With so many options available to buyers in the compact crossover segment, it can be a bit difficult to stand out. Not so for the redesigned 2017 Kia Sportage.
Gone are the old model’s understated and slick European lines, traded for something that won’t blend in with the crowd. The new look, supposedly inspired by fighter jets, feature headlamps perched atop peaked fenders and an oversized version of Kia’s “tiger nose” grille. Slimmer front and rear pillars improve outward visibility, which is further aided by a standard rear parking camera. High-zoot models get quad-LED fog lamps, unique 3D LED ice cube tail lights, and polished 19-inch alloy wheels, which add plenty of visual flash. Like it or loathe it, there’s nothing similar to this little ‘ute on the market.
Underneath this new styling is a platform that’s shared with the Hyundai Tucson. Made from high-tensile steels, the new Sportage is 39 per cent stiffer than the outgoing model, while revamped suspension tuning has been fitted for a smoother ride. A new rack-mounted electric power steering system plus selectable drive modes with adjustable steering weight should make it a more engaging drive.
Though the Sportage is larger than the model it replaces, it’s still on the small side for its class. The plush, Sorento-inspired interior offers simple controls, with premium materials. Interior space is slightly increased, particularly in the rear quarters where there’s more rear legroom. Though the Sportage boasts a lower liftover height, standard 60/40 split folding seats, and a trunk that’s some 130 L larger than its predecessor, overall capacity still falls short of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
While the Sportage shares its platform with Hyundai’s Tucson, it uses an entirely different set of powertrains. The entry level EX and LX trims use a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that’s good for 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. The range-topping SX carries over last year’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, though total output dips from 260 hp to 237 hp, there’s 260 lb-ft of torque on tap from as little as 1,450 rpm. Both use a six-speed automatic transmission. A revamped version of the Magna-supplied Dynamax all-wheel drive system offers all-weather traction; it comes standard on the SX Turbo, and is optional on LX and EX trims. The 2.4-litre engine with front-wheel drive is rated at 10.4 L/100 km city, 8.0 L/100 km highway, which increases to 11.3 and 9.5 with all-wheel drive. The SX Turbo is rated at 11.9 and 10.2.
Sportages of the past were once considered budget options, but the latest model is priced in the heart of the compact crossover segment. Base trims start at just shy of $25,000, but include standard heated seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 5.0-inch display audio system with reverse camera, and air conditioning. Mid-grade trims add desirable features such as a heated steering wheel, wiper de-icer, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, a larger 7.0-inch display audio system with Android Auto, and a hands-free power liftgate. The tech-loaded SX Turbo, which is the only trim to feature autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and front parking sensors sells for $39,395.