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2017 Kia Sportage Road Test and Review By Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2017 Kia Sportage
Urban adventurer

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Kia came on the scene in the U.S. three decades ago in 1994. Along with Kia’s arrival came the Kia Sportage compact SUV.

Just recently J.D. Power recognized the Kia brand as the highest scoring nameplate in its 2016 Initial Quality Study (IQS) out of all 33 makes in the U.S. This is quite an accomplishment considering how long many other makes have been around. As a result a lot of people paid attention to this and Kia Motors America’s June sales jumped 15.6 percent over the same period last year.

The all-new 2017 Sportage is the fourth generation of Kia Motors America’s longest-running nameplate. With its complete newness along with the J.D. Power accolades the Sportage had a 76.3 percent year-over-year sales increase in June.

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As it should be, this is the best Sportage yet. Looking back, the last time I drove a Sportage was about five years ago when the then all-new 2011 model came on the scene.

Kia reworked nearly everything this go round. Of course with time brings advances in design, materials and technology. The 2017 Sportage has a stiffer structure, increased wheelbase and length, more interior space, significant suspension and steering improvements, a new intelligent all-wheel-drive system, advanced driver assistance systems, and more upscale materials. Time brings lower production costs to many automotive materials and technologies with refinement and broader application, so you don’t necessarily need to purchase a top luxury brand to get high-end features.

The basics on the Sportage compact crossover are that it seats five; is available in three trim levels each in front- or all-wheel drive; and, offers a choice of two engines with corresponding performance and fuel consumption differences.

Prices start at $22,990 and go up to $34,000. In each trim level, LX, EX and SX Turbo, AWD costs $1500 more. (Find specs for all trim levels below my review, LN)

The LX and EX are powered by a 181HP 2.4-L engine and the SX Turbo uses a 240HP 2.0-L engine. The only transmission is a six speed automatic. EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings range from the best of 23 city and 30 highway mpg on the LX FWD to 20 city and 23 highway mpg on the SX Turbo AWD. The Sportage’s EPA test ratings are improved over the previous model but could be better when considering the competition.


The AWD system is available on every trim and features a 50/50 locking center differential. The new system is smarter and exchanges information with the control electronics of the car, allowing it to anticipate events and adjust early-on rather than react to changing conditions. It senses, anticipates, and optimizes traction requirements for all road and weather conditions. 

The SX Turbo is as loaded as you can get and comes standard with an array of new driver assistance safety features. These same features can be had on the EX in a $2,800 Tech Package but it also requires you to get a $1,900 Premium Package.

I would encourage every new-vehicle shopper today to seriously consider driver assistance features. Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection can detect a potential collision with another vehicle or pedestrian and help bring the Sportage to a halt. This technology is becoming more widely available and is expected to be standard on every new vehicle by 2018.

Other features such as lane departure warning, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, and front and rear park assist come in to play more often than you would think. Some insurance companies offer premium discounts if you have these items. And of course, being saved from an accidental collision or injury is the underlying objective.

All Sportage models have a backup camera.

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Kia has always impressed me with the equipping of its vehicles with items like power-fold outside mirrors, not only heated but also ventilated front seats, and heated steering wheel. All of these can be had on the Sportage. A new item is the hands-free power liftgate that automatically opens when you stand within three feet with the key in your pocket and purse. I loved the huge moonroof.

For my test-driving experience with the new 2017 Sportage I was in a SX Turbo AWD. I had driven the new Sportage on a brief drive earlier this Spring at the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s (MAMA) Spring Rally. I was eager to spend more time with the Sportage especially since it is a candidate for MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year Award that we vote on.

The 2017 Kia Sportage is also a candidate for North American Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY).

Without a doubt the SX’s Turbo engine does a fine job of moving the Sportage about. There is nothing lacking in acceleration, highway merging and overtaking. The automatic is smooth shifting and I didn’t experience too much gear hunting. The front and rear suspensions have been reworked and although the SX Turbo has firmer shocks I found the overall road manners to be comfortable. Steering weight and feedback is well balanced and when cornering there is good sense of control.

On the inside I found the seats comfortable and supportive. Depending on trim level, there are different size touchscreens. The SX has an eight inch screen and comes with Navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. I did a quick climb into the backseat and there seemed to be plenty of leg and headroom. A recline feature on the rear seat backrests is great for different size adults. Outward visibility is good especially around the A-pillar and outside mirror. The rear seat folds and cargo space grows to about 60 cuft. By the way, you can tow up to 2000lbs. with a braked trailer.

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All of this is wrapped up in a new, more-stylish exterior. The tiger-nose grille remains a familiar item, but there are new swept-back headlamps with neat looking quad LED fog lights below. This “cute-ute” offers a nice contemporary deign in an overall package that will suite most any urban or suburban family.

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Check out for more tech info and specs on the Sportage. Look at all the compact SUVs right here at Perfect New Car Match

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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