2017 Kia Sportage SX FWDPosted on October 5th, 2016
Compact crossover for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The Sportage was one of the first vehicles Kia imported to the United States in the early 1990s: a small, simple but robust sport-utility vehicle. I still see first-generation Sportages tooling around Phoenix, all showing scars from years of off-road driving. It’s a badge of honor.
When Kia introduced the third-generation Sportage six years ago, the car’s focus shifted from sport-utility to crossover, appealing to buyers who might want four-season capability, but also required better road handling for the daily commute. While the Sportage did all of that well, it seemed to lack the character of the first two generation vehicles.
The most recent Sportage introduced late last year is a much more complete product, with more appealing styling and a confident drivetrain that includes a SX grade for driving enthusiasts. While the car maintains a front-wheel drive bias, owners in all-season climates can opt for an all-wheel drive system that transfers power to the rear wheels when traction demands it.
Base price for the front-wheel drive car tested is $32,500 excluding an $895 destination charge. Final MSRP is $33,395.
Fully equipped models
Kia simplifies the buying process by equipping its cars with the convenience features its audience looks for as standard equipment. Leather seating, dual-zone climate control, Sirius satellite radio, a Harman Kardon premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, keyless entry and start, hands-free liftgate, panoramic sunroof and power folding heated side mirrors are all included in on the SX.
The SX also carries a full roster of active safety features such as a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, hill start-assist and descent control and lane departure warning give drivers the edge in rush-hour traffic.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
This week I drove the newest Kia Sportage around the Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale metropolitan areas as well as through a section of the Gila River Indian community south of town. The Sportage proved its performance chops on winding rural roads, with a more rigid body structure and peppy two-liter direct injection turbocharged engine that develops 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of peak torque.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across the model line-up, with smooth, crisp shifts and a large overdrive gear to enhance highway fuel economy. Average fuel economy for the front-wheel drive model is 23 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA.
Engineers relocated the steering box for the electric power steering system further forward on the front axle for better feedback and improved on-center response at speed. The car’s 34.8-foot turning makes parallel parking less of a chore.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar up front and multi-link setup in the rear. Despite being a larger vehicle than its predecessor, the Sportage feels quite nimble prancing through turns and going over pitchy hills.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can converse on the highway or enjoy the premium sound system.
The newest Sportage rides on a longer wheelbase and also gains in overall length for more cargo space. Kia’s fit and finish has improved dramatically over the years and continues to do so in this new model. Features such as the dual-display color touch screen and thin-film-transistor information display inside the gauge cluster befit a vehicle priced within the premium segment.
Power driver’s seat controls include a lower lumbar adjustment, making longer drives more comfortable. Smaller drivers can raise the seat high enough for a clear forward view. A flat-bottom steering wheel is a nod to the car’s performance orientation.
The standard rearview camera eliminates blind spots caused by thick D pillars in the back of the vehicle. Adaptive headlamps respond to steering inputs to light dark intersections when the driver corners.
A new power liftgate enables owners to open up the back with a kicking motion under the rear bumper, making it easier to load up bicycles and other large cargo. Towing capacity when equipped with trailer brakes is 2,000 pounds: below our ALV minimum standard but capable of hauling a smaller boat or a couple of jet skis.
The Kia Sportage comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist and downhill descent control.
The newest Sportage is rolling into Kia dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish crossover vehicle with appealing styling and performance, a high level of comfort and active safety features.
Dislike: Highway fuel economy lags behind other entries in the segment.
Model: Sportage SX FWD
Base price: $32,500
As tested: $33,395
Horsepower: 240 Hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 1450 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 21/26 mpg city/highway2017, Best Value 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, Sportage, standard safety