For a mid-sized SUV, it’s quite attractive

Josh FogelmanI’ve taken notice as Kia has emerged from its shell to become a top-competitor to the Japanese imports (such as Toyota and Nissan) that have dominated the non-German import market in the United States for years.  I’ve never actually driven one, though.  Save for a few minor gripes, I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

The styling of the Sportage is on-point.  For a mid-sized SUV, it’s quite attractive.  The lines aren’t complicated, and nothing about them overstated.  Compared to the prior-generation Sportages, you wouldn’t even guess the two cars were related.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s not the type of SUV (like the Porsche Cayenne or BMW X6) that will make your head turn, but it’s certainly no less attractive than many of its more famous competitors such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Ford Edge, or Hyundai Tucson.  That said, the Sportage is definitely one of the most attractive cars in the Kia lineup.  But for me, exterior styling has always been a bonus, not a deal-breaker.

 MG 2084 aom 440Our press car was the top-of-the-line Sportage Spirit, loaded to the gills with all the bells and whistles Kia has to offer.  At first glance, the interior was admirable; highly attractive, accurate, and technologically advanced navigation system, push-button start, comfortable leather seating, Bluetooth, steering-wheel controls, and enough head-and-leg room to comfortably seat five with a decent amount of cargo.  After hours on the road, I was always comfortable in the driver’s or passenger’s seat.  Come to think of it, I slept comfortably in the Sportage’s passenger seat on every road-trip we took (which is also a testament to the Sportage’s surprisingly quiet interior).  I also found the dual sunroofs to be quirky but cool.  All that said, two basic complaints:  First, the passenger seat wasn’t powered.  Second, I would’ve liked the heated seats to get warmer faster.  They were comparable to my 2007 Lexus ES350, but nowhere near as efficient as my 2002 BMW X5.  For a Texas boy in the cold German winter, I found that disappointing.  Otherwise, I was surprised at the amount of luxury the Sportage had to offer.

184-horsepower diesel engine provided plenty of power

In the driver’s sight: I found the 184-horsepower diesel engine provided plenty of power.  It wasn’t a racecar, but then again it’s not meant to be.  It trudged us through the snow, the rain, the ice, and even the mud without any type of struggle, and I had no issue with the Sportage’s acceleration.  But for such a small-output engine, I was unimpressed by the fuel economy.  Some would argue that’s the price you pay for AWD, but with prohibitively high gas prices, allowing the driver to operate in 2WD -- when all fours aren’t necessary -- might be a worthwhile move for Kia.

In sum, the Sportage was a pleasure to drive.  Like Hyundai, I think Kia has found a niche by providing enough luxury, features, and styling at a low enough price to attract buyers that might otherwise overspend on Japanese imports that don’t really have much more to offer.  For that, applause is warranted.

Photos © 2012-2013 Redaktionsbüro Kebschull

 MG 2076 jf 440