- Just-right size
- Plenty of features for the dollar
- Long warranty
- Four-speed automatic could use another gear
- V-6 doesn't feel much stronger than the four
- Proportions starting to look dated, despite changes
If you can live without top-level refinement and the latest technology, 2009 Kia Sportage is a fine little SUV and, considering its price, a genuine value.
The Kia Sportage was introduced in 2005, and it sees some slight styling changes for '09, plus improved fuel economy, better drivability, and a sprinkling of internal technological niceties.
The Sportage’s makeover includes body color-matching front and rear bumpers, a new grille design, new headlights and fog lights, and new alloy wheels.
To enhance fuel economy, boost performance, and reduce emissions at low- and mid-range rpm, the 2009 Kia Sportage with the 2.0-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine uses continuously variable valve timing (CVVT). The 2.0-liter engine produces 140 horsepower, while the 2.7-liter V-6 produces 173 horses. Both engines 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 and automatic rated at 17 mpg city, 21 highway.
Kia's V-6 isn't blazingly powerful, so it's not quite the advantage one might initially consider it to be. Acceleration is a little bit better with the V-6 than the four-cylinder, but neither is a Corvette killer. However, the V-6 engine comes in at a price point that competes with most competitors' four-cylinder engines, so the Kia has a lead on paper right from the start.
The 2009 Kia Sportage is built off of the Kia Spectra car chassis, and this is good because it gives the little SUV a smooth ride and comfortable handing dynamics. The Sportage rides on MacPherson struts up front, with gas-filled shock absorbers at the rear, stabilizer bars at both ends, and 16-inch wheels and tires. Handling is secure and adequate, but not inspiring.
Performance in government crash tests is middle of the pack, with "acceptable" side-impact results from the IIHS. The 2009 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.
Standard features on all LX models include multi-reflector headlamps, roof rails, front and rear towing hooks, and a front-end skid plate. Upgrading to the EX model includes a power sunroof, fog lights, and heated outside mirrors. The Sport Package, available on LX V-6 models, includes fog lights, leather steering wheel and shift knob, rear spoiler, rear cargo cover, and the brand-new 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the 2009 Kia Sportage features a redesigned center fascia, but more important, all Kia Sportage models come standard with Sirius Satellite Radio and auxiliary and USB jacks with MP3 playback capabilities.
Kia provides excellent coverage on the 2009 Sportage with a five-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, plus a ten-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.