2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD road test: A small fish in a large pond makes a big splash

 

2017 Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

2017 Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

Kia’s new Sportage is much like the company overall: on a roll. Sales numbers have almost doubled year over year, and while the Sportage may not be up there with the likes of established, cemented vehicles like the Honda CR-V or Ford Escape, a lot of buyers are understanding that the Kia offers a lot, including the impressive 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

We first reported on the Kia Sportage when we did the introductory drive a few months ago in San Diego, California, and everything we liked then, we still do now, after spending a week with it. Our Hyper Red exterior color did wonders to help the clean design of this fourth-generation cute ute. Our tester was an SX AWD trim, with the 2.0L turbocharged engine, good for 237 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The lower trims offer a 2.4L four that makes 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. While that’s adequate power for most needs, we will always choose the model with more, because, well, that’s just how we are. The only transmission that comes with the Sportage is a six-speed automatic, but it shifts smoothly and plays nicely with the drive mode select, which we left in Sport mode all the time we drove it. Fuel economy numbers are fair, at 20-mpg city, 23-mpg highway, but from our experience with the Sedona, we often get better fuel economy over the long haul. Our test drive over the week netted us an average mpg of just over 24 mpg, so that backs up our experiences. While we didn’t experience the AWD system (no monsoonal downpour that week in Vegas), in our last review we posted the video on how the system works. Check it out here.

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

Although the turbo engine is strong, we did feel a slight turbo lag under launch; noticeable to us, but it probably won’t be for most. Once underway, the turbo is fun when combined with the great handling and chassis dynamics. The Mac P struts up front paired with the multilink rear allow the driver to point and shoot the Sportage pretty much where he wants it to go. Add in the 51% advanced high-strength steel body, the almost 40% improvement in torsional rigidity, the use of structural adhesives, and hot stamped steel, and you’ve got a chassis that can almost withstand an atomic bomb blast.

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

Speaking of da bomb, that’s what the interior is. Classy, comfortable, and chock full of features is a great way to describe it. We’re partial to the controls because we know how well they work in our long-term Sedona. The seats are comfortable, but we highly recommend staying away from the black interior if you live in the Las Vegas area as we do, since bare skin and 117-degree exterior temperatures don’t work well together. Since our model was the top-end SX, it had ventilated seats, which helped cool the flesh burns we got sitting inside the heat soaked Sportage. (Note, the Sedona gets the desired spot inside the garage in a place of honor; the Sportage had to sit in the driveway, which caused the heat sink test.)

2017 Sportage SX Turbo

2017 Sportage SX Turbo

The SX also comes packed with many standard features, including driver-assist items like blind spot detection, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, and more. These systems do not come cheaply, however. The LX entry trim starts at a reasonable $22,990. The SX AWD we had tested at $34,895. The days of cheap Kias are long behind us, and that’s okay, because we’d rather pay a bit more to be safe and comfortable. Our only nit was the glovebox didn’t have a lock on it, which we discovered when we wanted to lock something in there. Unusual, but maybe it wasn’t worth switching the doors from the base model to the SX trim.

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

For those looking for something different than the usual brands, check out the Kia Sportage. Kia owners are almost like a cult because they understand that they’re part of a special group of people who appreciate quality, value, and a great vehicle, regardless of which Kia they drive. We’re part of that cult temporarily with our long-term Sedona, and run into other members everyday who love their Kias. After driving the Sportage, it’s easy to see why.

Photography courtesy of Kia Motors America