Review: 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
So I get a new Kia Sportage dropped off in my driveway on March 21, 2016. I look at the window sticker and is says that’s it’s a 2017 model. What’s up with that? Seems a little early in the year to be bringing out next year’s model, no? And they’re still selling 2016’s, next to the all-new 2017’s. Sometimes I just can’t figure out how the car companies work. So depending upon when you’re reading this post, you’ll get an insight into this authors work habits. Do I write the review right now, or put it off until, say September, when most of the new vehicles will start to come out for 2017. (My initial instinct is leaning towards lazy)
I am, however, delighted that I have the new 4th generation Sportage to evaluate, and all things considered, there is almost nothing that I don’t like about this new Sportage. It has jumped up to my favorite car in the category. It has improved in almost every way from the previous model, which wasn’t at all bad in its own right. Nicer interior, quieter and smoother operation, more punch, more room, and now the latest safety features are present.
The 2017 Sportage is still a “compact” crossover SUV or CUV. But since the advent of the “Sub-Compact” SUV niche, the “compacts” are getting larger. Pretty soon we’ll be seeing MUV’s (Micro Utility Vehicles) The Sportage’s length is extended 2” to 176.4”, and the wheelbase is extended a little over an inch to 105.1”. Rear seat passengers are the main beneficiaries of the extra space for their legs and feet. The width hasn’t changed, so that middle rear seat is still reserved for children. Also, 5 extra cubic feet of cargo space is available behind the second row, although the Kia’s capacity back there still trails the Toyota Rav 4, Mazda CX5, Honda CRV, and Ford’s Escape. With the passenger row seats folded flat, there is 60 cubic feet of cargo space in the very well-appointed cargo area, and full size spare beneath the floor. It also has a trick cargo floor that can be removed and reinstalled about two inched lower, if a bit of additional height is required for whatever you’re hauling.
Buyers still get a choice of two 4-cylinder engines, a 2.4 liter making 181 HP and 165 ft. lbs. of torque, and a 2.0 liter turbo, as the test car was equipped, that makes a very satisfying 240 hp (237 hp in the AWD model) and 260 ft. lbs. of torque. And that torque comes on at a very low 1450 RPM, so you can really feel it in everyday driving. You have to get the SX trim to get the Turbo engine, and it is rated for a respectable 21 City and 26 Highway. A good sign is that I got over 22 in City driving, and many of those miles were in the Sport mode, as opposed to Normal or Eco modes. The 2.4 engine rates 22 City and 29 Highway, a bit better than the turbo.
On the road, Kia claims a 39% increase in structural rigidity, and it can be felt with an excellent solid, yet compliant ride over poorly surfaced roads, and a very smooth ride on the highway. There’s some body lean in turns but not much, and the SX model rides on 19” wheels, so there is plenty of grip. It may not be a canyon carver, but it can be driven with some zest, and not get upset, or give the driver any uneasy feelings. The 6-speed manumatic transmission shifts smoothly, but when using the paddle shifters, or gear shift lever to change gears, there is some lag before upshifts are completed.
Nice upgrades to the interior look and feel give the Sportage SX an upmarket feel. In fact, two knowledgeable friends of mine, thought the vehicle was $5,000 more expensive than the sticker price. Nicely bolstered perforated leather seats with heating and cooling are comfortable and handsome. The right amount of brushed aluminum-look brightwork and piano black plastic give the interior an upscale look, and the soft touch materials add to that. Also, the large panoramic sunroof makes the interior bright and inviting.
The addition of Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, front and rear Park Assist, Back-up camera with cross-traffic warning, and Autonomous Emergency Braking, all add to the safety features. The only thing missing is radar cruise control. Standard interior amenities also include an 8” nav screen, Dual Zone Climate Controls, Premium Audio System, Push Button Start, Hands-Free electric liftgate, heated steering wheel, heated and power folding outside mirrors, LED fog & tail lights, and more. This is equipped as a totally stock SX front wheel drive car, with no additional options.
The interior is quiet, with lots of sound deadening materials to keep it that way. The center stack controls are easy to see, and use, without needing to get into the Nav screen. In fact what really impressed me, and therefore left me with a great overall appreciation of the Sportage, is just how well all of the electronics work. Even the voice recognition system didn’t let me down, as most do. I was able to speak addresses into it and get it right the first time. And the commands for the phone and sound systems were equally easy to operate. Saving destinations, and radio stations were easy and intuitive. Setting preferences in the system was easy, and navigating into and out of sub menus were also a snap. Toggling between info screens residing between the tach and speedometer were logical and easy. It is very rare that I am so impressed with the capabilities of a car’s electronics and ease of use in the same vehicle. Apple Car Play and Android Auto is also available.
Styling-wise, it’s hard to stand out in this market segment where the overall shape seems to be fairly common. Too sleek, and you lose head room for the rear passengers, too upright and they say it’s boxy looking. But the Sportage has some interesting features at the corners with headlight and taillight treatments. And the roof spoiler overhanging the rear glass looks sporty. The quad cube fog lights on the SX model are especially cool. So while the Sportage may not stand out in the parking lot, owners will learn to look for the details to pick it out.
$33,395 was the bottom line, with no options (but I can’t imagine what else you’d need) Add $1,500 for the All-Wheel Drive feature. This is a lot of good car for the price. Now I can’t wait for the 2018 models to come out next month.
Road Test Review - 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD - By Ken "Hawkeye" Glassman