New & Used Kia Sportage: In Depth
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The Kia Sportage is a stylish, high-tech crossover that looks and feels more advanced and sophisticated than earlier generations. It’s smaller than the mid-size Sorento and larger than the compact Soul, which has become popular for a very different market.
See our 2014 Kia Sportage review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
Today's Sportage offers room for five passengers--four can travel comfortably--advanced interior amenities, good fuel efficiency, and more than a dash of panache at a price that's as competitive as any compact crossover. It finds buyers among couples or small families, perhaps including a few who've moved up from the remarkably successful Soul.
The third-generation Kia Sportage arrived in 2011 with crisp new styling, a longer wheelbase, more interior and cargo space, and an improved ride. The package was came well-reviewed, and it's changed little since then. In our latest review of the 2013 Sportage we gave it a rating of 8 out of 10 and pointed to its styling, its well-integrated Bluetooth system, and its efficiency. A stiff ride and tight passenger space compared to other vehicles in this class were among the criticisms.
Mechanically, the latest Sportage shares much in common with the Hyundai Tucson, which was redesigned a year earlier, though the styling is a key differentiating factor. A direct-injection, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 176 hp provides more gusto than former V-6 models, while there's also a 260-hp turbocharged SX model. All-wheel drive remained an option across the line, and a differential lock helps with the tough stuff. Overall, we've found these models to be quite roomy, with good seating space and reasonably good performance in standard trims, although ride quality suffers if you step up to 18-inch wheels.
Features have been thoroughly updated in this current generation, with items like keyless start, Bluetooth, a USB port and satellite radio now included in most models, and leather upholstery, heated seats, a cooled driver's seat and the more sophisticated UVO connectivity system now offered in top trims.
The very first generation of the Kia Sportage was a different car for a different time. It first appeared in showrooms way back in 1993, as a primarily rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and while it faced an uphill battle from the start against competitors like the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, it had a strong start before sales wanted. The truck-like Sportage was discontinued in 2002.
When the second-generation model arrived in 2004, it had transitioned into crossover territory. By this time, the compact crossover SUV segment had exploded with newcomers like the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Honda CR-V, so competition was rife. The second-generation Kia Sportage was criticized for being losing the off-road prowess of its predecessor, while not quite being up to the standards of powertrain refinement of its rivals--though a new V-6 engine was added to the lineup and overall fit and finish was improved considerably.
A facelifted version was introduced in 2008 and featured a few minor styling updates. The changes consisted of new-look bumpers, revised headlights and an updated dashboard and instrument panel. The base Kia Sportage featured a 141 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive as standard, while the range-topper comes with a 175 horsepower 2.7-liter V-6 engine and all-wheel drive. Transmission options include a five-speed manual or an outdated four-speed automatic. Overall, these models remained a strong value, although in performance they were clearly not quite up to the level of many rivals.
The 2012-2013 Kia Sportage is also one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Kia initially submitted figures of 21/26 mpg (23 combined) with the 2.0-liter engine and 4WD up to 22/32 mpg (25 combined) with the 2.4-liter and front-wheel drive. On a confirmation check of several vehicles, the EPA found the Soul's actual tested fuel economy to be lower, with those figures (along with all the rest in the lineup) corrected to 20/25 mpg (22 combined) and 21/30 (25 combined), respectively. See the model-year details for all the other numbers. Also, owners can register with Kia to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at KiaMPGInfo.com.