2017 Kia Sportage first drive

March 12, 2016

Kia made some great choices for its completely redesigned 2017 Sportage—choices that make it a better-driving, more comfortable vehicle than some of its key rivals.

One of those key rivals is the Sportage’s corporate cousin, the Hyundai Tucson. Although the Sportage remains closely related to the Hyundai Tucson (the two essentially share the same body structure) and some other core components, its list of available powertrains is very different.

The Kia comes with a standard 181-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, or an available 2.0-liter turbocharged four that makes 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque.

In contrast, the Tucson makes do with a just-adequate 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (which we think Americans won’t like as much, as you need to keep the revs up) or a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an automated dual-clutch transmission that’s smooth and quick enough most times, yet perplexingly sluggish-to-react at other times.

Not in lock-step with Hyundai cousins

Although you’ll find essentially the same (or some of the same) engines used across other Kia/Hyundai couplets like the Sonata and Optima, the Rio and Accent, and the Forte and Elantra, it’s not nearly the case here.

Kia believes that the way it decided to equip the Sportage better fits the needs of American drivers, said Orth Hedrick, the vice president for product planning. at Kia Motors America.

Based on preliminary driving impressions, we think he’s right. The Sportage has a refined, responsive feel both in town and out on the open road; it’s tremendously improved in ride quality and cabin quiet; and it gets a lot of details right that were missed in the previous generation.

2017 Kia Sportage

2017 Kia Sportage

Enlarge Photo

Seating and interior materials are two of those things. Seats feel more supportive, and now have thigh bolsters that are just long enough for tall folks but not too constricting for smaller drivers. And compared to the previous-generation version, Kia has slathered on the soft-touch surfaces, and kept the cockpit-styled dash but slightly angled to the driver, but pushed the corners out.

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