Sales in the compact SUV segment are on fire, and manufacturers really have to be on the top of their game to contend in this crowded, competitive field. For 2017, Kia’s given the Sportage a complete makeover, with a bit of added length and an interior that’s a step above nearly every other SUV in the class.
The Sportage is Kia’s longest running nameplate, with the first model arriving from Korea in 1994. Since then, the automaker has sold 716,000 Sportages.
Completely Redesigned Exterior
Some might argue that the outgoing model had the best exterior design in the segment, and just needed updating rather than a clean sheet redesign. But, redesign it they did, under the guidance of design chief Peter Schreyer. Gone is the horizontal design common to other Kia products. It’s been replaced with complex wraparound headlights mounted very high in the curvy front end. Think Nissan Juke, Porsche Macan or even Jeep Cherokee and you’ll get an idea of what Kia was going for with the new Sportage. All-wheel drive models get a unique front fascia, with a higher approach angle.
High trim SX Turbo models gain an array of “ice-cube” LED fog lights mounted in pods alongside the brand’s signature “Tiger-nose” grille. The SX also gains satin metal accents, including skid plates and door handles.
The roofline reaches its peak inches behind the windshield before taking on a significant slope to the built-in aerodynamic spoiler above the smallish rear window. As with many in the segment, the back end of the Sportage features a rather simple design, with wraparound taillights and a very shallow rear bumper.
With wheels pushed far to the corners and large, sophisticated wheel designs, the Sportage takes on a more athletic stance than others in the class.
Cabin Design and Technology
The 2017 Sportage gains 1.6 inches in overall length and 1.2 inches in wheelbase, and most of the extra space seems dedicated to rear-seat passengers. Cargo capability is also enhanced with 60-40 split rear seats that fold nearly flat, as well as a wider cargo area and an interesting dual-level load floor that adds a couple of inches of vertical space to the cargo area.
SX Turbos also feature a smart power liftgate, which allows someone with the key to simply stand behind the car to activate it. The redesigned rear hatch allows for a 2-inch lower liftover height than the outgoing model.
Up front, Kia’s put a driver-oriented face on the dash, canting the central control area 7 degrees toward the driver. In a style that’s more like a European car, Kia has elected to have a large number of buttons and switches for controls rather than integrating them into a touch screen or rotary selector. USB and auxiliary ports are located conveniently at the bottom of the center stack.
Cloth seats are standard on the base LX model, while the upper EX and SX Turbo models gain leather seating surfaces, automatic temperature control and keyless start.
Base LX models come with a 5-inch touch-screen infotainment system with six speakers. Step up to the EX to get a 7-inch touch screen and access to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Kia’s UVO telematics system. Top-of-the-line SX Turbos bump the screen size to 8 inches and add on-board navigation to the mix. Bluetooth telephone connectivity is standard on all models.
SX models also gain a Harman Kardon eight-speaker audio system with Clari-Fi to improve digitally compressed music.
Rearview cameras are standard on all Sportages, as are a full complement of air bags and vehicle stability systems. Upper trims gain access to advanced electronic driving aids including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning. Adaptive cruise control is not available on the 2017 Sportage.
Performance and Fuel Economy
The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 181 horsepower. At the launch, only SX Turbo models were offered to drive, and the 240-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder was well matched to the compact SUV’s sporting intentions, without sacrificing smoothness or refinement.
There was, however, noticeable turbo lag, and the engine and standard six-speed automatic had to dig pretty deep to find power under hard acceleration.
The 2017 Kia Sportage’s best fuel economy estimates are found with the front-wheel drive LX model, which is rated at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Climb to the range-topping all-wheel drive SX Turbo, and the mileage falls to an unimpressive 20/23 mpg city/highway.
Improvements to the Sportage’s ride, handling and refinement are substantial. Kia completely reworked the front suspension setup and changed the electrically assisted steering geometry. The automaker also increased the computing power in the system for more natural responsiveness. The SX Turbo gains a firmer suspension setup that’s more in tune with its sporting intentions.
All-wheel drive is available on all trim levels, using a Magna Dynamax system that is touted to anticipate wheel slippage and compensate quickly for changing conditions. In a brief stint on a rutted gravel road, the system performed well, with very little tire slip even when pushed. Unlike the most popular vehicles in the class, the Sportage features an electronic locking center differential for more extreme weather or road conditions.
2017 Kia Sportage Pricing
Pricing for the 2017 Sportage starts at $22,990 for a front-wheel drive LX model. For $900, you can add the “Cool and Connected” package that includes dual-zone automatic temperature control and the 7-inch infotainment system with access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In the middle of the lineup is the well-equipped EX trim, with leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, push-button start and fog lights. Available EX packages can add a panoramic sunroof, the 8-inch navigation package and the advanced safety tech.
At the Sportage’s pinnacle is the SX Turbo. Priced starting at $32,500, the SX Turbo is the only way to get the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. SX Turbos also include “ice-cube” LED fog lights, larger front brakes, 19-inch wheels and several exterior appearance enhancements.
All-wheel drive is available on any trim level for $1,500. A destination charge of $895 is additional on all models, and all Sportages are made in Korea. Shoppers looking at the Sportage should also consider the Hyundai Tucson. Both models share the same platform, but engine and option packages differ between the two brands.