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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Compact crossovers just keep getting better, and the fully redesigned Kia keeps up with the competition with strong value, sharp design and a smooth ride. Usually left to the bigger or pricier utility vehicles, conveniences are aplenty with the Sportage like a Harman Kardon premium audio system, power lift gate, and loads of safety technology.

I drove a 2017 Kia Sportage with the sportier 240-horsepower turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine coupled with a six-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission and Drive Mode Select. Available in three trims – the base SX, EX and SX – my SX test drive came with the following standard features: leather upholstery; heated and ventilated front seats; dual-zone climate control; Harman Kardon audio system; UVO infotainment system; eight-inch touchscreen with navigation and rearview camera; Bluetooth connectivity; push-button start; 4.2-inch digital instrument panel; heated steering wheel; paddle shifters; power lift gate; panoramic sunroof; LED fog and tail lights; a suite of safety technology; and nineteen-inch alloy wheels. Price as described comes to $32,500.

Kia raised the bar with the 2017 Sportage, refining the interior and cabin ride, and more importantly, expanding the backseat space. Rivals include the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V but also the slightly smaller crossovers like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda HR-V.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: It’s nice to see Kia load this smaller, more economical crossover up with sought-after features like an upgraded audio system, lift gate and safety tech (all for one price with the SX trim). Kia is known for their well-crafted interiors, and the Sportage’s cabin is impressive from every angle. UVO is arguably one of the smartest connectivity systems on the market, with vivid graphics and intuitive commands (Apple CarPlay and Android audio sync up in seconds). The Sportage expanded its leg and headroom plus the rear entry; the former tight build required parents to squat low and shield heads when lifting toddlers into the back. Smaller kids click in with little struggle. My only quam would be the seat construction, which I didn’t find all that supportive.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2017 Kia Sportage its highest ratings of "Good" in all crash test areas, making it a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it a 5-Star rating. Standard safety features include an advanced airbag system, downhill brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control.

Cost Issues: Base price for a Sportage LX starts at $22,990; a mid-level EX at $25,500; and my fully loaded SX trim at $32,500. A 2017 Toyota RAV4 starts at $24,910 with a top-of-the-line Platinum model at $34,750.

Activity & Performance Ability: While road noise, control and overall cadence is now smoothed out, the 2-liter turbo engine continues to have the traits of an anxious animal due to an uneven distribution of power – in general there also isn’t a big enough punch from the 2-liter turbo engine. Fuel economy is a clincher for this segment, yet the Sportage still falls a few gallons short in comparison to what the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V put out. How it handles could very well put these complaints in the shadows.

The Green Concern: The fuel economy of the 2-liter turbo engine is 21-city and 26-highway for a combined 23 miles-per-gallon. The 181-horsepower 2.4-liter engine retains and average of 26 miles-per-gallon with front-wheel drive (22 with all-wheel). This is troublesome when compared to the Honda CR-v and Toyota RAV4 that typically retain 25 combined with all-wheel drive.

Smart and stylish, the 2017 Kia Sportage can sell you with its technology, looks, and smooth ride; however, compare a little closer to competitors and you’ll find its fuel economy and turbo performance come up a tad short of expectations.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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