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By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Wrapping up a slew of small and mid size crossover reviews we offer our best-in-category award to this new Kia Sportage, freshly redesigned for 2017. For just about the same price as a loaded RAV4, Ford Escape or the most generously equipped Mazda CX-5 – low 30-grand range - we get more power and content with equal or better aesthetics and impeccable build quality.

Now, don’t get me wrong. They are all great products. This small crossover class fits the needs of so many buyers it has become just about the hottest segment in the market with just about all brands competing. Being on top of style and content is the name of the game now, just to compete in the market. These mainstream loaded crossovers are often as good as the premium entries and it’s sometimes tough to see the demarcation between those levels. There are so many from which to choose you could spend way too much time trying to evaluate them all, so we try to help here at The Auto Channel as best we can.

First, let’s talk about the amazing powertrain. This direct injected, 2.0-liter turbo four, mated to a smooth and efficient six-speed manual transmission, makes about 240 horsepower and an impressive 260 pound-feet of torque. Those are just about the same power numbers as the 2.0-liter EcoBoost Escape but the Kia feels much quicker. The quick and positive throttle response provides that distinctively sporty feel but remains smooth and silky like those in the premium class. It will do 0 to 60 mph in an impressive 6.7 seconds. The EPA rates it at 21 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway and 23 combined for this 3,800-pound people and cargo hauler. The fuel economy is less than some of the competition but still respectable. We managed close to 25 mpg in our week of mostly highway driving.

This excellent performance comes packaged in an attractive, updated exterior with an updated version of the familiar chipmunk grille. New headlight bezels and cheek inserts, with four projector beam fog lights in each, grabbed our attention as soon as they dropped it of in my driveway. Deeper sculpting all around and a tiny increase in overall size, along with our test car’s 19-inch alloy wheels, make for a mighty stylish ambiance.

The Sportage cabin gets redesigned and dressed up as well. While the overall structure and style break little new ground the execution meets high standards. Materials, fit and finish are impeccable. The primarily horizontal layout makes it attractive and laudably functionality. It has knobs where it ought and a reasonable number of well-marked buttons. We found the 8-inch multifunction screen logical and not necessarily complex.

Rear seat space is good, owing partly to the small increase in the CUV’s overall size. Ingress and egress are as good as any. We have 31 cubic-feet of cargo area with rear seatback in place and a good 60.1 cubic-feet with seatbacks folded. That is plenty of room for most people’s hauling needs. Fitting into our lifestyle, it would be ideal for a substantial road trip for two couples and their luggage, or even a indulgent trip to the landscape shop.

While the base Sportage starts at just under 23-grand this top-of-the-line SX Turbo starts at $32,500. We have no options on our test car but it comes with just about everything you could imagine except the optional all-wheel drive costing about $1800 extra. Our tester has panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated power leather seats, heated steering wheel, dual zone HVAC, a premium level of high-zoot lighting inside and out (including a bending light technology), Harman Kardon premium audio, a full slate of driver assistance functions from blind spot monitor to autonomous emergency braking, hands-free rear lift gate . . . and the list goes on. Check the full specs here on the Auto Channel.

Kia’s new vehicle warranty covers the Sportage for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles. That’s one of the best in the industry and they can do that because their quality has been admirable as confirmed by the Consumer Reports Initial Quality Survey where Kia and Hyundai have consistently led their leagues.

Sportage comes in three trim levels. Upon cursory research it looks as if Kia will beat the competition when comparing vehicles with identical content. This one impressed us in every way, though we did not do any serious hauling or a big road trip this week.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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