2014 Kia Sportage Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 7, 2014

With up to 260 horsepower on tap and styling that's suitably athletic, the 2014 Kia Sportage shows that practical compact crossover wagons don't need to be so stodgy.

The 2014 Kia Sportage has more design flair and sportiness than most other compact crossover like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. But for that, it also has some clear tradeoffs; and against most of those rivals it's not quite up to the same standards of space-efficiency and practicality.

This year, Kia has revamped the Sportage only slightly, addressing some weak points but not messing with this model's stunning looks, for the most part. With a new grille and new wheel designs, along with new HID headlamps and LED rear taillamps, the 2014 Kia Sportage gets some sharpened details; but thankfully the automaker hasn't changed the rakish, athletic look that buoyed this model up in the market for 2011.

And for the most part, the Sportage keeps up with what's suggested in its appearance; it's a grippy, pert little hatchback that puts on some SUV airs when it needs to carry people and make it through foul weather. It skips the whole live-axle, locking-differential fantasy world of loggers, swamp people, and anything truly involved in off-roading.

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You'll only find four-cylinder engines under the hood, but they provide plenty of motivation. At the base level, the 2.4-liter direct-injection in-line four gets a power boost from 176 hp to 182 hp. The six-speed automatic isn't the quickest-shifting, but it's measured and smooth.

Go for the turbocharged SX, and its 260 hp and hefty mid-range torque are enough to break the front wheels loose from a standing start or out of a tight corner. The automatic gets shift paddles for less distracted driving and better response. All-wheel drive is an option across the board, and comes with a differential lock that splits power 50:50 at speeds up to 25 mph.

The Sportage packs convenience and features into a body that's as much a hatchback as it is a trim little utility vehicle, and offers all-wheel drive for the few who really need it--and the significantly higher number of people who'll pay for it when they really don't (gas mileage is lower if you get it).

Cabin noise and ride quality have been weaknesses for the Sportage, compared to most other models in its class; but with Kia's introduction of more noise-insulation as well as new high-performance dampers, we're hoping this will change (and we'll update our impressions here). Last year, EX and SX versions got more sophisticated shocks last year, which made a modest improvement. Keep in mind, the big, optional 18-inch wheels don't help. One of our other ongoing complaints with the Sportage--electric power steering that's a bit too far on the heavy and lifeless side--has been addressed for 2014 with the introduction of a new multi-mode Flex Steer system.

The Sportage lands at the small end of its class, and there's no magic that makes the interior feel any roomier. But there's good leg and shoulder room in front (subtract some headroom for the sunroof); and the seats themselves are well-shaped and can be air-cooled on high-line Sportages (now the passenger seat, too). Back-seat passengers may be a little tight on headroom and find themselves slumped forward, but Kia adds comfort for kids back there this year with new rear vents. Cargo space measures 26.1 cubic feet, more than some luxury utes, but that's a tall space without a particularly large cargo floor, so choose your cargo wisely.

Standard curtain airbags and stability control are joined by optional rear parking sensors and rearview camera, which help with the Sportage's sizable blind spots. The federal government gives the Sportage four or five stars overall, and the IIHS calls the Sportage a Top Safety Pick, but a 'poor' small overlap frontal result sure tempers that.

Kia has added a number of new features to the 2014 Sportage, including a new Supervision gauge cluster for top models, along with a new navigation system and UVO eServices, with apps and expanded services. Although the final feature set hasn't yet been released, we're expecting the array of models to carry over for the most part, with air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; and 16-inch wheels all part of the 2014 Kia Sportage standard-feature set. Moving up to more expensive models adds features like keyless start; satellite radio; Bluetooth; steering-wheel audio and phone controls; and a USB port. Top models get a telescoping steering wheel; a cooled glove box; a power driver seat; 18-inch wheels; leather steering wheel and shifter trim; roof rails; and a rear spoiler. Major options include leather upholstery; seat heaters; and cooled front seats.

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2014 Kia Sportage

Styling

The Sportage is a fashionable trendsetter, bringing the gap between sporty hatchbacks small utes better than most alternatives.

The 2014 Kia Sportage is an especially good-looking crossover, with neat, trim proportions and a far more rakish profile than most of the other models you're likely to judge it against.

The chunky, laid-back look owes a lot to the European hot hatches, but the high stance and slightly snubbed nose are pure ute, as is the rectangular, function-driven interior. Substance gets a workout all over the Sportage's sheetmetal and cabin, but there's an equal dash of style that's distinctive to Kia.

There's some tipped-back attitude on loan from the Soul five-door, too, and Kia's family grille cooking on the front end, headlights tucked in seamlessly along its sides. The front end is particularly crisp, with a sort of elegant simplicity in the way the headlights and spoiler play with the reverse-bowtie blacked-out grille--which has a slightly different, more open design for 2014. The light sculpturing down its flanks makes the Sportage’s straight lines look even better in relief, too. Also new this year are new wheel designs, as well as new HID headlamps and LED rear taillamps--although the design essentially remains the same.

Inside, the cockpit of the 2014 Sportage is definitely sportier than what you'll find across this class. Big gauges are framed by a rectangular dash. The Sportage is closely related to the Hyundai Tucson, and if you squint just right between the two interiors, you'll see a few common points here--although we prefer the Sportage's somewhat sportier, yet somewhat more conservative look and believe it'll age better. It feels substantial and handsome..

7

2014 Kia Sportage

Performance

he Kia Sportage has punchy, refined powertrains, while changes to the steering and suspension for 2014 may remedy some of this model's weaker points.

The 2014 Kia Sportage remains powered by a pair of four-cylinders--one turbocharged, one not. And it's the turbocharged engine that makes the Sportage a standout in its class.

That's not to say that the base engine is all bad. The 2.4-liter produces six more horsepower this year--up to 182 hp--and it's a modern design with direct injection. It feels plenty perky with the standard six-speed automatic when it's a front-driver.

Ticking the SX box on the Sportage's order sheet specifies a turbocharged 2.0-liter four, and lifts output to a breathy 260 hp. That's more than enough to overpower the front wheels a few rotations before the traction control cuts in on the dance. With the turbo also comes a set of shift paddles, for more natural driving response. Throughout the lineup, though, we've felt that the accelerator pedal is just a little too touchy at tip-in, though.

One of our other ongoing complaints with the Sportage--electric power steering that's a bit too far on the heavy and lifeless side--has been addressed for 2014 with the introduction of a new multi-mode Flex Steer system.

The all-wheel drive system that's available through most of the lineup has a true locking differential that splits power 50:50 front to back at up to 25 mph. It’s great for peace of mind, less so for handling and fuel economy—but probably a necessity to handle the horsepower emanating from the turbo four. But the AWD system adds about 200 pounds, so unless you’re in snowy northern tier, pass on the AWD system, with the base engine, to save on weight and gas.

Ride quality has been another disappointment up to this year. It's a touch rumbly, especially on the big 18-inch wheels that are offered in top trims. The suspension itself is tuned to be a bit too stiff and jarring, with too much road noise making its way into the cabin on coarse surfaces. Kia claims to have introduced more noise insulation for 2014, along with new high-performance dampers, so we'll update these impressions as soon as we drive the revised model.


 

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2014 Kia Sportage

Comfort & Quality

The 2014 Kia Sportage is rather cramped in back, although a well-finished cabin and new rear-seat vents make it a decent pick for parents.

The 2014 Kia Sportage is simply at the small end of its class, and there's no magic that makes the interior feel any roomier.

What the Sportage does have is good leg and shoulder room in front (subtract some headroom for the sunroof); and the seats themselves are well-shaped and can be air-cooled on high-line Sportages (now the passenger seat, too).

In back, it's a different story, and it emphasizes the Sportage's somewhat smaller exterior and more rakish roofline. Those in back may be a little tight on headroom and find themselves slumped forward, but Kia adds comfort for kids back there this year with new rear vents.

Cargo space measures 26.1 cubic feet, more than some luxury utes, but that's a tall space without a particularly large cargo floor, so choose your cargo wisely.

One other advantage the Sportage has is a better-feeling interior, with more soft-touch materials, attractive surfaces, and great detailing. Compared to some of the drab interiors offered by some vehicles in this class, it elevates this model above its basic mission.

7

2014 Kia Sportage

Safety

Safety scores aren't all top-notch, but the 2014 Sportage has a good set of safety credentials.

The 2014 Kia Sportage has a very strong list fo safety features; but its crash-test ratings aren't all top-notch.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives front-drive Sportages an overall score of four stars, while all-wheel-drive models earn a five-star score. The Sportage earns mostly top 'good' ratings across the board from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). And it's earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick nod.

Yet one glaring exception is that the Sportage flunked the IIHS small overlap frontal test, with 'poor' results.

We recommend the rear parking sensors and rearview camera here, as the Sportage does have some significant blind spots and difficult rearview visibility.

Dual front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and stability control are standard in all Sportage models. In addition, they have standard hill-start assist and downhill brake assist, which aid and abet all-traction capability.

9

2014 Kia Sportage

Features

Infinity premium audio, a new navigation system, and revised infotainment systems add even more value to the lineup for 2014.

The Sportage is an entry-level crossover for the brand, although you'll find most of the same features that grace the larger Sorento here as well.

Even the base Sportage, for around $20k, gets power windows, locks, and mirrors; 16-inch wheels; and air conditioning. The more expensive trim levels get telescoping steering; satellite radio; a USB port; Bluetooth; steering-wheel controls for audio and phone; and keyless start.

Top SX versions add a power driver seat; a rear spoiler; a cooled glove box; 18-inch wheels; and a leather steering wheel and shifter trim. They also carry a base pricetag that sits around $30,000. Major options include leather upholstery; seat heaters; and cooled front seats.

Kia has added a number of new features to the 2014 Sportage, including a new Supervision gauge cluster for top models, along with a new navigation system and UVO eServices, with apps and expanded services. Although the final feature set hasn't yet been released, we're expecting the array of models to carry over for the most part.

7

2014 Kia Sportage

Fuel Economy

The 2014 Kia Sportage is reasonably fuel-efficient--if you skip the all-wheel drive models.

In fuel-efficiency, the 2014 Kia Sportage is competitive fuel economy with other popular crossovers in its size class; but at a time when some models get well over 30 mpg on the highway, it's by no means class-leading -- and 19 miles per gallon in the city for 4WD models puts this one near the back of the pack.

For 2014, the base 2.4-liter engine has direct injection and makes 182 hp, versus last year's 176 hp. And oddly, that's had a further downward effect on mileage.

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October 29, 2015
For 2014 Kia Sportage

For the most part, I still love my 2014 Sportage.

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There are just a few things that bother me about my 2014 Sportage. First, I had no idea this was more like a crossover. In April 2014, I traded my 2006 Kia Sportage for the 2014, I but was disappointed to find... + More »
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July 25, 2015
For 2014 Kia Sportage

The car is wonderful all except for the water getting on the track when the door is closed.

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I bought this car in March from the Kia dealer, it was used. I love the car the only major problem I have with it is when it rains, on the track in the door, water gets on it when the door is closed. I have... + More »
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 7.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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