The Sportage is a competitive small SUV that blends a spry appearance with somewhat sporty handling.
Although the Sportage shares its platform with the Hyundai Tucson, these two corporate cousins diverge in terms of outward visibility and interior layout.
The Sportage's standard 2.4-liter, 181-hp four-cylinder supplies ample power that never feels too taxed. The refined automatic transmission operates serenely in the background, showing good response to inputs. But fuel economy is just fair at 23 mpg overall, falling well behind the small SUV pack. The high-end Sportage SX has a 2.0-liter, 240-hp four-cylinder turbo.
Handling is mildly sporty for the class with responsive cornering. Even when pushed, it proves secure with well-controlled body roll, quick reflexes, and forgiving behavior. That said, it falls short of matching the agility of the Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape. While the ride soaks up bumps decently, it’s a touch firm compared to other in the class and less cushioned than the Mazda CX-5 or Subaru Forester. Cabin noise levels are unobjectionable and are par for the course for this category.
Easy to live with, the Sportage has a roomy interior. Typical of a small SUV, cabin access is easy with a chair-height step-in and good head clearance. Large, wide-opening rear doors ease access. Visibility is better than the previous generation, but it's not as open and airy feeling as some rivals. The lack of a third side window remains a Sportage design cue that creates a blind spot there.
We appreciated the power driver seat with its power lumbar support and good thigh support, along with the heated seats--part of the optional LX Popular equipment package and standard on higher trims. The rear seat is roomy with a nearly flat floor, and the seatbacks recline and fold via a well-placed lever located next to the bottom cushion.
Interior quality is comparable to its peers. Soft-touch material trims the dash and window sills, and bits of matte-silver plastic trim add color to an otherwise stark-looking interior. Knobs and buttons feel almost retro in their simplicity.
Getting some desirable options requires spending a good deal of money. Nice features like a moonroof, power liftgate, or automatic climate control require getting a leather-equipped EX, pushing the price tag over $30,000 with all-wheel drive. Rivals like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester offer this equipment at lower prices.
More importantly, getting forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking requires buying pricey option packages. The top-trim model gets these as standard equipment.
Overall, the Sportage is a compelling choice that adds a dash of youthful style.