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.