So many small SUVs look like the boxes they were shipped in. Not the Kia Sportage, whose sporty ovoid styling stands out in a rectilinear field. The Sportage offers nimble handling and a roomy rear seat, but otherwise comes up short. Its stiff ride and loud cabin won't endear itself over the long haul. Acceleration with the base four-cylinder engine is leisurely and a lackluster 22 mpg overall proves to be no consolation. The uplevel turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers a big boost in performance with only a one mpg penalty, but its 21 mpg overall is in the realm of much larger SUVs.
Practicality isn't the primary mission of the Sportage, despite decent interior space and fairly simple controls. The sporty styling reduces cargo space a tad and impairs the view out severely, especially to the rear. Refinement suffers, too, with noticeable road noise and a stiff ride. Opting for the sportier SX, with its firmer suspension and larger wheels and tires, only makes these annoyances more pronounced. Higher-trim models add upgraded interior furnishings and fancy available options such as a panoramic sunroof and heated and cooled front seats.
Navigating the trim lines
Base LX and mid-level EX trims have the non-turbo engine. SX versions come only with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, as well as bigger wheels and tires and a stiffer suspension.
LX models come up short on the basics. They have standard Bluetooth but a backup camera is optional. Plus, you can't get a power driver's seat, even as an option and it doesn't have keyless entry. EX and SX models are much more lavish, with a standard power driver's seat, rear camera, heated front seats, upgraded Infinity stereo and automatic climate control.
Best version/options to get
We'd skip buying a Sportage. If you need to get one for some reason, go with an EX for its standard driver's seat and backup camera.
Changes from the previous version
Previous generation (2005-2010) Sportages were decidedly unstylish small SUVs bought merely because they were a good deal. The 2011 redesign instead tried to entice buyers with slick styling, upscale appointments and agile handling.