2017 Kia Sportage: Competitors, be warned–it’s better than good

23 Apr 2017 | 144 views | No Comment
  By Don Hammonds   Kia's new 2017 Sportage, redesigned for this year, puts everyone competing in its market niche that the Korean brand means business. [caption id="attachment_8888" align="alignnone" width="612"] 2017 Sportage SX Turbo[/caption] The Sportage, first of all, outdoes just about everybody in the looks department, and the interior is plenty comfortable, non-threatening, and quite easy to get used to as you own it. [caption id="attachment_8887" align="alignnone" width="612"] 2017 Sportage SX Turbo[/caption] What's so great about the Sportage? Just about everything, really. Start with the little stuff. We live the little warning message that tell you that you need to adjust the steering wheel alignment before you try to leave your parking space. We love the little chime that tells you when you have shifted into reverse. We live the huge lettering used on the dash that tells you what gear you are in. We love the large and numbered steps the car uses to help you get your BlueTooth connected. And we think the nice home scuff plate at the lip of the cargo floor is cool too. And being a bit shorter than some of its competitors, the Sportage is a pure blast to drive in urban traffic.  It moves around congestion with ease, it has very sporty, almost powerful acceleration, and parking it is a snap.  It handles beautifully, and corners like a champ.  It just has that "one with the car" feeling--you know you are in command, and you can get around with confidence. As you might expect the Kia Sportage comes quite nicely equipped. The LX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic headlights, rear privacy-tinted windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear climate vents, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a USB port, an auxiliary input jack and satellite radio. The EX upgrades to 18-inch wheels, foglights, heated mirrors, roof rails, a gloss-black grille, a windshield-wiper de-icer, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rear USB charging port and a 7-inch touchscreen with the latest version of Kia's Uvo infotainment system (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). The SX Turbo boasts 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, automatic high beams, LED foglights and taillights, power-folding mirrors with LED turn signals, a sport-tuned suspension, a hands-free power tailgate, a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters, an upgraded driver information display, an eight-way power passenger seat,ventilated front seats, dashboard accent stitching, gloss-black interior accents, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a navigation system and an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. If you buy a lower level model, you can add some of the standard features found on the more expensive Sportage as  option. For the LX, the Popular package adds the roof rails, heated mirrors, windshield-wiper de-icer, power driver seat, heated front seats and illuminated vanity mirrors, while the Cool and Connected package throws in the 7-inch touchscreen with UVO and the automatic climate control. For the EX, the Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED interior lighting and heated steering wheel (though this wheel lacks the SX Turbo's flat-bottom design and shift paddles), while the Technology package tacks on the automatic high beams, hands-free power tailgate, ventilated front seats, power passenger seat, 8-inch touchscreen and Harman Kardon audio system. Safety equipment includes dual front advanced airbags, rear view camera--a boon because visibility is somewhat tough from the rear, front seat mounted side airbags, antilock brakes, full length side curtain airbags traction control and electronic stability control, downhill brake and hill start assist control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. SX Turbo additionally includes a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and front and rear parking sensors. These items are optional on the Sportage EX, with the blind-spot monitor/cross-traffic alert included in the Premium package and the other items included in the Technology package. Kia's Uvo telematics suite, standard on the EX and SX Turbo trims (and optional on LX), includes emergency and roadside assistance, stolen vehicle tracking, geo-fencing and speed tracking (allowing parents to set limits for teen drivers) and other smartphone-enabled features accessible via the Uvo app. Gas mileage was 21 miles per gallon overall, 20 in the city and 23 on the highway.  It uses 4.8 gallons of gas per 100 miles, and you spend $1,750 more in gas costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle.  It has an annual fuel cost of $1,750 and costs $7,000 over five years for gasoline. Figures are based on driving 15,000 miles a year at a cost of $2.45 a gallon gasoline. Our test car was a lavishly equipped SX equipped with a 2.0  liter turbocharged, 181 horsepower, direct fuel injection four cylinder engine and a six speed automatic transmission. It had a base price of $34,000, and had all wheel drive with a locking center differential.  We hasten to add that the SX with a turbocharged engine is at the very top of the Sportage lineup.  The other versions cost a lot less, and still are very attractive buys. Issues? Well, the first one is that the fuel economy figures we mentioned above are only fair compared to competitors like the Honda CR-V which gets five more miles to the gallon.  This needs to be addressed quickly.  Another issue i that you don't get as much room for cargo in the Sportage which has  60.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. Again, compare that to one of the class leaders, the Toyota RAV4. It offers  73.3 cubes and the CR-V offers 70.9. But the biggest challenge for the Sportage is that consumers still have a tinge of reluctance to buy a Kia--out of ignorance, as far as we are concerned. Kia is now ranked as one of the best brands around for reliability. And the other part of the issue is heritage, familiarity and charisma are currently favoring more familiar brands like Toyota and Honda. But be warned, competitors.  Kia's Sportage is by far your biggest competitors. It's way prettier, lavishly equipped and a lot more fun to drive than its peers at other brands.  Kia's got you in its crosshairs, and you will soon find yourself scrapping for every buyer with a very formidable competitor--the Sportage.    

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