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2013 Kia Sportage SX Rocky Mountain Review

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2013 Kia Sportage SX

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

“You’re going to like this one,” the fleet rep said as he got out of the bright red 2013 Kia Sportage SX and handed me the keyfob.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“It’s fast.”

Not exactly the response I expected when discussing a compact crossover. But you know what? He was right, on both points: It is fast, and I did like it.

The Sportage carries over essentially unchanged from prior years. Ours came in the sport-oriented SX trim, good for more than just its looks – in addition to features like a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded gauges, and leather upholstery, the SX also brings to the party a 2.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged engine, good for an impressive 260 HP and 269 lb-ft of torque

On the outside, the Sportage is a neat-looking vehicle with a distinctive, appealing shape. Bright projector-beam headlights are nicely complimented by LED running lights. The 18” wheels have an aggressive, sporty look about them. The roof is mostly glass, owing to an impressively-sized panoramic sunroof (tilt/slide in the front, glass only in the back). From a side view, the vehicle is very angular, rounding off towards the back to a rear hatch with a small window and low opening. From the side, the Sportage is slightly reminiscent of the Range Rover Evoque – there are similar angles particularly in the glass if you look closely.

The look of the Sportage is so distinctive, in fact, that it’s interesting to note that for all the vehicles I drive and review – BMWs, Audis, Cadillacs, Porsches, you name it – by a large margin, more people approached me wanting to know about the Sportage than with any other car I’ve driven. Everyone wanted to talk about the cute little CUV and look around.

Inside, we find a fair number of creature comforts – although the interior of the Sportage is something of a sea of hard, black plastic, there are soft accents and trim pieces where needed, and the leather seats are supportive and comfortable, with adequate room for rear passengers. Gauges are red and white on black with easy-to-read print. The toys are numerous – the aforementioned double sunroof with individual shades for front and rear passengers, dual climate control, and navigation. There are a couple of curious choices in equipment – for example, the driver’s seat is both heated and ventilated, a nice touch and exceedingly rare for a vehicle of this class, but the front passenger’s seat is only heated. Why? It’s a small quibble but one can’t help but feel it’s a cost-saving measure. There are also a couple of minor challenges in execution of the tech – the only clock is small and difficult to discern on the navigation display, and that display gets somewhat washed out in direct sunlight.

Where the Sportage unexpectedly shines is in its utility – although the cargo area is a fairly small 26 cubic feet with the rear seats up, fold them down and the cargo space becomes a cavernous 54.6 cubic feet, impressive for a vehicle this size, able to accommodate a decent run from the home improvement store. Also on tap are 6.8 inches of ground clearance, and a center-locking differential for the all-wheel drive system, two very much appreciated features for the Rocky Mountain Winter.

Driving the Sportage is a mixed experience. On the plus side: The aforementioned 260 HP turbocharged 4-cylinder engine – the Sportage IS fast and generally fun to drive; it handles well, with light steering effort. However, that engine does have quite a whine to it, and the sport-tuned suspension is firm to the point of feeling every bump, seam, and stripe – it’s a hard ride, and the vehicle bounces and wags around quite a bit on the highway.

We averaged 24 MPG combined against an expected 20 / 25 city / highway rating. Oh, and that turbocharged engine takes plain-old regular unleaded, rare for an engine of this power with a turbo – most require premium.

Ultimately, Kia has a strong success in the Sportage. It’s cute, it just feels good to drive, it comes substantially well optioned at an as-tested price just over $32,000, and it earns unexpectedly strong marks in the utility column as well – making it an excellent, standout choice in the compact crossover market.


2013 Kia Sportage SX
Base Price: $19,000.00
Price as Tested: $32,400.00
Engine Type: Turbo gas direct-injection 4-cylinger
Engine Size: 2.0 L
Horsepower: 260 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft): 269 @ 1,850 RPM
Transmission: 6-Speed Shiftable Automatic Transmission
Wheelbase / Length (in): 103.9 / 175.2
Curb Weight: 3,466 lb
Pounds per HP: 13.3
Fuel Capacity (gal): 15.3
Fuel Requirement: Regular Unleaded
Tires: Hankook Optimo H426; 235/55HR18
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Multi-Link
Ground clearance (in): 6.8
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive with center locking differential
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 20 / 25 / 24
Towing capacity (lb): 2,000
Base Trim Price: $28,400.00
Options and Charges
SX Premium Package: $2,000.00 (Heated front seats, air-cooled driver’s seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, Cargo cover, panoramic sunroof, heated outside mirrors)
Navigation System w/ SIRIUS Traffic: $1,200.00
Delivery: $800.00
Price as tested: $32,400.00