2008 Kia Sportage 4x4 Review


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    HEELS ON WHEELS
    By Katrina Ramser

    INTRO TO THE SPORTAGE

    For under $25k, the Kia Sportage 4x4 is not just a great deal, but a reliable one that has grown more impressive in the last couple of years.

    The Kia Sportage fell into the crossover vehicle market (CUV) in 1995. Kia is originally part of South Korea's oldest car company, but the actual Kia car brand didn't became available for the U.S. market until 1992. The company's bankruptcy in 1997 allowed Hyundai to acquire Kia.

    I drove a 4-door, 5-passenger 2008 Kia Sportage 4x4 with a 2.7-liter DOHC 4-speed automatic V6 engine and an electronic control on-demand 4-wheel drive system. It came with the Luxury Package ($1,300), which included color-keyed bumpers, leather seating, heated front seats, Homelink, and a CD player. Total vehicle price is $24,820.

    This is a 2008 Consumer Reports recommended vehicle – not a major standout for any particular category such as fuel conservation or performance, but such a recommendation is a highlight nonetheless. Little has changed since last year's model. Consumer Reports noted its roomy interior, secure handling, and long warranty.

    I agree: With a 60/40 split-folding rear seats that fold pretty flat and folding front passenger seat, you get 66.6 cubic feet of cargo space for groceries or what's needed for a weekend camping trip (including bikes).

    The Sportage is offered with front- or four-wheel drive in LX and EX trim levels. Last year I drove a 2007 Sportage and took it on an off-road destination in northern California's Lost Coast. I was initially a little soar I didn't have the Jeep I was scheduled for, so my attitude was the scrutinize it. I was a little skeptical the Sportage could take the bumpy 4-mile trail I had planned. Despite much resistance, I ended up loving the little Sportage and was satisfied with its 4-wheel drive components that were as simple to use. I also took some winding highways to the trip destination and the Sportage with its rally shifting options made for an even better driving experience.

    HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

    Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Sportage looks and feels a lot classier than you think it would – sometimes a great deal comes off as sounding a little cheap. While it certainly isn't going to dazzle you with dual temperature controls, power seating or a Bose stereo, the center console and dashboard are still modern and sleek in design with basic features.

    Reliability & Safety Factor: Kia offers a longer and better than most when it comes to warranty: 10-year/100,000 miles for powertrain issues; 5-year/60,000 miles for limited basic items; 5-year/60,000 miles for 24-hour road assistance; each of which provides coverage until either the yearly or total mileage figure is reached, whichever occurs first. Consumer Reports states Kias are generally good values, although they recommend only 45% of the total 2008 Kia lineup tested – the Kia Sportage is one of those vehicles with a high score of predicted reliability. The reported lows on a Kia has more to with the personal preferences (reported suspension noise). The 2008 Sportage has earned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star crash safety rating in all four categories. It has such safety features as six airbags, full-length side curtains, anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control.

    Cost Issues: If you are looking for an affordable, almost mid-size SUV that looks like a distant cousin to the Lexus GX, at $24,820 this is one of your considerations. The sunroof, power windows, heated outside mirrors, trip computer, roof rack and keyless entry does not come as an extra cost or better known as an upgrade package, which is nice. Considering how fond makers are of packaging and charging extra for such upgrades, this makes the Sportage a good deal.

    Activity & Performance Ability: Acceleration is typical but nothing special. I took it up some of the steepest streets in San Francisco and while it didn't lag, the 2.7-liter V6 certainly didn't defy the forces of gravity. The Sportage has a four-wheel-independent suspension. There is also a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine.

    The Green Concern: While the Sportage is a great value, the 2.7-liter V6 is not a standout in the gas mileage estimations: try 17-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. These figures are below average for an engine and CUV of this size, making lack of decent fuel economy a downside.

    FINAL PARTING WORDS: I've been pleasantly impressed with Kia Sportage as far as looks, off-road performance, and interior size are concerned. You're getting a great warranty on a CUV with little reported problems at a decent price– too bad the gas mileage on the 2.7-liter V6 engine isn't a tad more economical.

    2008 Katrina Ramser

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