By Jim Bray
It doesn't have a lot that's new for 2015, but Kia's Sportage "cute ute" SUV/crossover remains a compelling and competitive model in this crowded market niche.
(click on the image to open a slideshow)
The Sportage is Kia's small SUV – as opposed to its big brother Sorento – and it goes head to head with such competitors as Hyundai's Tucson, the VW Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape etc. etc. ad nearly nauseam. It offers a lot of bang for your buck, as well as a good driving experience.
And isn't that what it's supposed to do?
Kia Canada's review sample wore the SX trim level, which is the top of the line and that means it's pretty well loaded with stuff. That brought its price up to about $32,700, which is pretty well right in there when compared to the competition that's equipped similarly. You can add more to the Sportage SX via the "SX Luxury package," which adds stuff like a "multimedia navigation system," premium Infinity stereo system, xenon high-intensity discharge headlights and heated rear seats to the mix and nearly six grand to the price, but the "base" SX is still equipped well.
The Sportage is one of the better looking of the cute utes, with graceful and modern lines, and its interior is typically Kia, which means it's actually one of the best there is these days. Since Kia hired designer Peter Schreyer away from the Volkswagen group their vehicles have made a huge leap in desirability.
At the Sportage SX's heart is a two litre turbocharged GDI inline four cylinder engine with dual-cam variable valve timing and rated horsepower and torque of 260 @ 6000 rpm and 269 from 1850 to 3000 rpm. This gives the little beastie plenty of oomph, though there's definitely some turbo lag when you first tromp on the accelerator pedal. It isn't enough to be a deal breaker, however - this is common with turbos - and when the power comes on with its typical turbo "whoosh" it's quite rewarding.
Base model Sportages get a normally aspirated 2.4 litre four cylinder engine that puts out 182 horses @ 6,000 rpm and 177 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000. It's undoubtedly adequate, but not as "sporty."
The SX's power goes to all four of the 18 inch sport alloy wheels in this version ("lower" models can be had with front drive only – and you can even get a manual transmission, unlike with this particular trim level, unfortunately). The transmission is a six speed automatic and it shifts well.
The Sportage features independent suspension front and rear, with MacPherson struts and coil springs up front and a multi-link buttock. Both ends get stabilizer bars. The ride is comfortable but not mushy. The electrically-powered rack-and-pinion steering offers a nice, light feel.
Adding to the Sportage's "sportage-ness" are dual exhausts and LED daytime running lights. Also standard are power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, brake assist, a downhill brake control and hill start assist. There's stability control as well, and all Sportages are equipped with projector-type headlights. The SX trim level also gets a unique grille and a few other exterior tweaks.
I never quite made peace with the driving position, though it's only a small complaint. The seat seemed a tad tall for me (and my stubby little legs), but the tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power seat came pretty darn close to offering positioning paradise. The seats are quite comfortable and even though they're fabric they offer bun warmers.
Despite being able to be optioned up further, the SX Sportage comes with just about all the technology you could want short of the nav system and upgraded stereo. It "sports" smart key/push button start/stop, which is always a bonus, and of course you get Bluetooth for audio and phone. The standard sound system is decent and easy to figure out – Kia's current interfaces being among the best. And of course there are steering wheel-mounted audio, cruise and phone controls, and power windows all around (with driver's one-touch operation).
There's decent storage space in the Sportage as well, which of course is only right for such a vehicle, and you can split/fold the rear seat 60/40.
The Kia Sportage starts at a reasonable $22,995 Canadian for the base LX trim level model, with front wheel drive. If you go for all the gusto Kia offers for the Sportage, the price rises to about $38,500 which is a decent chunk of change. For that amount, however, you're getting a decent chunk of vehicle - fun, handsome and practical and loaded with just about anything you could really want, including a lovely panoramic sunroof.
Sounds like a winner.
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
We welcome your comments!