Kia Sportage Road Test

First Drive
2017 Redesigned Kia Sportage
Overview
It's not exactly breaking news that the Kia brand has morphed into a mainstream player in the last few years. No longer a bargain basement brand, but a viable alternative to the established Honda and Toyota. To wit are the current highly ranked Kia Sorento mid-sized SUV and newly redesigned Kia Optima. Now comes the third installment in the form of the fourth generation Kia Sportage. We just bought one to test and in the meantime, here are some initial impressions.

Sharing a platform with the accomplished, highly ranked Hyundai Tucson, the Sportage continues its streak of stylish and sporty compared to the more mainstream Tucson. It also differs in powertrains. Instead of the 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter turbo fours powering the Tucson, the Sportage employs a non-turbo 2.4-liter four, mated to a conventional 6-speed automatic. The top-trim SX has a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four. We opted for the most common version, an LX AWD with the popular equipment package. All told, it stickered for $26,720.

Impressions
When we tested the Tucson Sport we liked the power of the 1.6-turbo but found the automated transmission to cause some vibrations at low speeds. The base Tucson, with its 2.0-liter engine and conventional automatic felt a little underpowered. Our conclusion was that a Tucson with the right powertrain combo doesn't exist. Guess what: now it does, sort of. It's alive and well in the Kia Sportage.

Not surprisingly, the Sportage provides easy and pleasant motivation. Power delivery is ample and quite smooth in a clearly more satisfying way than either version of the Tucson. We can't vouch for fuel economy yet but it's bound to be less frugal with fuel than either Tucson.

In an attempt to instill a sporty character, the Sportage's suspension is a touch firm which results in a rather taut ride. It's not objectionable, just less cushioned than most competitors in the small SUV arena.

Handling benefits from the firm suspension with nicely controlled body roll in corners and a quick turn-in response, giving some credence to the somewhat sporty character.

Inside, there are simple controls including a small touch screen for the infotainment system. The rear seat is roomy enough for two adults, access is easy and the cargo room, with or without folding the rear seat is very useful.

The Sportage continues with a rather distinct styling but it's more sculpted and modern looking now. It lacks a third side window, which contributes to a somewhat dark cabin and impaired rear and side visibility.

With the $1,100 popular equipment package, our Sportage has a power driver seat including a lumbar support adjustment and heated seats - very desirable items. A rear-view camera is standard.

CR's Take
So far, the Sportage shows a marked improvement over its predecessor, which was an also ran in the class. And even though its powertrain is as conventional as it gets, with its distinct styling and mildly sporty handling, the Sportage stands out with a somewhat quirky demeanor.

Check back with us to see how it ranks in the hot small SUV category as we complete testing it.

New Car Reliability Prediction

Based on the latest survey, we expect reliability of new models will be average

Warranty

All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.

Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.

Basic (years/miles)
5/60

Powertrain (years/miles)
10/100

Rust through (years/miles)
5/100

Roadside aid (years/miles)
5/60