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. One of the older designs in this red-hot segment, 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 1 mpg penalty overall, but its 21 mpg overall is 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. Despite a low base price, a nicely equipped Sportage is not priced competitively against popular competitors such as the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.
A poor result in the IIHS small overlap crash test knocks the Sportage out of contention.