Kia Sportage: All-New for 2017

By Frank A. Aukofer, April 16th, 2016

For a vehicle that is barely 20-something, the 2017 Kia Sportage comes across as remarkably mature.

The all-new Sportage, now in its fourth generation, is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle that dates back to 1994. It is the oldest nameplate in the Kia lineup -- an indication of how far the brand has come in just two decades.

Across the board, Kia delivers quality vehicles, from subcompact to large cars and compact to three-row crossover SUVs -- and even the Sedona minivan. Consumer Reports recently selected the Kia Sorento as its Top Pick in the midsize SUV category, over such a stalwart as the Toyota Highlander. The rating is based on a combination of performance, reliability, safety, and owner satisfaction.

Some of that is also found in the new Sportage, a stylish and practical performer with decent handling, a quiet, supple ride, and power for any circumstance. It competes handily with the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester, and Nissan Rogue.

These compact crossovers are taking over the heart of the popular market, mainly at the expense of midsize sedans. A close look reveals why: Most of these compact crossovers are affordable and have about as much passenger space as a midsize four-door -- with way more cargo space, especially if you fold the rear seatbacks.

strong>One example: The best-selling midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry, has 101 cubic feet for five passengers and a trunk of 15 cu.-ft. The new Kia Sportage checks in with 99 cu.-ft. for five and a cargo area of 31 cubic feet. If you fold the rear seatbacks, the space expands to 60 cu.-ft. Moreover, the Sportage has optional all-wheel drive and an elevated seating position that many drivers prefer.

strong>There are three Sportage versions: LX, EX, and SX, all with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $23,885 for the front-drive LX and top out at $34,895 for the tested SX all-wheel drive; LX and EX versions were not available to drive at the introduction.

Nevertheless, the base LX comes with a solid array of standard features, including anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and a rear camera. Other basic items are air conditioning, SXM satellite radio, alloy wheels, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, and streaming audio, remote locking, cruise control, and steering wheel audio controls.

A practical feature is a cargo floor that can be raised or lowered by about 2 inches. If you want to stash something underneath, leave it as is. If you want extra storage space above, simply slip it out and lower it into the spare wheel area.

The LX and EX engine is a 181-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that delivers 175 lb.-ft. of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, as is the tested SX, which comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 247 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The six-speed automatic can be shifted manually, but only the SX offers steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Except for all-wheel drive and a special-order front fascia, there are no options. The SX comes with an array of safety features that include lane departure assist and blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and collision mitigation with pedestrian detection.

Convenience and comfort features include Kia's UVO connectivity, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, pushbutton starting, power adjustable and heated front seats, heated steering wheel, navigation with 8-inch touchscreen, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED fog and tail lights, and a trendy flat-bottom steering wheel of dubious value unless the driver has gigantic thighs.

SX equipment also includes an automatic tailgate that senses the key fob and automatically opens when it is within 3 feet. There's no waving of the foot or other appendage as with some other systems.

The Sportage's main drawback is fuel economy: Its combined 23 mpg trails the Honda CR-V's and Nissan Rouge's 28, and Hyundai Tucson's 27. Other than that, as Yoda of Star Wars might say: Youthful the Sportage may be; the complete package it is.

Specifications

Base price $34,000 (as tested: $34,895)
Curb weight 3,765 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type turbocharged 4-cyl. w/GDI
Epa mileage rating 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 16.4 gal.
Horsepower (net) 237 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 176.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 260 at 1450 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger AWD compact CUV
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