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  • 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD

    Posted on July 27th, 2018 ninarussin

    Compact crossover delivers the goods

    By Nina Russin

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    Although the Sportage is one of Kia’s oldest nameplates with heritage going back to the early 1990s, the current compact crossover represents a complete departure from the original SUV that completed the Paris-Dakar rally in 1993 and the Baja 1000 two years later. While the early Sportage was ideal for off-road competition, its performance on paved roads was less than perfect, hence the evolution towards the current unibody (passenger car) platform.

    What links the two models more than the name is their focus on value. While it would be difficult to determine whether-or-not the current Sportage is the best compact crossover in the ever-widening sea of options, it’s a solid performer that comes well equipped with convenience and active safety features.

    Pricing for the base front-wheel drive LX starts at $23,750: over $500 below the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V it competes against. The upscale SX all-wheel drive model tested is priced from $34,400 excluding the $990 destination charge. Adding a few options- cargo mat, cross bars, carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cover and cargo tray- final MSRP is $36,125.

    Turbo power

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    The biggest reason to opt for the more expensive trim level is its engine: a two-liter four-cylinder turbo that outperforms the naturally aspirated block on other trims in terms of both horsepower and torque. Fuel economy is about a mile-per-gallon short of the 2.4-liter block on the LX and EX, but in this writer’s opinion, worth the price. Peak torque for the turbo is 260 pound-feet, available from 1450 rpm: a tip of the throttle. As is typical for turbocharged engines, the torque curve is long and flat, maintaining the top number up to 3500 rpm, at which point the engine’s 240-horsepower takes over.

    All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission that includes large overdrive gear to maximize fuel economy on the highway. While it can’t match the gas mileage of competitors with eight and nine-speed automatics, the transmission is well crafted and nicely matched to the engine, with smooth shifts throughout the power curve and no shift shock under normal driving conditions.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    Mid-summer is the ultimate test for cars in this part of the US, with daytime temperatures frequently reaching over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only is the weather hard on the car’s mechanical systems, but it also seems to fire up the nerves of other drivers who share the roads. They are more irritable and erratic, making the Sportage’s standard blind spot detection system a valuable safety feature.

    The turbocharged engine develops excellent power off the line due to its low-end torque, eliminating any questions as to which vehicle will make it to the front of the line first on highway entrance ramps. The rack-and-pinion steering system delivers plenty of assist at low speeds for good maneuverability, with a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. A 34.8-foot turning circle makes the occasional U-turn a non-issue on wider surface streets.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link setup in the back keeps both rows of occupants comfortable. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Sportage in firm, linear fashion.

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    Visibility around the perimeter is reasonably good. A standard rearview camera eliminates blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass when the driver shifts into reverse. The blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The system has a tendency for false positives when the Sportage is stopped at a traffic light where two adjacent vehicles are able-to-turn left. Hopefully the problem can be corrected in a mid-cycle refresh.

    At night, standard high-intensity discharge headlamps deliver long beams of light close to daylight in intensity, lighting up dark rural and suburban roads. Dynamic bending lights follow input from the steering wheel to illuminate corners where pedestrians might be waiting to cross. LED daytime running lamps make the vehicle more visible to other drivers in low light conditions.

    Engineers did a good job of minimizing road, wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior so both rows of occupants can converse or enjoy the UVO infotainment system that now includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

    Versatile interior

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    The Sportage is a perfect size for buyers with active lifestyles who don’t need a third row of seating for kids. With second-row seats folded flat there’s plenty of room to stash a road bike with enough cargo space left over for luggage. A hands-free power liftgate makes it easier to load large cargo in the back.

    Keyless entry and start saves the driver for fumbling for the key fob after dark. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view with good lower lumbar support.

    The Harman Kardon premium audio system that comes standard on the SX delivers excellent sound quality. Bluetooth, satellite radio and the smartphone integrations described above provide plenty of listening options.

    The dual-zone climate control system does a good job of cooling down the interior, even in triple-digit midday temperatures.

    Standard safety

    The Kia Sportage comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, downhill descent control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring and an electronic parking brake. Standard active safety features include blind spot monitoring, rearview camera, lane departure warning and dynamic bending headlamps.

    The Sportage received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The athlete-friendly Sportage is on display at Kia dealerships nationwide.

    Like: A value-packed compact crossover with a solid powertrain, well equipped with standard safety and convenience features.

    Dislike: Blind spot monitoring system chimes when two adjacent vehicles turn left at the same time.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Kia
    Model: Sportage SX AWD
    Base price: $34,400
    As tested: $36,125
    Horsepower: 240 HP @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 1450 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 20/23 mpg city/highway

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