All-New 2017 Kia Sportage a Top Honda CR-V Alternative

2017 Kia Sportage

2017 Kia Sportage

2017 Kia Sportage Buying Advice

This is the best compact crossover for you if you want an all-new alternative to standbys like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Redesigned for 2017, this five-seater is the biggest and best Sportage yet, packed with standard features and priced below top rivals. Fuel economy is not a selling point, but you may like the aggressive styling. And you could come to love the turbocharged SX model, one of the most powerful SUVs in the class.

Should you buy a 2017 model or wait for the ‘18?

Buy the ’17. It introduces the looks, features, and performance that’ll see this Sportage generation through to its midcycle refresh, likely for model-year 2020 or ’21. The ’18 won’t change in any way worth waiting for, but you can expect it to cost more. It’ll almost certainly repeat a 2017 lineup consisting of base LX and midline EX models, plus the flagship SX. As do almost all vehicles in this red-hot market segment, the Kias come with four-cylinder engines and a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). If you’re interested, you may wish to cross shop its underskin twin, the Hyundai Tucson from Kia’s corporate-partner. Pitched more at the family market, Tucson has curvier styling and less horsepower than the more youthfully positioned Sportage.

Changes

Styling:

This first all-new Sportage since the 2011 model is longer, taller, and wider to deliver rear-seat legroom competitive with any in the class, although cargo volume remains subpar. Kia’s “tiger-nose” grille returns, slightly reshaped and set in a new, puffy-jowled front end. The SX gets steering-linked bi-xenon headlamps and four LED foglamps per side in an “ice-cube” tray arrangement. On all models, the beefed-up body’s high beltline and tapered roof maintain the segment’s most muscular profile. The recontoured rump features standard LED taillamps. On AWD versions, the lower front fascia is angled up like a ship’s prow.

Model distinctions include 17-inch alloy wheels on the LX, 18s on the EX, and large-for-the-class 19s on the SX. All models have bright side-window surrounds. Door handles are body colored on the LX, metal-look on EX and SX. The SX has gloss-black grille trim, dual exhaust tips, and mirrors with turn-signal indicators; the last feature is an EX option. The revamped interior blends pleasant shapes with solid-feeling materials. The new dashboard is attractive and functional. Exclusive to the SX is a flat-bottom steering wheel and metal pedals. Its LED cabin lighting is an EX option.

Mechanical:

The same four-cylinder engines carry over from 2016, but trade some horsepower for higher fuel economy. LX and EX have a 2.4-liter with 181 horsepower and 1 75 pound-feet of torque, down from 182 and 177, respectively. That’s still among the more powerful base engines in the segment and it furnishes acceleration adequate to most any task an LX or EX driver is likely to demand. The SX’s turbocharged 2.0-liter has 241 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, down from 260 and 269, respectively. That nonetheless trails only the 271-horsepower V-6 available in the Jeep Cherokee and the 250-horse turbo four in the Subaru Forester XT for most output in the class. The SX doesn’t feel quiet as fast as either of those, but delivers strong pickup with minimal turbo lag. All models use a six-speed automatic transmission its smooth, prompt shifts help achieve satisfying throttle response. The SX has paddle shifters.

A button allows drivers to select Normal, Sport, or Economy modes for transmission, throttle, and steering weight. The AWD system is calibrated to assist on-road handling and is a noticeable boon to road manners versus front-drive. And it’s among the few in this class with some off-pavement cred, thanks to a button that locks it into a 50/50 front/rear torque split for better low-speed traction. The SX has a sport-tuned suspension, but no Sportage handles with the sharpness of the CR-V or Mazda CX-5. And none rides as comfortably as a Forester or Rogue. But improvements in steering feel – long a shortfall of Kia and Hyundai – and in suspension composure mean serious drivers no longer have an excuse to cross it off their shopping list.

Features:

Generous with standard features, Kia gives both the SX and EX standard leather upholstery, heated front seats, pushbutton start, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are optional on the LX and standard otherwise. They support smartphone navigation apps, but where there’s no cell service, you’ll need imbedded navigation. Standard on the SX, it’s part of the $2,700 EX Technology Package. It replaces the EX’s 7-inch dashboard screen with an 8-inch display that’s among the largest in class, has sharp graphics, and a friendly interface.

Standard on the LX are automatic headlamps with LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass, 5-inch touchscreen with review camera, Bluetooth, and keyless entry. In addition to the aforementioned features, the EX builds on LX equipment with enhanced connectivity via Kia’s Uvo interface, plus pushbutton ignition. The SX is fully equipped, with no available options. In addition to the items already noted, it comes with the other features in the EX Technology Package. These include cooled front seats, automatic high beam headlights, Harman Kardon premium audio, and a power liftgate that opens automatically if you approach with the keyfob in your possession.

With the SX and the EX Technology Package, you also get important safety adjuncts, such as lane-departure warning (though not automatic steering correction), and, most significant, automatic emergency braking to mitigate frontal collisions. That last earns the SX and Tech Package EX models coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Prices

For the South Korean duo Kia and Hyundai, what you get for the money is long been central to their showroom appeal. Sportage follows suit with base prices that track several hundred dollars below those of comparable rivals. Base prices in this review include the automaker’s $895 destination charge. The LX starts at $23,885 with front-drive and $25,385 with AWD. To Kia’s credit, even this entry-level model is available with a host of desirable options. The $1,100 LX Popular Package adds heated front seats and heated outside mirrors, a 10-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, upgraded cloth seats, and roof rails.  A $900 LX Cool and Connected Package adds dual-zone automatic climate control, UVO with a 7-inch touchscreen featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The ‘17 Sportage EX is priced from $27,000 with front-drive and $28,500 with AWD. Besides the aforementioned standard features and the available EX Technology Package, there’s the $1,900 EX Premium Package. It adds a heated steering wheel and power-folding mirrors as well as panoramic sunroof, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-wander steering correction, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/Homelink, mirror-integrated LED turn signals, and LED interior lighting. The SX incorporates all that, plus such unique touches as stitched dashboard material.

Fuel Economy

Positioned as a sporty alternative, a pitch supported by those relatively high power numbers, Sportage doesn’t strive to lead the segment in fuel efficiency, and it doesn’t. EPA ratings average are a mile or two per gallon behind the field. The LX and EX rate 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/25/23 with AWD. The SX rates 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 20/23/21 with AWD. By comparison, design sibling Tucson, with engines making 164 and 175 horsepower, rates a high of 23/31/26 mpg with front-drive and 25/31/27 with AWD.

Release Date

Spring 2016

What’s next for the Sportage?

Expect no major changes before the end of the decade, with the next all-new generation due around model-year 2023.

Competition

Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and Outlander Sport, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]