's redesign still fresh, the 2018 Kia Sportage gets a host of updates to keep it competitive with the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and other compact- and subcompact-crossover SUVs. It all enhances an already compelling SUV, one that more than holds its own against its competition. It sports good value, a comfortable and roomy interior, and a long list of standard and available features, not to mention Kia's excellent warranty. All-wheel drive is of course available, as is a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder if you're willing to sacrifice fuel economy. Now in its fourth generation, the Sportage is actually Kia's longest-running nameplate, and proof of how far this Korean company has come in the last two decades.

You'll Like This Car If...

The 2018 Sportage offers style, features, an excellent warranty, and expanded availability of high-tech safety equipment like autonomous emergency braking. Throw in upscale features like climate-controlled seats, a harman/kardon audio system and a turbocharged engine, and this budget SUV feels much more premium.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The new Honda CR-V offers more room and better fuel economy than the Sportage. If you need more space, especially a third row, the Kia Sorento might be a better bet. If you want even better fuel economy, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid might make sense.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 8.9
  • 8.4
  • 7.9
  • 7.7
  • 9.1
  • N/A
How It Ranks

#10

out of 13

Fuel Economy

#3

out of 13

Horsepower
View all rankings
2018 Kia Sportage Low/wide front photo What's New for 2018

The base-model LX can now be equipped with blind-spot and rear-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking and outside-mirror turn signals thanks to the new Technology Package. All that's now standard on the EX, and the SX now gets an electronic parking brake with auto hold.

Driving the Sportage
2018 Kia Sportage Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

It'd be easy to just point to the 240-horsepower turbocharged Sportage SX as the model to get, thanks to its additional power, but the reality is that few will complain...

... about the standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and its 181 horsepower. It's a surprisingly eager combination, with the standard 6-speed automatic transmission unobtrusive in its operation, just as it should be. The bonus is that it also gets notably better fuel economy than the turbo. That's not to say that the turbo's additional power isn't without its charms of course, and if you're looking for maximum acceleration, then the SX and its turbo engine are the way to go. Kia has improved its electrically assisted power steering to the point where it feels more natural than before, and the suspension overall, even in SX models, is smoother and less harsh than in the previous Sportage.

GLORIOUS KNOBS
The Kia Sportage has a touch-screen navigation system of course, but the volume, tuning, and the climate-control temperatures are set with knobs, while most other functions use actual buttons. Maybe we're old-fashioned, but in our cars we prefer the tactile feedback of a button or knob over a touch-sensitive surface.

LUXURY AMENITIES, MAINSTREAM PRICE
The climate-controlled seats, heated steering wheel, premium harman/kardon audio system and power tailgate on the Kia Sportage were the exclusive purview of luxury cars not too long ago. That they're all available in a mid-priced compact SUV proves you don't need to spend premium money to get premium amenities.

2018 Kia Sportage Details
2018 Kia Sportage Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

We like the comfortable driver's seat, thoughtfully laid-out interior, and good outward visibility. Thoughtful features include cubbies and other storage spaces, and a 12-volt outlet and USB port for rear-seat passengers. The second row also gets heated outboard seats on some models, a nice complement to the good head- and legroom, and the fact that the seatbacks recline. There's an available panoramic sunroof, but it cuts into headroom. Cargo space isn't up to the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but its 30.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up is still pretty good, and the floor can be lowered as well.

Exterior
2018 Kia Sportage photo

You either like the high-mounted headlights or you don't, so you can make up your own mind there. As for the rest of the stubby little Sportage, we're quite fond of it. The lines are clean and crisp. The "tiger-nose" grille treatment works well here, both aesthetically and in establishing the Sportage as a Kia from first glance. The SX Turbo models get dual exhausts and cool LED fog lights. If you opt for all-wheel drive (AWD) you get a bit more ride height versus the front-wheel-drive models (FWD), and a unique nose with a steeper approach angle.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The base Sportage LX model adds stain-resistant YES Essentials upholstery as standard equipment, which includes 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, Eco), and automatic headlights. The mid-level EX is an even better deal, especially since blind-spot detection, cross-traffic alert, power-folding outside mirrors with turn signals, and glossy interior trim were added to a standard-equipment list that includes a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power driver's seat, leather upholstery and dual-zone climate control. Standard on SX models this year is an electronic parking brake.

Optional Equipment

All models offer Kia's Dynamax AWD that includes locking differential for improved traction on slick surfaces. Beyond the powerful engine, the top-line SX Turbo includes things like navigation with an 8-inch touch screen, lane-departure warning, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. There's no CD player with the premium 320-watt harman/kardon sound system, but its Clari-Fi technology improves the sound of digital music files. We particularly like the power hatch, which features Kia's hands-free operation: Just stand near it when you have the key, and the hatch opens automatically.

Under the Hood
2018 Kia Sportage Engine photo

The base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder offers up 181 horsepower, which is pretty par for the course in this class. If you need more boost, literally, the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder offers up 240 horsepower. Both engines power either the front or all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy isn't the strongest selling point for the Sportage, whether you're talking about the standard engine or the turbo. At best, FWD models earn ratings of 23-mpg city/30 highway, while a turbo AWD Sportage gets a middling 20/23. The Kia Sportage can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

2.4-liter inline-4
181 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
175 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (FWD, LX), 22/29 mpg (FWD, EX), 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 base 2018 Kia Sportage LX with front-wheel drive starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $24,400; add $2,000 if you want all-wheel drive. However, you really want the Sportage EX, with its additional features and a reasonable price of a bit more than $27,000. If you want turbo power, the SX starts at just under $33,700. Bring an extra $1,500 if you want all-wheel drive on the EX or SX. Generally speaking those prices are comparable to the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, and even better in a few cases. 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.

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