This review first appeared on Car-Revs-Daily.com.
Throughout the year, automotive journalists like myself get to drive a large variety of vehicles and sometimes we drive vehicles from brands we never have before. This was the case of the recently redesigned, fourth generation 2017 KIA Sportage SX AWD when it arrived for a week of testing. After spending that week behind the wheel on pavement, dirt and around town, I won’t be passing up the chance to get behind the wheel again. It is that good and could seriously challenge the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape.
While I may not have driven the older model, this newly redesigned model doesn’t make me want to. KIA went to work on this model and improved nearly all of it. From a new design, an upgraded premium-feeling interior and improved driving and handling.
You can start to see these changes immediately with a new exterior. From the front to the rear, KIA has redone every single body panel and the new “tiger-nose” grille, according to KIA, helps add to a combination of European and sporty styling. These styling changes to improve the look are also combined with functional changes like the front clip being enlarged to allow more airflow into the engine bay to cool the turbocharged engine better – excessive heat is an issue with any engine especially including a turbocharged one.
Inside the changes are even more dramatic. KIA designers were able give the Sportage a since of roominess and luxury touches commonly found only more expensive European models. To put it bluntly, it maybe a $34k compact SUV, but it feels much more like a mid-size SUV luxury model. KIA says through the design changes they were able to add a quarter inch and more to a variety of areas like front/rear head and leg room.
Our SX turbo model came equipped with several upgraded features over the base LX like a d-shaped steering wheel with a flat-bottom which makes turning easier. Also, the heated and leather-wrapped steering wheels comes with paddle shifters for the occasional, “hey, watch this moments” and the piano black trim along the center console adds a touch of distinction. Finally, the stitching throughout the interior feels more luxurious than other competitor models and it is a nice touch.
For this review, KIA sent me a 2017 Sportage in Burnished Copper which gleamed in the sun and had a nice rich color in the shade. It was equipped with 2.0L turbocharged mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission producing 237 HP with an impressive 268 lb-ft of torque with 19” inch wheels. In the small compact size, this powertrain responded quickly to throttle input and steering response which made it a blast to drive. The torque comes on quickly thanks to the turbocharger without feeling overwhelming.
During my week of driving the Sportage, I tried my best to put it in “uncomfortable” driving situations like full acceleration from a dead stop on an on-ramp, off-road on rain washed out roads, and quick stops/turns and fast starts in city driving situations. In all case, the Sportage handled things really, really well. While the suspension isn’t buttery smooth like a luxury SUV, it is much better than the price point suggests it would be.
While doing this driving, I also used the heck out of it. From hauling 3 kids to loading it up with groceries, golf clubs and luggage, the compact size never held me back from throwing additional cargo in albeit with the seats folded down. The design allows for maximum cargo space and I never ran into a case where an interior design or exterior trim piece caused an issue putting items inside.
All of this driving also meant I was burning a lot of fuel, yet the KIA Sportage returns a decent MPG of 20/23/21 city/highway/combined. This fuel economy is decent when compared to an apples to apples competitor like the 2.0L EcoBoost powered Ford Escape which is rated at 20/27/23 city/highway/combined mpg. Coming in at 4 MPG highway less than the Escape, KIA has some work to do with the Sportage since 4 MPGs is quite a big gap.
In the end, the 2017 KIA Sportage has been gone for a few weeks while I write this, yet I still have a great mental impression of my time with it. The Sportage will do that to you when you consider our test model came in at $34,895 and features a sharp design, luxury-like interior touches, tons of features and a fun-to-drive nature powered by a small, yet very quick 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. There really isn’t much not to like.
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged four-cylinder
HP/Torque: 237 HP/260 ft.-lbs. of torque
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
MPG: 20/23/21 city/highway/combined
Price as Tested: $34,895 with $895 destination fee