- Value, value, value
- Right sized
- Strong warranty protection
- Awkward exterior styling
- Only four gears for automatic transmission
If you can live without top-level refinement and the absolutely latest technology, 2008 Kia Sportage is a fine little SUV, and considering its price, a genuine value.
The 2008 Kia Sportage is the company's compact crossover SUV. It's built off of the Kia Spectra (which is the same as a Hyundai Elantra) car chassis, and this is good because it gives the little SUV a smooth ride and comfortable handing dynamics. The current-generation Sportage was introduced as a 2005 model.
While more recent Kia models feature better styling, the Kia design studios hadn't quite hit the mark when they designed the Sportage back in 2002-03. Some lines are a bit off: awkward but not offensive (unlike the Pontiac Aztek that was considered awkward AND offensive). Inside, the design is much better. Curves are everywhere, and there is plenty of room.
Power comes from either a standard 140-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or an available 2.7-liter V-6 that produces 173 horses, either of which can be mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox. EPA fuel economy estimates range from the base four-cylinder/five-speed manual (the most efficient combination) at 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway, to the least efficient V-6/automatic that is rated at 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway.
In terms of performance, the 2008 Kia Sportage offers its V-6 engine at a price point that competes with most competitors' four-cylinder engines, so the Kia has a lead on paper right from the start. However, Kia's V-6 isn't blazingly powerful, so it's not quite the advantage one might initially consider it to be. Acceleration is better with the V-6 than the four-cylinder, but neither one is a Corvette killer.
The 2008 Sportage rides on MacPherson struts up front, with gas-filled shock absorbers at the rear, stabilizer bars added at both ends, and 16-inch wheels and tires. Handling is secure and adequate, but not inspiring.
The 2008 Kia Sportage's long list of standard safety gear includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction, and stability control; and tire pressure monitors. Performance in government crash tests is excellent, and the IIHS side-crash results earn this crossover an "acceptable" rating.
In terms of features, the base 2008 Kia Sportage LX model comes with power windows and power mirrors; a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; and cruise control. The EX version adds a sunroof, leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob; remote keyless entry; and a cargo cover. A range of expected but mundane options and option packages are available, but Kia isn't making a name for itself by out-luxing or out-gadgeting the competition. Kia (like Hyundai) is focusing on offering a solid vehicle at a terrific price.
Kia also backs the 2008 Sportage with a 5-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, plus a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. This excellent coverage goes a long way toward addressing quality concerns over the Korean SUV and shifting people's opinions.
The assembled competitors are all SUVs that focus their capabilities on the road, not off. The heavily revised 2009 Ford Escape is an excellent choice that offers more modern technology and refinement than the Kia, but at a higher price.
The Saturn Vue, all new for 2008, is one of the best compact SUVs on the market, offering a high degree of style and refinement. But, again, this will cost you. The Honda CR-V is similar in overall characteristics (being good looking and well sorted), but it also offers more cargo room than the 2008 Kia Sportage, if that's one of your concerns.
A new competitor to consider is the 2008 Nissan Rogue. The Rogue utilizes a big 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and a CVT for its powertrain, and the combination matches the performance of Sportage V-6 models. Perhaps better than any other listed competitors, the Rogue matches the Kia for value, while not lacking in design, features, or refinement.