Kia isn’t known for its style or design. Kia’s biggest claim to fame is its 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Well, that was until recently. When Kia hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, suddenly they had style and dare I say, flair.
This new third generation Sportage is so vastly different in almost every way from its predecessors, that it’s amazing that they sport the same name.
The exterior of the new Sportage looks like it fell out of the awesome tree and hit every branch on its way down. Beginning in the front, Sportage sports Kia’s new signature grill, flanked by swept back headlights. The headlights on upper trim models (like this EX) each have a strip of LED eye liner. Chrome trim above the fog lights finishes off the front end.
The sides have sculpting near the bottom of the doors while a character line runs beneath the window sills into the rear tail lights. Door handles and window sills are trimmed in chrome and the roof rails are covered in a with a satin metal-like finish. The side mirrors also feature LED repeaters, which is a nice touch in this class.
Around back the rear is very stylized, with what can only be described as a bubble butt. The rear view almost looks like an alien scowling at you, especially at night. The rear tail lights feature LED lighting.
With the rear window being somewhat small and the large C-pillars being kind of large, it makes for limited rearward visibility. It is clear that style played a larger role than function when it came to the exterior design – the exterior is probably the best looking exterior of any compact CUV on the market currently.
The center console has a upward slant to it and it rises to meet the dashboard. The climate controls have a shiny piano black finish to them, but it is not distracting. I could imagine this plastic getting scratched easily over time though.
Both front seats were all day comfortable, with terrific seat heaters. Though only the front drivers seat features a cooling function. The front passenger will have to settle for only heat.
As I mentioned on the exterior, visibility is somewhat limited by the rear design. The C-pillars are quite large and the back glass is quite small. Further enhancing the problem are the somewhat large A-pillars in the front. While not as large as some of the competition, they are still large enough to cause some visibility issues. As with the current trend, the belt line on the Sportage is high, so resting your elbow on the window sill while driving is somewhat uncomfortable. The design also cuts into rear seat headroom. Taller passengers will need to sit up front.
Like the exterior, I found the interior to be a huge win. Button placement was all within arms reach and everything was clearly labeled. My only major gripe would be the style over function of some of the design characteristics.
Currently the new Sportage features one engine 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that pumps out 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet to either the front or all four wheels. The power is routed through a six speed automatic transmission that has manual shift capabilities. The Sportage EX I was in came equipped with all-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential. The current powertrain combined with all-wheel drive is rated at 21/28 mpg, and I saw an average of 19 mpg in mixed suburban driving.
As with the new Sorento, I found the ride in the Sportage to be surprisingly stiff. While I can appreciate a stiff ride, over bumpy roads the suspension can feel jittery at times. Also, the steering is light when at parking lots speeds but firms up a little too much once underway.
While I had the Sportage, Minneapolis was whacked with the largest blizzard we have had in over ten years. I drove the Sportage out into the blizzard and must say I was highly impressed. I did not get stuck once. With over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, I drove this Sportage through worse road conditions than almost any owner will ever drive through. The 18″ wheels with Hankook tires where very impressive and the stability control kept everything in line. I did lock the all-wheel drive a few times, though ground clearance did help as well. I am sure the cold and blizzard driving affected my gas mileage.
The EX AWD is currently the top trim model of the Sportage model. This Sportage featured both the Navigation/Premium Audio package as well as the Premium Package with Leather. Combined with these options and destination, the total price on this Sportage was $29,990.
The Sportage lands in a crowded market. The new Chevrolet Equinox is very competitive, and the Honda CR-V along with the Toyota RAV4 are both segment leaders. So is the new little Sportage finally ready to sell on more than price? The answer is absolutely. With more style, or flair if you will, than nearly all the competition, this Kia is ready to finally sell on design and features rather than a warranty and low price.
Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia