Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 25 seconds
Photography by Jaze Haze Photography
FEATURED TRIM $34,895…MSRP $34,000
More appropriate for my review this go around is a CUV – Compact Utility Vehicle. This is undoubtedly one of the hottest segments in the car industry, with customers clamoring ever so more for these conveyances. Americans in particular, in contrast to our neighbors across the pond to the East, are no longer as keen on wagons as they once were back in the ’70’s. To that end, these smallish sport utility vehicles; compact, raised sedans if you will, offer the perfect compromise between a wagon and a full-size SUV.
On hand this week, with a Hyper Red exterior black leather combo, is the 2017 KIA Sportage SX AWD. The Sportage tester came fully equipped with all the bells and whistles, more on that later, as well as very handsome sporty 19″ wheels. For 2017 the KIA Sportage comes in 6 trim levels, with the SX AWD 2.0T being the top level trim. Of note, the lower level trims are also available in either FWD or AWD configurations. Having those drive options on all trim levels is ideal, giving customers a variety of choices and price levels depending on their needs.
Powering my tester was the 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder engine pushing 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft (which by the way, is a healthy 84hp and 101lb-ft bump over the base model’s naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four) – more power! The engine is helped along via a 6-speed automatic transmission with Drive Modes (Normal, Sport, Eco), available via a push-button selector just aft of the shifter. EPA-estimated fuel economy with all-wheel-drive comes in about 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. I, however, did come close but not achieve those numbers – could be because I had it in Sport most of the time, too much fun! The AWD has a Hill descent option should you need that functionality. With the top trim level SX AWD, you also get firmer, sportier suspension, different interior trim pieces and the 19″ wheels aforementioned. Modern vehicles today are the epitome of safety and electronic aids; the 2017 KIA Sportage certainly does not fall short here. I would say pick a combination of any 3 alphabetical letters and KIA has a safety feature acronym! Let’s name a few… BSD (Blind Spot Detection), LCA (Lane Change Assist), DBL (Dynamic Bending Light), HBA (High Beam Assist), RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert), okay, so that was 4. It’s obvious from that short list that safety is top priority, as should be expected. I have reviewed other KIA models and have noticed that KIA’s standard safety features rival most other notable “luxury” brands. More KIA reviews here.
In the SX AWD trim level, leather interior, perforated seats as well as power seats are available for both passenger and driver. The leather felt of high quality, not hard and vinyl/leatherette-like. The Sportage seats had a good range of motion both fore, aft and height adjustability. Day/night electronic rear view mirror comes standard. I found the power folding side mirrors with auto tilt feature when backing up, a nice touch, although not an uncommon feature in other (more expensive) makes.
Rear seat accommodation was more than adequate. I had a good friend over 6 feet tall in the front passenger seat with another friend in the rear behind him seated comfortably. Five adults would be a squeeze but manageable for a short trip. There was a huge panoramic moonroof which added an air of openness to the interior. The materials were of good quality with soft touch elbow/armrests for front and rear passengers. The Sportage’s rear cargo was aplenty with 60/40 rear folding seats, and fold relatively flat allowing for larger loads. There were multiple storage areas front and aft as well as additional storage under the spare tire in the rear cargo. Yes, a spare tire in the age of run-flats and fix-a-flat goo…
The 2017 KIA Sportage’s instrumentation was well laid out with a center MID screen for vehicle feature customizations, trip computer and the like. One other feature of the MID, which I had not seen in any other vehicle so far, was a display of the windshield wiper position. Now, normally you would either instinctively know the position, or just observe the wiper motion and adjust accordingly. However, in the Sportage, it displayed the speed, intermittent level, front or rear wiper, etc. Yeah, might be trivial but a nice little attention to detail. Use of the navigation system warranted a few more selections than I would have wanted. For example, after inputting your destination you are prompted about 2 to 3 more times to confirm the destination, about one too many in my opinion. Other than that, it performed well with clear, adjustable voice prompts.
Probably some of my favorite features were the HBA (High Beam Assist), AEB and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Enabling the HBA automatically enables the high beams when needed and automatically disables with oncoming traffic or when visibility improves. On the AEB, I had the opportunity to inadvertently trigger that feature. I had quickly turned into a lane and the system believing I lost control, triggered an audible alarm and applied some braking effort, nice. Speaking of lights, the LED DRL’s and HID main beams were a nice upgrade; however, I was lukewarm on the quad jeweled LED foglights, seemed a bit too gimmicky, in my opinion.
With 240 horsepower on tap, this CUV was quick off the line. In fact, prior to even noticing the Sport option, I was impressed with the acceleration from stop. Engaging that option raised the revs, as well as made the throttle a bit more responsive. I couldn’t really determine if the suspension tightened up or not, but the steering was a tad firmer. Tooling around town the CUV handled well, not too cushy and not a bad ride for a sport trim with the 19″ wheels, which typically would produce harsher ride for a vehicle this size. On road I found it adequate handling turns and offering a firm and non-jarring ride. The interior was relatively quiet with engine noise intrusion only during heavy acceleration. One thing I found a bit obvious is the turbo lag. (I also noticed this on another KIA model.) For me, when I stepped on the accelerator pedal, there’s was slight hesitation as gears dropped and the turbo spooled to deliver my request. However, being AWD you don’t get as much of the high nose, tail squatting sensation once acceleration kicks in.
Could it be tighter, firmer driving? Sure, but I think that misses the point of this vehicle. A “sporty CUV” not a “Sport CUV” in my opinion. Oh, and one last note, I liked the flat-bottomed steering wheel, KIA seems to like to add this on their sportier trims, it’s nice and further makes the sportiness point of the trim level.
There are many players in this field – competing vehicles such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and the newly restyled Honda CR-V are some of the contestants. I believe the combination of KIA Motors’ excellent class leading warranty; 10yr/100K Powertrain, 5yr/60K Limited Basic, 5yr/60K Roadside Assistance, value, features, safety and good looks would be hard to beat. Of course, my loaded tester might be a stretch for some. To lower cost, you can always opt for the non-AWD trim that’ll still give you a comfortable, attractive CUV. For the enthusiast, I would suggest the turbo engine if you can can swing it. It’s well worth it!
- Price as tested: $34,895
- MSRP: $34,000
- HP: 240HP
- Fuel economy: 20/23
- Vehicle Provided by KIA Motors
Photography by Jaze Haze Photography