It may be the early months of 2016, but Kia has introduced the 2017 Sportage to the North American market - and we have test driven it for two weeks.
This is the fourth-generation Sportage and available in Sportage LX, EX, and SX Turbo trim levels. For the record, Sportage is Kia's longest-running nameplate.
The 2017 Sportage has a new look, engine and upgrades. It is a sportier look with wheels pushed out to the extremity of creased fenders, a sculpted look on the sides, a more sharply angled roof (ala the Kia Soul) leading to a liftgate spoiler and space-age front lamps.
Normally, new model introductions are done in August, September or October of the current model year. Kia decided to jump the gun and get 2017 underway in the early months of 2016.
A two-row, five-seat compact crossover, the Sportage has been lengthened by 1.6 inches (176.4 inches in 2017) creating a bit more leg and body room for passengers in the second row. The 2017 crossover rides on a wheelbase of 105.2 inches, which is 1.2 inches more than the 2016 model.
The $22,990 LX and $25,500 EX models get a 2.4-liter, 181-horsepower gasoline engine. The top-of-the-line $32,500 SX Turbo gets the turbocharged 2-liter, 240-horsepower engine. Unleaded gasoline can be pumped into the 16.4-gallon fuel tanks.
All engines are mated with six-speed electronically controlled Sportmatic automatic transmissions, and buyers have a choice between front-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations. Either set-up permits the Sportage to tow up to 1,650 pounds, or 2,000 pounds when equipped with the available trailer brakes.
As in past years, fuel economy is a shortcoming in the Sportage. A recently tested 3,997-pound SX with the turbo engine barely reached an average of 20 miles per gallon of fuel usage. The average was 20.7 mpg, which is not great, but in defense of the SX, that average was with two or three adults in the vehicle in mostly suburban driving. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the SX at 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 21 combined.
If fuel economy is a negative, so is storage capacity. Available cargo volume behind the second row is measured at 30.7 cubic feet, and when the 60/40 split-folding rear seat is down, Sportage can haul up to 60.1 cubic feet of cargo.
Front seats are bolstered with great back support.
All-wheel-drive with a locking differential is an option on the front-wheel-drive LX and EX models, but is standard on the SX. The AWD system automatically routes power to the wheel with the most traction. When conditions are questionable, engine power is split evenly between the front and rear drive shafts. The system also provides drivers added stability via a torque cornering control, which is activated when yaw and steering sensors detect unwanted understeer.
All models have four power windows (express), power heated and foldable exterior mirrors, power door locks, rear wiper and defroster, air conditioning with rear vents, remote keyless entry, rear camera system and Bluetooth hands-free calling. But the SX gets a lot more.
Besides the turbo engine, SX upgrades include a power liftgate, power panoramic sunroof, 19-inch instead of 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, bi-Xenon headlamps replacing halogens, automatic dimming rearview mirror, flat-bottom steering wheel, leather seats, power heated and ventilated front seats, pushbutton start, LED daytime running lights, fog and taillights, roof rails and an upgrade sound system with eight and not six speakers. It is a harmon-kardon eight-speaker, 320-watt sound system for AM, FM and satellite radio, auxiliary audio input and surround sound, USB connection and navigation system with voice activation.
The 2017 Sportage is the first Kia to offer UVO3 that contains 14 telematics services, 8 GB of music storage, access to onscreen apps and Wi-Fi tethering capability - all free of charge. UVO is Kia's information system featuring advanced voice recognition technology utilizing the voice to help make hands-free calls and manage an owner's music library, is all free of charge on the three Sportage models. The system couples with telematics for a free smartphone app, and UVO also includes diagnostics capabilities and a rear camera display. Besides UVO, Kia's seven- or eight-inch color touchscreen infotainment system includes CarPlay and Android Auto.
SiriusXM satellite radio offers access to traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores, stock information and movie times.
Standard safety features are a four-wheel antilock braking system, traction and stability controls, airbags in front and sides and overhead for two rows, blind spot detection and tire pressure monitoring systems and the rear camera display.
The SX gets a bit more, such as lane departure and forward collision warning systems, front and rear park assist, emergency braking and pedestrian detection.
During the test weeks, the Sportage was quiet inside the cabin indicating good insulation in front, overhead, beneath the floor and on the sides. Compared to the 2016 Sportage, the 2017 model has thicker soundproofing materials.
It rode well with no pitch or undue swaying. The multi-link rear suspension now has dual lower arms. In front, the suspension relies on struts. The SX model receives more firm damper settings for the shock absorbers.
With the leg room and seat comfort, this vehicle is ideal for long trips.
Warranty coverage is five years or 60,000 miles with roadside assistance, and 10 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain.
For information, visit www.kia.com.
Kia Motors America is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corp. based in Seoul, South Korea.
Vehicle: SX all-wheel-drive model of 2017 Kia Sportage
Type: four-door, five-passenger compact crossover
Engine: 2-liter, 240-horsepower, turbocharged inline four-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed shiftable automatic
Towing: 2,000 pounds
Fuel: regular unleaded
Fuel tank: 16.4 gallons
Weight: 3,997 pounds
Cargo: 60.1 cubic feet maximum, 30.7 cubic feet behind upright second row
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 176.4 inches
Width: 73 inches
Height: 65.2 inches
Ground clearance: 6.8 inches
Leg room: 41.5 inches front, 38.2 inches rear
Warranty: five years or 60,000 miles including roadside assistance, 10 years or 100,000 miles powertrain