If Kia were superstitious, it would be gathering four leaf clovers, rabbits’ feet, and as many lucky charms as it could right now. Everything is going well for this brand; almost a little too well. As they say, what goes up must come down. However, Kia doesn’t seem worried the descent will happen any time soon. And with good reason: every new vehicle it introduces receives accolades, every month brings record sales totals, and the awards are piled so high they’re spilling down the other side of the mountain. While the rest of us might be worried, Kia isn’t, because it knows its success has nothing to do with luck. Rather, it has everything to do with a laser focus on building great products as well as a great brand. All this is clearly evident in the all-new 2016 Kia Sportage.
The Sportage is Kia’s most recent introduction, and there’s more to come, like the next-generation Cadenza, which will debut at the New York Auto Show this March. Successful launches of the Sorento, Optima, and new Forte have firmly cemented Kia as one of the hottest automotive brands in the world. We’ve written about Kia’s rise to the (near) top, and we love that this brand understands the importance of great vehicles. Get the product right, and the rest will follow.
Getting the product right is a great way to describe the new Sportage. This compact ute competes in probably the toughest segment in the industry, battling the likes of competitors that have a death grip on the top spots: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape. Those competitors have a solid customer base, a long history of high sales, and an understanding that they can never get complacent. If they do, the Kia Sportage is waiting in the wings to take over. Right now, if the Sportage makes it on any of these buyers’ consideration lists, it might be taking over sooner rather than later. How dare we make this claim? When you look at the Sportage’s total package, it’s easy to see that it won’t take much to reach world c-ute domination.
Let’s start with the styling. The Sportage, much like all vehicles coming out of the Kia design center, was created under the watchful and critical eye of Peter Schreyer, head of design for Kia. Yes, it looks a lot like a mini-me version of the Sorento, but that’s a good thing. This is the fourth generation of the Sportage, and it was vital to make Kia’s longest-running nameplate stylish without losing its identity. The signature tiger nose leads the way, and the headlights have been moved a little higher and swept back a little for a more aggressive, aerodynamic look. Overall, the Sportage is a little more than an inch longer in wheelbase, and about an inch and a half more in overall length. It still retains the familiar Sportage shape, with a strong rake to the rear glass and a rear-sloping roofline. Overhangs are minimal, and 19-inch wheels (SX trim) and tires balance the appearance overall. The most identifiable feature on the exterior are the foglamps, found on the SX Turbo trim. Nice to have a design cue we can instantly recognize and identify, especially since little touches like these are missing in a lot of the competitive set. Around back, a standard rear spoiler, dual exhaust outlets, and wraparound taillamps finish up the handsome design.
Inside, the Sportage also takes its lead from the rest of the Kia family members. We only drove the SX trim, although it’s also available in LX and EX. While the SX comes loaded with great features like Smart Key with pushbutton start, a killer Harman Kardon audio system, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and UVO, and a Smart tailgate, all trims get steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, soft-touch dash and interior trim, rear camera display, and tilt/telescoping steering column. There are a lot of buttons on the center console, but the ergonomics of them work well and make sense. Plus, since we drive our Sedona everyday, we’re familiar with the layout and are glad Kia doesn’t change it just to change it. We also love the flat-bottom steering wheel, since we like to rest our hands at the low position. One other design feature we’d like to highlight, since many manufacturers miss this often, is the matte black dash top with minimal cut lines. We’ve been blinded so many times by reflective glare or a reflection line that we always look to see who’s paying attention to real-world driving situations.