The 2008 Kia Sportage performs like a frugal economy car, from its acceleration to its handling, even with available all-wheel drive.
Cars.com reports that the "Kia Sportage 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 140 horsepower, while the 2.7-liter V-6 generates 173 hp and 178 pounds-feet of torque." According to ConsumerGuide, "2008 Kia Sportage four-cylinder models are fine for light-duty commuting but lack enough power for confident highway merging and passing." They "recommend a V6 model, though they're no fireballs." Kelley Blue Book is "not overly impressed by the responsiveness of the Kia 2008 V6; it will meet consumer expectations, but we don't believe it will exceed them." They advise that the "four-cylinder should be reserved for light duty only -- no full loads, light towing and little exposure to work at high altitudes."
Cars.com reports that "a five-speed manual gearbox is standard in the four-cylinder Kia Sportage LX, and a four-speed automatic is available," while "all V-6 models come with the automatic...automatic-transmission responses are prompt, but downshifting can be sluggish when passing." ConsumerGuide says "the automatic transmission is responsive enough with either engine, though not even the V6 has abundant passing punch." All-wheel drive is an option.
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. ConsumerGuide reports "an AWD Kia Sportage EX averaged 19.4 mpg," noting that "V6s have a 17.2-gallon fuel tank vs. 15.3 gallons for 4-cylinder models."
The Sportage’s handling feels more like an economy car than a crossover. "On rougher pavement, the ride is well-cushioned...suspension reactions are seldom excessive, and recovery is prompt," reports Cars.com. This source adds, "maneuvering smartly and steering with a somewhat light touch, the 2008 Kia Sportage feels satisfyingly secure on rain-soaked pavement. On expressways, however, it takes some concentration to stay centered in your lane." ConsumerGuide concurs, anointing it as "among the better-riding compact SUVs." Off-road ability draws some mixed comments, however; while Kelley Blue Book acknowledges a "smooth ride, improved handling," it notes that "the trade-off is an inability to tackle the harshest sorts of off-road terrain." Jalopnik, on the other hand, says it has "off-road-worthy fish-vertebrae underpinnings...tougher than most."