2017 Kia Sportage SXPosted on March 7th, 2016
Reinvented compact crossover for outdoor enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The Sportage was one of two models Kia introduced when it opened its first US dealerships in 1994. It was a bare bones sport-utility vehicle, the automaker’s strategy at the time being one of loss leader. Buyers whose budgets normally limited them to pre-owned cars could afford a new Kia Sportage.
The car was also sturdy, completing two Dakar rallies and the Baja 1000. I see first-generation Sportages floating around my neighborhood to this day, having survived more than two decades of brutal Phoenix summers.
As Kia introduces an all-new Sportage for 2017, one wonders what the OEM has up its hat to make its newest compact crossover rise to the top in a highly competitive segment’
Style will play a big role. The ever-talented Peter Schreyer headed up the design team in the automaker’s Frankfurt and Korean studios, creating a sexy, muscular looking vehicle with undeniable road presence. But the Sportage’s beauty is more than skin deep, with improvements throughout the chassis and updated infotainment features.
Three available grades- LX, EX and SX- are available with front or all-wheel drive. Pricing for the base LX FWD starts at $22,990 excluding the $895 destination charge. Base MSRP for the fully loaded SX Turbo all-wheel drive model is $34,000.
Power for the LX and mid-grade EX comes from a 181-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.4-liter direct injection engine, while the sporty SX all-wheel drive model gets a 237-horsepower turbocharged two-liter block. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line.
Engineered for sporty performance
Engineers increased use of high strength steel throughout the body structure, improving torsional rigidity by 39 percent. The turbocharger is smaller and more efficient. A longer torque converter lockup range on the six-speed automatic transmission improves fuel economy.
The electric power steering system has been retuned and the steering box mounting moved forward for smoother inputs. A more powerful microprocessor makes the EPAS system more responsive to the driver.
Kia worked with Magna to develop the car’s all-wheel drive system that can deliver up to 100 percent of engine power to either axle, depending on traction needs. A unique front fascia for the all-wheel drive car gives it a bigger approach angle so the driver doesn’t scrape the front of the car when he starts up a steep grade.
Test drive in Southern California
This week I drove both front and all-wheel drive versions of the Sportage SX Turbo through San Diego County, including the city center, mountains and low-lying desert to the east. Both versions of the car come fully loaded with active safety features including adaptive headlamps, daytime running lamps, blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera with cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.
Standard convenience features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, hands-free power liftgate, leather upholstery, premium audio system with UVO infotainment and navigation, satellite radio, panoramic sunroof and 19-inch wheels.
While it is the more expensive of the two models, the all-wheel drive Sportage offers better performance than its front-wheel drive counterpart. It is more balanced front-to-rear: something most noticeable during aggressive cornering during which the front-wheel drive car feels nose-heavy. Because the all-wheel drive system automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction, it also improves performance on wet, snow covered and unimproved roads.
Steering is noticeably improved over the outgoing model, with faster, more linear response. There’s still a slight hesitation in on-center response at higher speeds, but it has no impact on control over twisting two-lane roads.
Engineers increased the size of the brake rotors front and back, decreasing braking distances up to 12 percent.
Visibility around the car’s perimeter is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes in the city center and on the highway. The blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. It also sends audible signals to warn the driver if a vehicle in an adjacent lane is approaching fast enough to impact a lane change.
Standard daytime running lamps make the car easier for other drivers to see during low light conditions or on canyon roads where there are a lot of blind spots.
NVH quality has also gone up a notch. There is no noticeable wind, road or wind noise enabling both rows of occupants to converse on the highway or enjoy the premium audio system. An updated infotainment system now includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Designers raised the bar on the Sorento interior by adding more soft touch materials in key areas such as the instrument panel and center console. I found the driver’s seat comfortable for trips several hours in duration with ample lower lumbar support.
Infotainment features are easy to access from either front seating position. Redundant steering wheel controls allow the driver to program audio channels and scroll through the information display in the gauge cluster with minimal distraction.
The enlarged panoramic sunroof lets a spectacular amount of sunshine inside the car, although the additional weight does impact fuel economy.
Small changes throughout the vehicle make it better suited for buyers with active lifestyles. Second-row seats fold flatter so cyclists don’t have to worry about their bike chains catching on the bump. The hands-free liftgate automatically opens up the back when it senses the key fob for several seconds, so the driver doesn’t have to fumble in his pocket. A lower lift-over height makes it easier to load in large items such as bicycles.
The Kia Sportage comes with six airbags, traction control, stability control, hill start assist, downhill descent control and tire pressure monitoring. The SX grade also includes adaptive high intensity discharge headlamps, daytime running lamps, lane departure alert, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera with cross traffic alert.
Kia’s 10 year/100,000-mile factory warranty includes five years of roadside assistance: up to 60,000 miles.
Like: A stylish, well-equipped compact crossover with a high level of standard convenience and safety features.
Dislike: Fuel economy lags behind competitive products.
Model: Sportage SX AWD
Base price: $22,990
As tested: $34,895
Horsepower: 237 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 1450 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 20/23 mpg city/highway2017, Best Value 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety