Kia Sportage Old but Pertinent
We are expecting an updated Kia Sportage for 2023, but for now our local media fleet has a 2020 model still available. We decided to take a look at this soon to be replaced model to see how it compares to the newer competition.
Reminiscent of the Subaru CrossTrek, the Kia Sportage appears to be a lifted, more off-pavement capable version of a compact sedan. However, unlike the CrossTrek, there is no sedan counterpart for the Sportage.
In the front, the familiar Kia grill is actually small by today’s standards. The hood bulges on the edges allowing for the projector headlights to protrude above the bumper and grill. There are also LED projector fog lights in the lower grill.
From the side it’s clear that the wheels are pushed to the corners. This provides performance benefits both on pavement and off. Also prominent are the optional roof rail cross bars, providing more storage space and options for those who need it. The split five spoke 19-inch wheels are very attractive but don’t leave much room for sidewall on the 245/45R19 Michelin Primacy Tour tires.
Moving to the rear, the tail lights run from the rear quarter panels all the way across the rear hatch. There are dual exhaust outlets down low and a spoiler up top. The rear glass does not open separately from the rear hatch limiting storage options.
Inside the Sportage SX
Being the top trim the SX offers a variety of standard features. The interior is a two tone mix of a very light gray with dark gray accents. A heated steering wheel pairs nicely with the heated and ventilated leather seats.
Controls for audio, hands free phone and nav system, cruise control, and gauge cluster are found on the steering wheel. Paddle shifters attached to the rear of the steering wheel allow for manual shifting of the 6-speed automatic when desired.
A nice feature in the Sportage is the ability to lock the passengers from using the windows but still allowing the driver to actuate them. This makes traveling with kids and pets much easier. This should be a standard feature implemented in all 4 door vehicles.
There is a clear infotainment touch screen with navigation at the top of the dash, but physical buttons remain for all climate and radio functions. This makes controlling any feature quick and easy.
There are a variety of ways to charge devices including wireless charging, two 12-volt outlets and a USB-A outlet up front. For the rear seat there is an additional USB-A and a 12-volt outlet.
Seating is comfortable both front and rear, as long as the rear cupholder armrest is down. Space is adequate for four adults, moving to five would make the rear a little tight. Car seats do fit, but expect forward facing toddlers to be kicking the front seats. All three rear seats have child seat anchors available.
The rear cargo area is small, but sufficient for a family of four to fit a weekend trip’s worth of gear in. Underneath the cargo floor is a donut spare tire and the tire changing equipment, with a little extra space for those wanting to pack additional tools. There are also grocery hooks and four tie down points. If more space is needed the rear seats are split 40/60 and either or both sides can be folded down.
The Sportage SX Turbo has plenty of get up and go around, thanks to it’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The engine puts out 237 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque and runs that power through an old fashioned 6-speed auto. Both are known to be reliable.
The small size makes tight parking lots a breeze, and the slightly elevated ride allows for a better viewing platform. The backup camera is clear and logical to use. Some don’t seem to line up perfectly with the actual vehicle location, but this one does.
On the highway, the adaptive cruise control works well for both keeping speed and the set distance from the vehicle in front. The steering wheel mounted controls for the system are simple and easy to use.
When cruising and passing slower vehicles at highway speeds, the Sportage SX Turbo has plenty of power. Having a 6-speed auto means that rpms are a little higher at freeway speeds than competitors with more gears. Even so, mileage doesn’t take a big hit for this. Fuel mileage is rated at 19 city and 24 highway for the AWD turbo, but we our combined average during testing was closer to the 24 mark.
Kia has been pushing more off-pavement capability recently with its lineup of crossovers. The Sportage was designed as a sports activity vehicle. The claim of the SAV is to get outdoors people and their gear to trailheads, river entries, and fishing holes.
As such there is some off-pavement capability with the AWD system and higher torque output of the turbocharged engine. Traveling at higher speeds over rough roads is limited due to the lack of travel in the independent suspension setup. While the suspension does bottom and top out quickly it does so smoothly, thanks to good bump stops.
Climbing smaller hills, the Sportage has plenty of torque to transfer power to the wheels with traction even when two others are pretty much in the air. However, when climbing steep hills the gearing isn’t low enough to get the torque to the ground while overcoming the braking force used on the wheels in the air.
The lack of a low range transfer case and locking rear differential prevent it from joining the likes of the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, but overall the Sportage is an excellent vehicle for travelling well maintained forest and fire roads.
For the 2020 model year the well equipped Sportage SX Turbo AWD starts at $35,090. That price increases by $555 for the 2022 model. Our test model had a few options including various cargo mats, cargo nets, and cargo covers for $430, roof cross bars for $225, and tow hitch for $425. Adding in the $1,120 destination charge brings the total to $37,290 ($37,980 for a 2022 model equipped the same).
For a similarly equipped and sized vehicle at a lower price, check out the Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD, or the very nicely appointed Mazda CX-30.
Wrapping Up the Sportage
In conclusion, the Sportage SX Turbo surprised us with its good power and excellent quality fit and finish inside. The transmission, while not cutting edge, provides for good shifts and rarely hunts for gears. With the higher quality and power surprises, we were a bit surprised at the higher price of the SX Turbo.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.
Matt lives in the Utah mountains and often posts cool off-roading videos to his Instagram and YouTube channel.