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2005 Kia Sportage 4X4 Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Kia


MODEL: 2005 Kia Sportage 4X4
ENGINE: 2.7-liter DOHC V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 173 hp @ 6,000 rpm/178 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 103.5 in.
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 171.3 x 70.9 x 66.7 in.
TIRES: P235/60R16
FUEL ECONOMY: 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway/22 mpg test
CARGO VOLUME: 23.6 cu. ft/66.6 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down)
BASE PRICE/STICKER: $21,990 (includes $590 inland freight and handling charge)

I was intrigued by the redesigned Kia Sportage as soon as I knew of its existence. Here was a good small SUV in its original form. What would the redesign be like? Happily, the redesign maintains much of the character of the original. The Kia Sportage has good style, is a good size, and has good utility for a lot of carrying jobs as well as general driving and low-stress off-roading.

The Sportage isn't overpowering. Under the hood is a 2.7-liter double overhead cam V6 that delivers 173 horsepower. The Sportage weighs around 3,500 pounds unladen, and there were times when, laden, there was not enough power. However, the transmission is a 4-speed automatic with a manual shifter. It has always been my contention that manual shifters on automatics are necessary with underpowered cars, yet most manufacturers tend to include them in overpowered cars. Here, the manual was a great addition, and gave us the opportunity to downshift when necessary to get higher rpms and move up the power curve. Kudos to Kia for this move.

We took the Sportage on a rather long trip. We achieved 22 mpg on mostly highway driving, which is close to the EPA estimate. I would like to have seen better economy for what is essentially and economy vehicle, but 22 mpg is still pretty good for an SUV - of any size. We felt the seats were comfortable for long trips. They were cloth covered and had a nice feel. While we didn't ride in the rear seats, our "test sit" back there showed excellent legroom, even with the front seats pushed back on their stops. There were mesh pockets in the backs of the front seats for additional storage. Also, there were a total of eight cupholders, two in front, two in back, and one in each door that was great for water bottles.

Sportage was asked to travel Interstates as well as back-country dirt roads, and it did it well. It handled well on winding roads as well as dirt roads, showing that it was capable of mild off-roading, which is the most that the majority of SUV owners attempt anyway.

We enjoyed the audio system (an AM/FM/Cassette/MP3 system was standard). The HVAC was more than adequate. During the height of summer, we actually had to reduce the air conditioning on our longest trip

Besides the mesh pockets and cupholders, there were wide pockets in each of the doors, a sliding arm rest/console with deep storage, and a useful glove box. We even had a sunglass holder above the inside rearview mirror that offered utility.

The rear seats fold flat, offering excellent carrying capability. With the rear seats up, cargo volume is 23.6 cubic feet. With them folded flat, cargo volume increases to 66.6 cubic feet. This is more than enough. Even my wife couldn't fill it up, although she tried. The rear hatch can be opened in total, or just the window can be opened for loading light objects. The front driver's window had power down, but not power up.

For the first time in many years, we had a flat with the Sportage. The spare is a space-saver, which isn't bad. I discovered that the jack was difficult to use. The mechanism wasn't designed for maximum utility, but for maximum space-saving. To put the repaired tire back on, we used my son-in-law's "NASCAR-style" jack.

Under the hood the engine is covered with cowling, making it hard to reach the oil filler cap and easy to spill oil when adding oil.

When it all adds up, the Kia Sportage is a capable small to mid-size SUV with good manners and adequate, if at the lower edge of adequate, power.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate