2012 Kia Sportage Performance

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Performance
You won't find a V-6 here; four-cylinder engines have been installed across the 2012 Sportage lineup. And in most models the Sportage gets a 2.4-liter four, making 176 horsepower. it delivers adequate and measured acceleration through the six-speed automatic (a manual's available, but we haven't driven it). The automatic feels unstressed and reasonably quick to shift when you move the lever to manual mode.

Opt for the turbocharged SX and the Sportage's output rises to a breathy 260 hp, enough to spin the front wheels a little before traction control mellows out the party, and the automatic gets shift paddles for less distracted driving and better response.

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 coming 270-hp turbo four. But the AWD system adds about 200 pounds, so unless you’re in snowy northern tier, pass on the AWD system to save on weight and gas if you're getting the base engine

Powertrains are strong and satisfying, but a jittery ride and steering that feels too hefty make the Sportage less confidence-inspiring in the corners.

In either front- or all-wheel-drive guise, the Sportage falls a little shy of the ride and handling delights of, say, a Subaru Forester. The ride’s a touch rumbly, especially on the big 18-inch wheels offered on top trims. Kia’s tuning of the electric power steering it shares with Hyundai is a bit better, with more dialed-in heft that muted some of the wandering you’d feel in a Tucson on the highway. Like the brakes, it gives up a touch of the controlled feel Subaru’s delivered in the nimble Forester.

 

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