2017 Kia Sportage : Review
The 2017 Kia Sportage is the all-new fourth generation version of Kia’s compact crossover targeted towards “passionate nomads” and it is currently arriving in dealerships. The latest iteration of Kia’s longest-running nameplate takes a successful vehicle and makes it even better with a new design, refined interior, significant ride improvements, and available intelligent AWD. Recently we were invited out to the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego to be among the first to get behind the wheel of the 2017 Kia Sportage. We rocked and rolled all night, and drove all day through the Cuyamaca Mountains and Anza Borrego Desert to test out the latest vehicle from the second ranked automotive brand in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study. Yes, that’s where Kia ranks, we swear.
We made the desert sculptures of Galleta Meadows our road-trip destination, so you’ll find the fabulous steel welded creations of Ricardo Breceda dancing with the Kia Sportage throughout our photos. Each are meant to depict creatures that once roamed wild across the lands of Borrego Springs, and were commissioned by Dennis Avery (of the Avery Label fortune) before his death in 2012. Exploring the desert sculpture garden gave us a fun way to test the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system and ground clearance on the new Kia Sportage, and below we’ll share what we’ve learned about the new compact crossover.
Unlike the new Kia Optima, which received modest styling changes on the exterior, Peter Schreyer and his team gave the new Kia Sportage a rather dramatic face lift, specifically to the face. The tiger nose grille is ubiquitous, but it has been separated from the headlights which have been moved noticeably higher and sweep back along the outer edges of the hood. The new front styling has an aesthetic similar to a Mini or Fiat, and further removed from Toyota and Honda, which we consider the right direction to go for this model. We’re particularly fond of the “ice-cube” LED fog lamps offered on the SX Turbo.
Sportage has a great stance, with those sweet 19-inch alloy wheels pushed all the way to the corners, and exterior dimensions coming in a bit wider than its competitors. The AWD model has a significantly improved approach angle with a unique front fascia, and the “metal-look” skid plates make the Sportage look more capable than it probably is. The color choices are strong with Burnished Copper and our heavily photographed Hyper Red leading the pack, however we usually prefer something more adventurous like the Sedona Sunset and Carribbean Blue colors offered on the Hyundai Tucson. Overall the new design is more aggressive and we think it will be well received as unique in the segment.
The 2017 Kia Sportage boasts a roomier, more luxurious cabin with impressive materials and technology offerings relative to the price. The interior has increased in size with an additional 0.2 inches in headroom in the front, and 0.6 inches in the rear. Legroom has also increased slightly and the rear seat has a significantly improved seat position and space. We’re honestly not too concerned about the back-seat though, we’re focused on the driver. Kia has re-designed the cockpit to be more driver-oriented with the touchscreen and center console angled towards the driver. The cockpit felt comfortable and familiar to us and we had no trouble figuring out the controls quickly.
The SX Turbo we drove came with leather upholstery, and a heated leather-wrapped D-shaped steering wheel with paddle-shifters. The interior in our test model was mono-chromatic black, which isn’t our favorite, but Kia does offer some two-tone versions with beige and brown leather on the SX Turbo that look awesome. Other features we love include the heated and cooled seats, larger panoramic sunroof, aluminum alloy pedals, and stitching on the dashboard. It all made us so happy that we could almost overlook the inclusion of piano black trim, almost.
Like Kia’s other models, the Sportage runs deep with technology. Our fully loaded SX Turbo came with all the goodies, including an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen, navigation, UVO3, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Bluetooth, and an awesome 320-watt eight speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. However we think even entry-level buyers will be pleased with the technology they get for their money. We’re particularly intrigued by the economical “bring your own navigation” option made possible by Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
The 2017 Sportage features the same pair of popular GDI engines from the previous model. We drove the 2.0 liter inline-four turbo that makes 240 horsepower (237 on AWD) and 260 lb.-ft of torque. The weight of the new vehicle is up, and the engine has been tuned for increased fuel efficiency, so you might notice on paper that the horsepower is down a bit from 260 on the outgoing model. If we hadn’t pointed that out, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference much when driving the two vehicles back to back, and increased fuel efficiency is a noble goal. We found the new model to be plenty powerful, and fun to drive in spirited situations, although with the improved noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) it may feel like you are going slower in this more refined vehicle. The steering also has a noticeably more precise response and better feel achieved by mounting the steering box farther forward on the axle.
Driving dynamics have been a focus for Kia in recent years, and the new Sportage continues that trend with a commitment to building a stiffer structure and adding a new suspension system. Torsional rigidity has improved 39 percent thanks to extensive use of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) and increased use of hot-stamped steel. The result is a stronger core which helps to not only improve safety ratings but also helps the Sportage feel more solid on the road when combined with a completely redesigned fully independent suspension.
We gave the Magna Dynamax™ intelligent AWD system a bit of a work out and experienced no issues on the desert sand, but would love to push it harder in a wider variety of surfaces and conditions. The system senses, anticipates, and optimizes traction requirements for all road and weather conditions. It features a manually lockable 50/50 center differential and is available on every trim.
We enjoyed our desert day behind the wheel of the 2017 Kia Sportage so much, that we extended our trip to San Diego for a few more days with Men Who Blog and borrowed a FWD model to visit some sites around town. We’ll have an article coming soon about that adventure, but here is a bit of a preview :
The 2017 Kia Sportage is available now at US dealerships starting at $22,900, with our fully loaded SX Turbo AWD costing $34,000. It’s priced competitively and equipped very well, but when you combine that with Kia’s highly ranked quality and industry leading warranty, you’ll see why we continue to recommend Kia for value minded buyers. For an expert car guy’s opinion on the new Sportage, check out the thoughts of our awesome drive partner, Michael Schlee from AutoGuide.com. His driving helped us avoid certain death at the hands of these dinosaurs, while I quipped from the passenger seat, “Must go faster!”