Road Test: 2017 Kia Sportage SX

Today’s compact crossover segment couldn’t be hotter. Each automaker is trying to outdo the other with bolder designs, higher content levels and unique features.

The 2017 Kia Sportage is no different. With modern styling, premium features not typically found in this segment and handling that rivals sports sedans, we see and feel the attention to detail that Kia invested into the crossover.

The fourth generation Sportage features advanced driver assistance technologies, significant suspension and steering improvements, and available intelligent AWD that vastly improve the Sportage’s driving dynamics on all three trim levels: LX, EX and SX Turbo.

Ride and Handling

The SX Turbo has been uniquely tuned with firmer shocks to deliver sharper handling befitting its athletic personality.

The completely redesigned fully independent front suspension achieves a leap forward in ride quality.  A four-point bushing setup delivers greater stability and a more predictable response to changing road surfaces, while stiffer wheel bearings and bushings result in more precise handling.  The fully independent rear suspension now adopts a dual-member shock absorber housing, and both AWD and FWD models now benefit from a dual lower-arm multi-link setup.

Engineers in the steering department mounted the steering box farther forward on the axle for smoother steering inputs. With a 32-bit ECU (versus the 16-bit unit of its predecessor) and 25 percent less friction than the previous system, the 2017 Sportage offers more precise steering response and better feel.

Sharp 19-inch alloy wheels are standard on SX Turbo.

Braking

Braking is excellent, with a solid feeling pedal that provides great feedback. The Sportage feels very European in this regard.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy

Both FWD and AWD variants are coupled to an updated 6-speed automatic transmission.  The Magna Dynamax intelligent AWD system is available on every trim and features a 50/50 locking center differential.  The system senses, anticipates, and optimizes traction requirements for all road and weather conditions.  AWD models feature a unique front fascia with a steeper approach angle for increased capability.

Efficiency and driving performance were two major areas of focus when Kia engineers returned the GDI engines.  The hard-charging 2.0L inline-four turbo found on the SX trim makes 240 horsepower (237  on AWD models) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and has been retuned to target improved fuel efficiency and better midrange torque.  LX and EX trims use a normally aspirated 2.4L engine that produces 181 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque and is also retuned for better fuel efficiency.

Noise

Kia engineers reduced noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) through the application of a quad-bushing setup in the rear suspension to isolate road noise and additional sound-absorbent materials throughout the Sportage’s wheel arches. Wind noise also is reduced as a result of thicker front side glass, a lip seal for the panoramic sunroof, and additional soundproofing in the doors.  The 2017 Sportage is also more aerodynamic than its predecessor, with a coefficient of drag that’s been reduced from .35 to .33.

Headlights

New “ice cube” LED fog lamps, Bi-HID headlamps, LED tail lights are standard on SX. Dynamic Bending Light (DBL) technology swivels the headlights in the projected direction of the Sportage as it goes around curves, and High Beam Assist (HBA) automatically switches between low and high beams depending on other cars on the road.

Interior Fit and Finish

Inside, the new Sportage’s driver-oriented cockpit features a simple and modern design with clean horizontal lines emphasizing a more spacious interior. The lateral design of the dashboard divides it into two clear zones. The upper “display” zone delivers information to occupants via the instrument panel and new color touchscreen, which is canted 7.2 degrees toward the driver.  The lower half, or “control” zone, features easily identifiable switchgear to operate the available dual-zone climate system, audio and secondary controls.  Similar to the touchscreen, the center console has been angled to face the driver.

Giving the Sportage a more premium feel is the availability of five expressive interior colors integrated with metalwork and soft-touch materials.  The EX and SX Turbo models add sumptuous leather upholstery, and the SX Turbo includes a D-shaped, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, piano black trim along the center console, aluminum alloy pedals, and authentic stitching on the dashboard.

Seating

As a result of the increased exterior dimensions and clever packaging, interior dimensions have grown, offering more space and comfort.  Headroom has increased 0.2 inches to 39.3 inches in the front and 0.6 inches to 39.1 in the rear, while legroom has increased slightly in front and 0.3 inches in the rear to 38.2. The second row has a 1.6-inch lower interior floor (ground clearance is unchanged at 6.4 inches for front-drive models and 6.8 inches on AWD) and 1.2-inch lower rear bench hip point, benefitting second-row passengers with more headroom (up more than a half inch) and a more comfortable seating position. Offering even more comfort are options such as three-level heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way power control with lumbar support for the driver’s seat, and eight-way power control for the passenger seat.

Just as passenger space has increased, so has cargo room. Thanks to an innovative dual-level cargo floor and a widened luggage area, cargo capacity behind the second row has grown substantially from 26.1 cu.-ft. to 30.7 cu.-ft. .  By relocating the license plate from the bumper to the tailgate, the lift-over height has been lowered for easier loading and unloading.  A Smart Power Liftgate, which automatically opens when the key fob is within three feet of the vehicle, was on our SX tester and worked perfectly.

Visibility

Outward visibility good thanks to side mirrors mounted lower on the doors, thin A- and C-pillars and a larger rear glass in the hatch. This feeling of spaciousness is further enhanced with an available panoramic sunroof with an opening 4.1 inches longer than the outgoing model’s. It’s huge!

A backup camera is standard.

Gauges and Controls

The gauges are crisp, well-illuminated in all ambient light situations and easy to read at a glance. Controls, knobs and buttons are plentiful and easy to operate while the Sportage is moving. A mix of symbols and text fill the center console, and we’d like to see more universal symbols in the future.

Infotainment

The all-new Sportage features a number of new and advanced on-board technologies to elevate the driving experience and keep drivers connected.  Starting with an 8″ capacitive touchscreen and onboard navigation, the system is modern and responsive.  Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and UVO eServices featuring 14 telematics services, make the Sportage more accessible and driver-friendly.  SoundHound is accessible through a phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Harmon Kardon 8-speaker, 320-watt sound system is excellent. The inputs include AM, FM, XM, CD, HD radio, USB, 3.5mm and Bluetooth.

Crash-Avoidance

Automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist keep the driver safe. We’d like to see all of these safety systems standard on all trim levels.

Front and rear parking assist provides an audible and visual distance indicator to other objects around the Sportage.

Crash Test Results

The 2017 Kia Sportage is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and NHTSA overall 5-star crash tested vehicle, making it one of the safety crossovers available today.

Sumary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 8
Braking 8
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 8
Noise 8
Headlights 9
Interior Fit and Finish 8
Seating 8
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 8
Infotainment 8
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score 83%
Facts
Make: Kia
Model: Sportage
Trim Level: SX
Engine: 2.0L Turbo 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 6-Speed Auto
Available Packages: None
Base Price: $23,200
As-Tested Price: $35,490

 

 

 

 

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