Kia Sportage Research

The Car Connection Kia Sportage Overview

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The Kia Sportage is a five-seat crossover SUV that shares a platform with the larger three-row Sorento.

Redesigned for 2023, the Kia Sportage can be had with gas, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid powertrains, and seven trim levels ranging from the off-road X-Pro line to premium finishes in SX Prestige versions. It rivals the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and the related Hyundai Tucson.

The new Sportage grows from one of the smallest in the class to one of the largest, and it overcomes its uninspired driving dynamics with excellent safety and convenience features, enough options to suit any taste, and an industry-leading 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

MORE: Read our 2023 Kia Sportage review

The new Kia Sportage

The fifth-generation Sportage wears a sharper face and sports a roomier interior thanks to its longer body. The design matches its larger proportions with a broader grille and bulkier rear. X-Pro models come with a black roof and two-tone color options, and tasteful black cladding runs over round wheel arches for a clean, smart profile that looks more like a Subaru than the daring Hyundai Tucson. Inside, most models feature a 12.3-inch touchscreen underscored by a touch panel of climate controls. Depending on trim, the interior ranges from cloth and plastic on its asymmetrical dash to wood inlays and synthetic leather seats.   

Base models use a 187-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 with a stubborn 8-speed automatic tuned for efficiency, not power. Front-wheel drive is standard but all-wheel drive is an option throughout the lineup, and it raises the ground clearance to 8.3 inches. X-Pro grades add standard all-wheel drive and off-road enhancements that can handle rutted service roads. A 227-hp hybrid with a 1.6-liter turbo-4 and a 6-speed automatic drives more smoothly and with much more efficiency at 43 mpg combined. A forthcoming plug-in hybrid promises 32 miles of electric range. Built for comfort, the Sportage and its independent suspension wallows over humps and leans through corners, but the Hybrid is smooth and quiet.

Value remains as big a priority as space in the new Sportage. Standard safety gear includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and parking sensors. Standard convenience features include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.2-inch digital instrument cluster, and Bluetooth pairing for two phones simultaneously. Options range from a surround-view camera system to twin 12.3-inch screens under one curved panel of glass.

 

Kia Sportage history

First generation (1993-2003)

The very first generation of the Kia Sportage was a different car for a different time. It appeared in showrooms way back in 1993 as a primarily rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and while it faced an uphill battle from the beginning against competitors like the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, it had a strong start before sales waned. That truck-like Sportage was discontinued in 2002.

Second generation (2004-2010)

When the second-generation model arrived in 2004, it had transitioned into crossover territory. By this time, the compact crossover SUV segment had exploded with newcomers like the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Honda CR-V, so competition was considerable. The second-generation Kia Sportage was criticized for losing the off-road prowess of its predecessor, while at the same time not being as refined as its rivals—though a new V-6 engine was added to the lineup and overall fit and finish were improved considerably.

A facelifted version was introduced in 2008. The changes consisted of new-look bumpers, revised headlights, and an updated dashboard and instrument panel. The base Kia Sportage featured a 141-hp, 2.0-liter inline-4 and front-wheel drive as standard, while the range-topper came with a 175-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 and all-wheel drive. Transmission options included a 5-speed manual or an outdated 4-speed automatic. Overall, these models remained a strong value, even with performance that lagged behind that of many rivals.

Third generation (2011-2016)

The third-generation arrived in 2011. It brought with it crisp new styling, a longer wheelbase, more interior and cargo space, and an improved ride, as well as sportier engine options.

This Sportage offered room for five passengers—four could travel comfortably—advanced interior amenities, good fuel efficiency, and more than a dash of panache at a price that was competitive among compact crossovers. 

Mechanically, this Sportage had much in common with the Hyundai Tucson, though the styling was a key differentiating factor. A direct-injection, 2.4-liter inline-4 making 176 hp provided more gusto than previous V-6 engine options, and there also was a 260-hp turbocharged SX model. All-wheel drive remained an option across the line and included a switchable differential lock that helped when the going grew rough. The ride was comfortable, although its quality suffered if you stepped up to the 18-inch wheels.

Kia has always focused on features to bring in customers, and that certainly was evident with this Sportage. The list of standard and optional items included keyless start, Bluetooth, a USB port, and satellite radio. Higher trim levels offered leather upholstery, heated seats, a cooled driver's seat, and the more sophisticated UVO infotainment system.

The 2012-2013 Kia Sportage was among vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers, and Kia had to reimburse owners for gas. The Sportage received a very mild facelift for the 2014 model year, as well as an updated version of the 2.4-liter inline-4, which made more power and got better fuel economy—maxing out at 28 mpg highway for the front-drive version. Changes for 2015 were minor, consisting mostly of shuffled package options and additional standard equipment for the top SX trim level. For 2016, the Sportage EX received standard leather seats.

Fourth generation (2017-2022)

This Sportage sported a more muscular look, brimming with big air intakes and puffed-up fenders. The new Sportage had 1.2 inches more space between the front and rear wheels, and 1.6 inches more overall length from its predecessor. It still seated five, but even four could feel cramped compared to rivals. 

Base models got a 181-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4, with a 6-speed automatic and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The Sportage SX had a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 240 hp. A fully redesigned suspension and steering system improved its on-road performance. 

The Sportage earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and came standard with automatic emergency braking touchscreen audio, Bluetooth, power features, and satellite radio. The Sportage EX added a new infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

For 2020, the Sportage gained updated front and rear bumpers and wider availability of active safety tech. A few features were juggled for 2022, and a Nightfall Edition replaced the Sportage S. 

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September 14, 2018
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Perfect Combo of Comfort and Performance

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I should have done my homework!!!

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I purchased my 2018 Kia Sportage EX - AWD in August of 2017. The vehicle looked good, drove well, and the interior space was quite comfortable for both driver and passenger. That's where the "positives" end... + More »
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October 7, 2017
For 2017 Kia Sportage

worst car i ever owned

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The engine is the most trouble generator. I'm the unhappy owner of that car since 3 months and i drove it just for 1 month, the rest of two, my car was in service because of a strange noise that occure when... + More »
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