BY RON SESSIONS, Contributor Even though FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)…
Last year was a big year for the Kia brand, with 625,000 units sold and the company’s six millionth vehicle sale in the U.S. market. Since its introduction in 1995, more than 700,000 Kia Sportages have been purchased, with the third generation seeing the most success. And after experiencing the new-for-2017 Kia Sportage, we have a feeling those sales figures are going to see an uptick once again.
In years past, the Sportage could have been viewed as the forgotten little brother to the sportier, better-looking Sorento SUV. But not now. Kia has given its fourth-generation Sportage a fresh look that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
“A lot of the vehicles started looking the same,” said Orth Hedrick, VP of Product Planning, of compact crossovers, currently both the biggest and fastest-growing segment in the U.S. car market.
Kia took advantage of the homogenous CUV lineup and decided to give the 2017 Sportage a face that’s more unique. The Sportage’s headlights have been removed from the grille and shifted upward into the fender line — a design first for the Kia brand, whose vehicles’ typically have a unified nose where the headlights meet the grille and curve upward.
New for 2017
Available at dealerships now, the 2017 Kia Sportage comes with the option of FWD or AWD drivetrains. The Dynamax™ intelligent all-wheel-drive system is available on all trim levels and has a 50/50 locking center differential. The AWD models have a higher stance and unique front approach to help with ground clearance if and when the driver puts this feature to good use.
The overhauled Sportage SX Turbo is the first vehicle sporting Kia’s UVO3 infotainment system featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (available in April). Harmon Kardon has blessed this cute ute with a 320-watt stereo with Clari-Fi™ sound restorative technology that targets compressed digital music files and restores them to their original studio sound quality for an enhanced listening experience.
Don’t worry, we tested out the jams on our favorite 90’s on 9 SiriusXM satellite radio station. We also got a little inspired by the Bee Gees with our drive buddy, Jean Jennings of Jean Knows Cars. Watch that video here. If nothing else, it’s an entertaining 90 seconds!
Addressing a common flaw in crossovers with high beltlines, Kia lowered the side-view mirrors to increase frontward visibility around the A-pillars. This move, combined with a larger rear window, thinner C-pillars, and a massive panoramic sunroof (4 inches bigger than the already generous sunroof on the outgoing model), make the Sportage feel incredibly spacious inside.
Kia provided only the top-of-the-line SX Turbo model for us to drive in San Diego; hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to experience the more entry-level trims once the Sportage is available in the press fleet later this year. Still, the SX Turbo remains quite competitive at a base MSRP of $32,500 for the FWD.
Sportage gets more variety with new packages
Kia offers several packages that can be applied to the LX and EX model trims; the SX will already encompass the max features available on the lower models. Ranging from an additional $900 to $1,900, the three packages are: the Cool and Connected, Popular, and Premium. Each features a different variety of desireable features, such as dual-zone climate control, 10-way adjustable power seats, or that mega sunroof. If you really want to deck out the EX, then you can go for the Technology Package, which requires the Premium Package, for another $2,800. But that would bring your EX to roughly 31,700, and for a few more dollars, you can get into the SX and have more flexibility on interior options.
Safety tech features from Kia’s upper-end models like the K900 and Sorento make their way down to the new Sportage as well. Buyers of the SX will get several driver assist programs (EX buyers can opt-in for these):
- Forward Collision Warning System and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection — detects a potential collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian and helps bring the Sportage to a stop
- Lane Departure Warning System — gives an audible warning when it detects the driver migrating out of the current lane without using a turn signal
- Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist — monitors cars up to 230 feet behind the Sportage and provides a visual warning in the appropriate door mirror when another car enters a blind spot
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert — warns the driver if other cars are passing behind the Sportage while in reverse
- Front & Rear Parking Assist — uses sonar sensors in the bumpers to warn the driver when nearing other vehicles or objects
- Bi-HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Light and High Beam Assist technology
In true Kia fashion, this crossover is an amazing value proposition for the mass of young professionals, newlyweds, and young families searching for a vehicle that fits their current life stage.
But how’s it drive?
Driving dynamics have drastically improved thanks to a body made of 51 percent high-strength steel and 113 yards of structural adhesives that replace the traditional method of spot-welding the frame for added strength.
The 2017 Kia Sportage is both quiet and confident on the road. We enjoyed both drivetrains, with a slight preference for the front-wheel-drive due to its lower stance and ability to take the mountain roads we traversed a bit tighter, with minimal body roll. The difference wouldn’t likely be noticeable on regular streets or in more generic driving conditions, so this is hardly worth mentioning.
We typically love putting vehicles in Sport Mode; however, we found the 2.0L Turbo gas direct injection engine didn’t need the extra boost. The tuning of the Sport Mode on this particular model came across as a bit sensitive upon our pressing the throttle. This is an aspect we’d have to evaluate more closely with more time inside the vehicle.
Overall, there’s no doubt the Sportage is impressively quiet on the inside at highway speeds. The interior is comfortable and supportive, with entertainment, buttons and other controls easily accessible to the driver. Driving position is also improved thanks to updates made to the steering system of the incoming model.
Who’s buying this car?
Kia’s targeting CUV buyers, which essentially covers every demographic out there. The crossover utility market is currently both the largest and fastest-growing segment in the U.S. The makeup of your typical Sportage buyer are likely those in their early 30’s, a 50/50 male to female buyer mix, and college-educated professionals. Essentially, this is the car for young singles and marrieds before they move up to the three-row Sorento.
Kia continues to battle its prior reputation for making “cheap” vehicles that don’t last. But that stigma is quickly vanishing thanks to the success of the brand and its successful vehicles the last five to ten years. We think that with this attractive new compact crossover, Kia has a real winner for consumers to cross-shop with the popular Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Edge.
Bottom line: the 2017 Kia Sportage is easy. It’s an affordable crossover that doesn’t require any sacrifice of the creature comforts, technology and safety features you’ve come to appreciate and expect in a much higher-priced vehicle. The Sportage has plenty of space for both people and their cargo — whether that’s suitcases, pets or kids. The new Sportage provides a comfortable ride with better-than-expected interior finishes for a price that’s tough to beat.
Read more about the 2017 Kia Sportage at kiamedia.com.