How far the Koreans have come. In 2009, Hyundai/Kia became the world’s fourth largest automobile manufacturer, but if you trace the Kia brand back to its roots in North America, you’ll find the Sephia and the Sportage. Back then, the Sportage was a simple body-on-frame compact SUV with a single-cam 2.0-liter engine and had few comforts on offer. Today, it’s quite a different market, and the Sportage brings with it modern flair such as LED running lights, a cooled driver’s seat, Bluetooth connectivity, a sonar parking sensor system and a whole lot more, not to mention the much improved interior quality and ergonomics. The powertrain is all new, featuring a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that conveniently makes more power than the outgoing 2.7-liter V-6 whilst simultaneously returning up to 31 mpg in city driving. If that sounds too weedy to you, however, there’s a more powerful turbo version in the works that should provide around 270 horsepower without too much of a hit in the fuel economy department. It would seem the small SUV hierarchy may be due for a regime change.
What's to Like
The Sportage mixes a modest entry-level price with high fuel economy, two things consumers in this space hold in high regard. Luggage space has increased along with vehicle size and technological integration. Front-end LED lights add some attitude to the entry-level compact SUV segment.
What's Not to Like
A stiff suspension setup may not be for everyone, and the same goes for the heavy steering, two characteristics not typically found in this segment. Power may be too little for some consumers, who will have to wait a while for the turbo.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Given the overall softness of most cars in this segment, we were surprised to find that the Sportage has a robustly stiff ride. Stiff to the point that it almost feels like a dedicated off-roader, in fact. If it’s a tough-feeling small SUV you are looking for, look no further, though we suspect this stiffness may turn off some customers as well, as out on the open road the suspension can have trouble keeping up with overly bumpy sections of road. On the bright side, though, the steering has enough weight and feel to it, and even at parking lot speeds you’ll always know where the front wheels are pointed, which certainly isn’t the case with every car on the market. Those fearing the four-cylinder might not provide enough power will be happy to know it has good midrange strength, but you’ll have to keep your foot in it to produce meaningful acceleration. A 2,000-lb towing capacity will prove useful for those looking to haul light loads, but don’t ...