By on July 8, 2016

2017 Kia Sportage Front 3:4, Image: Kia

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo AWD

2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged I4 (237 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 260 lbs-ft torque @ 1,450 rpm)

Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

20 city / 23 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

22.8 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price (LX FWD): $23,885 (U.S.) / $26,620 (Canada)

As Tested (SX Turbo AWD): $34,895 (U.S.) / $41,220 (Canada)

All prices include $895 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,825 destination fee and A/C tax (Canada).

The SUV’s rise to king of the automotive fiefdom is well documented. Seizing the chance for fat profits and sales glory, manufacturers took their existing product, added a couple of doors and ladled on the chrome. Buyers flocked to them like Brexiters lining up to change their vote. In time, thanks to Prius driving tofu-twinks wearing nuclear-free peace sandals, these brutes became as politically correct as a Monsanto home fracking kit and, with a few exceptions, have been resigned to the dustbin of history.

OEMs recognized the trend, slowly backing away from the behemoth machines. Modifying their smaller unibody offerings, tall two-box crossovers soon dotted the landscape, watering down the SUV formula until buyers were left with the automotive equivalent of Metamucil.

A few manufacturers dare to defy convention and style their crossover with a modicum of thought and originality. Nissan uses toenail clippings for headlights on its Juke. Dodge attempted to intimidate its way into driveways with the bloodthirsty Nitro. Now, Kia has restyled its popular Sportage and, well, you’re not going to lose it in the parking lot.

With its headlights positioned above and to either side of the grille, Kia has created a curious front end reminding me of Lord Voldemort or one of those faceless Doctor Who monsters that exist solely to terrify small children. Alert readers will notice the Ram ProMaster suffers a similar fate, except in plus size. The arachnid-like quad fog lamps, exclusive to the top-rung SX Turbo, add to the effect.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo engine compartment

Lesser LX and EX models make do with a 2.4-liter inline four churning out 181 horsepower. Our SX Turbo had a 2.0-liter turbocharged four under the hood, rated at 237 hp. Kia’s intent is to offer V6 power with four-banger economy. Unfortunately, I found little of either in this Coke-bottle-sized engine.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo drive mode button

See that Drive Mode button? Get familiar with it because you’ll be mashing it often, cycling through its three modes — Normal, Eco, and Sport — frequently out of frustration because the bloody thing resets itself to Normal upon startup when previously shut down in Sport. (Eco mode sticks when selected.) Throttle response is acceptable in Sport, lazy in Normal and moribund in Eco. The Drive Mode button shares real estate with buttons the average crossover buyer is never going to touch.

Fuel economy wasn’t dismal, but neither was it stellar. The Sportage averaged 22.8 miles per gallon (10.3L/100km) over the week, just slightly above its EPA city rating. I’m willing to chalk the middling fuel economy results up to an extremely green engine (the vehicle was delivered with less than 80 miles on the clock) and believe results will go up in time, but I’m not sure the throttle response will ever improve. Outside the Sport Mode, it didn’t even feel like 137 hp, let alone 100 more.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo front seats

Legroom up front was vast but, when equipped with a sunroof, headroom is at a premium. This 6’6” author had the driver’s seat in its lowest possible setting yet still had to recline the seatback into a quasi-gangsta lean in order for my dome not to brush the headliner. No such complaints were voiced by passengers of non-NBA stature. The EX Turbo featured heated/cooled leather seats pumping out climate controlled air with such vigour that I could actually feel the breeze through my shirt.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo centre stack

The touchscreen infotainment system is similar to that found in other members of the Sportage’s extended family, such as the Elantra Limited. This is a good thing. Quick to respond and decently easy to navigate, the graphics are clear and well thought out. The centre stack is logically sorted and features two radio knobs: one for volume and one for tuning. Thank you. Redundant buttons pepper the tilt/telescope steering wheel, which also hosts a pair of paddle shifters.

Back seat riders appreciated the heated seats and there was plenty of leg and elbow room for elementary aged kiddos. Sibling rivalry may erupt in your household, but the Sportage is spacious enough that Johnny and Janie will be able to go on family trips without poking their arms into the backseat’s Neutral Zone. Power points abound for charging up devices and a large set of climate vents poke their way towards the rear passengers, offering air conditioned relief on long journeys.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo cargo area

With a modest bump in cargo volume to 31 cubic feet for the 2017 model year, the Sportage has five extra cubic feet of space when compared to the old model. Well shaped and devoid of odd-shaped intrusions, the Kia may have less cargo room on paper than its rivals, but has plenty of space in practical terms. Our tester swallowed a budding entrepreneur’s lemonade stand and transported a wedding cake to the nuptials of an anxious couple. Kia has recalibrated the Sportage suspension this year and tuned it for more compliance on rough surfaces, a welcome revision given the pockmarked roads near my home approximate those of the Tirupur-Avinashi highway.

The rear hatch swings high and out of the way and features with an illuminated button with which to close the power liftgate. This may seem incredibly mundane, but I mention it because the button for this function on a $106,190 Cadillac Escalade Platinum I tested this winter was darker than a cow’s gut, leading to needless nighttime fumbling and frustration. If Kia can get it right, so should Cadillac.

Pricing in America for the Sportage ranges from $23,885 for the entry level LX up to $33,395 for the SX Turbo. All-wheel drive (like our tester) is a $1,500 hike on all models. I think the middle-rung EX is actually the best deal in the Sportage line up: $25,550 will net you leather seats, dual-zone climate control, and a raft of safety equipment.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo driver's side

The Sportage SX Turbo severely overlaps its big brother Sorento in terms of sticker price. The mid-level Sorento EX V6, in fact, is only $600 more dear than the most expensive Sportage when both are in front-wheel-drive guise. The larger model’s vast advantage in space and power will make the Sportage SX Turbo a hard sell for Kia sales staff.

Nevertheless, with the Sportage’s 2017 restyle, buyers looking to stand out in a sea of me-too small crossovers suddenly have another vehicle to consider. The naturally aspirated EX may represent the best value, but whichever trim buyers choose, they’re not going to lose it at the mall.

Selling Points: beaucoup amenities, commodious interior, wild looks.
Deal Breakers: lethargic acceleration, price creep on top models, wild looks.
The Bottom Line: not my favourite small crossover, but it will get wild looks.

Disclosure: Kia Canada provided the vehicle and insurance for this review.

[Images: Kia, © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars]

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70 Comments on “2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo Review – Jumping Off the Blandwagon...”


  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    “20 city / 23 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)”

    23 hwy/ 21 combined,, really? That’s pretty dismal if it’s not a typo.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Nope, it’s accurate. Things improve significantly if you can do without AWD though:

      http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=37267&id=37264

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      That’s worse than a Forester XT with similar power:
      23 city/28 highway/25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

      • 0 avatar
        MUSASHI66

        I average 19.8 with my 2016 XT, almost all of it city. I do keep it in “S” all the time though.

        I saw 34.5 on my wife’s XT while we were driving back from Creed to Denver, but it dropped to 31.2. I have a feeling that EPA is way too optimistic for city mileage and way to pessimistic for highway mileage for the XT.

        • 0 avatar
          anti121hero

          19.9 highway with my lifted 98 grand Cherokee with ye Olde straight six and actual 4×4 with solid axles at each end on the way to and back from rausch creek off road Park.. Yep won’t be getting a kia anytime soon

      • 0 avatar
        rehposolihp

        The Forester weighs 600 pounds less. Depending on equipment the Kia can be something like 4,000 lbs.

        That also explains the speediness or lack thereof.

    • 0 avatar

      yep.. even my 2 ton FWD Buick Rendezvous consistently knocks out 20mpg in town and has been getting 26 on the highway, its rated 18?/26 It’s still funny looking, but it looks less like a chipmunk than this thing.

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      As mentioned, it should increase once broken in. It only had 80 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Shiv91

      My ’06 Sportage had abysmal gas milage too, glad to see that’s improved in a decade.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Big reason for that is the parasitic AWD system.

    • 0 avatar
      ns156

      That fuel economy is a joke and a half. My 2008 Subaru Legacy GT (weight: 3400lbs) gets 18 city, 27 highway with 243 HP and that engine design is 10 years old.

      How does a 2016/2017 car with the same HP rating and AWD only squeak out 23 MPG highway? I had a rental Kia Sportage AWD (probably a 2013 or 2014) and it was also terrible on fuel economy. It was only the 180ish HP version, and it was maybe getting 25 MPG over a long highway journey. Pathetic.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Please don’t bury the lead. What is your favourite small crossover?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The one that isn’t ugly or a gas hog; wait…

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Can we say the AMC Eagle is small?

      If not, I nominate the Volvo 240 wagon, all things considered it may as well be a crossover (other than they’re actually decent at off roading).

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      One that is on fire on the side of the road.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Speaking of burying the lead, golly, there are a lot of metaphors here.

      I counted 10 in the first three paragraphs alone. Monsanto, behemoths, dustbin, Brexit – I was almost exhausted by the time I got to the part about the findings from an automotive road test. Which, by the way, turned out to be a pretty solid job. No need to be ashamed of the industry you’ve chosen.

      Although, it’d be nice to hear how it stopped, handled or steered. All I know now about its road manners is that it doesn’t accelerate very well. Does it feel any more intuitive than previous Kias?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        So many metaphors, I needed to buy an abacus to count them all. And all those illusions off topic, it was like I was on the express train stopping in every hamlet. And who wants to go off topic, when there are so many Trump cards to be played sticking to our own knitting factory of terror.

        I wanted to take the lead on spelling, but found I’d buried the lede.

      • 0 avatar
        roadscholar

        Ditto. This is the first review on TTAC that I couldn’t finish reading. Ridiculous.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    More than one preamble paragraph to turgidly rehash what everyone already knows, beset with clichéd, jalopniky derision of something unhip, and me no readee.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Nitro was a restyled Liberty, definitely an SUV by anyone’s definition IMO, even if it was lacking BOF construction. Solid rear axle, available part time transfer case, classic longitudinally mounted engine, etc.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Regarding this or the Sorento….

    The Sorento SX is ~$38K, and IMO is a behemoth. Where the real pressure on this thing comes from is from the other side of the dealership, in the form of the Santa Fe Sport. Better proportioned than the Sorento/full blown Santa Fe; a hair roomier inside (mainly in width), and for the kicker, both lighter AND cheaper equally equipped and with the same powertrain.

    So on paper the SFS is the clear 2 row winner in H/K’s lineup. The problem for me is while it checks all the boxes, its interior design is ghastly. I really hate that pinched hourglass theme and the cheap Coby radio silver trim & blue lighting they refuse to let go of. Even the previous Sportage had a more attractive interior design. But I will still give all 3 (last Sportage, new Sportage, current SFS) an in person look and drive. It will be my wife’s car so it’s really up to her.

    All that said I am kind of smitten by this… I think it’s gorgeous in and out. Gets out of its own way too…. C&D got it to 60 in the mid to high 6s. Plus I would probably get a tune for it that would fix the throttle response. No worries.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, I like the styling too. I also like the Forte SX hatchback’s styling too.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I actually find the Santa Fe Sport’s interior styling really, really nice. Maybe I was driving an uplevel trim. It’s a bit of a snooze to drive, and not for lack of power even with the base engine, but it’s an excellent choice and populates a class of one: neither small nor big, neither expensive nor cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I may be unfairly applying the chintzy interior quality of the Elantra rental I had a few years back onto this. I’m also looking at used SFSs, and the 14s chose that cheezy highlighter blue color for its interior lights. It looks like they only just fixed that with the current year model. I’d really have to see it as I don’t think I could live with that interior, as OCD and stupid as that might sound.

        Not really worried about the drive…. I doubt the Sportage is a ton more fun to drive either and I have a modified Civic + motorcycle for my thrills. I just want this thing to feel quasi premium/luxurious and be able to get out of its own way.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      I’d say that the Sorento is the better package than either the SF Sport or the LWB SF.

      Not only better sheetmetal, but a better interior and it’s 3rd row is usable (even for averaged sized adults in a pinch) w/o getting to the size of the typical midsize crossover.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Great piece, I gave it some wild looks.

  • avatar
    skitter

    Spot five differences between this and a Porsche Macan. Most people can’t. I, for one, can’t tell the difference between Whizzo Butter and this dead crab. Perhaps the Hyundai sibling can ape the Evoque, and together they can devour the CUV market.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Started out good. I enjoyed the opening, but the rest was pretty skimpy with limited information. No mention of the NVH, build quality, chassis, ride, steering, or handling. Minimal information on the infotainment. How’s the stereo sound quality? How does it stack up to the competition? How easy is the load in height? Can this thing tow at all, even something small like jet skis or a kayak? How’s visibility?

    Oh, and agree with above posters. That MPG is atrocious.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Very fun to read, but Alex Dykes this guy is not.

      Reviewers seem to like the 1.6T in the Sonata, and apparently it’s now available in the Tucson (with a comically bold badge advertising 1.6 liters of monster power)–is it available in the Sportage too? If so, maybe the Sportage will be like the Escape, where the 1.6T FWD is the best choice overall.

      The 2.0T with AWD gets atrocious MPG in the Escape, just as the 2.0T does in the Sportage. And that’s with my mother in law driving the Escape like there’s a very fragile egg under the accelerator.

      • 0 avatar
        Liger

        I just drove my 2013 2.0 Escape Titanium from DC and KC and back. Over the 2500 miles in 1 week I averaged 25.5 mpg running a mix of 87 and 93 octane. Lots of highway miles at 80 MPH, lots of stop and go, and even through some big hills in West Virginia. I treat the accelerator like a light switch, so pretty good mpg I thought. I have 45,000 trouble free miles on it too.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        The 1.6T is not available on the Sportage. And the engine badge isn’t that “bold”, it says 1.6T—in a font that’s no larger than the word Tucson.

        2,100 miles over the past week in a `16 1.6T AWD Tucson and averaged 29.2 by hand calculation. 3 people, a dog and a full cargo area of stuff with the A/C running the entire time. Trip computer said 29.9 with average speed of 67 MPH. (better than EPA 28 highway)

  • avatar
    Dan R

    It stands out because it is ugly.
    Styling is juvenile and will age rapidly.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Gross

  • avatar
    bertvl

    As mentioned by another commenter above, what about the driving experience – in particular the ride and handling? This is supposed to be a sportier crossover but the review mentions absolutely nothing other than a bit about throttle response.

    My experience of Korean cars has not been stellar when it comes to handling. They might look good but there always seems to be issues with the suspension in particular. The previous-model Elantra looked great but used to have dodgy, bouncy rear suspension. The Kia Rio is the best-looking subcompact, but you risk spearing off the road from bump-steer if you so much as run over an amoeba.

    Is the Sportage Turbo the same, or have they finally found someone who can make a vehicle that can handle more than highway trips to the mall?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Its an ugly CuV thing, take whatever economy car its based on, make thevride a little better, and make the handling worse.

      “Sportier CUV” is just marketing.

    • 0 avatar
      Shiv91

      Yep, can attest. Had an ’01 Sonata, an ’06 Sportage, and an ’08 Sonata. All three had holy body roll of peace, make my Buick Lacrosse feel nimble in comparison.

  • avatar
    shaker

    What hath the Juke wrought?

    Does it still have the previous Sportage’s stupid turn signals that only blink in the bumper-height lamps?

    That never made sense to me.

    Edit: I can see why the mfr’s are railing against the CAFE standards – these gas hogs really rake in the cash.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    If it was my money, and I was shopping this market, the Hyundai Tucson would be high on the list. However I did pass on the last gen Tucson and went with the SantaFe Sport since it was a better overall value:)

  • avatar
    energetik9

    The very first thing I thought of when I saw the picture was a little kid trying too hard to grin for a photo, with his jaw forward, and showing all his teeth.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    You shouldn’t knock Metamucil, it keeps you regular. Those Metamucil-like cars also serve a purpose, being just non-descript enough not to get stolen. You don’t see bank robbers using flashy getaway cars, do you?

    The average buyer might not be a bank robber, but when a driver tends to drift a couple dozen mph over the speed limit, anonymity is your friend. The older styling of this car did that, but the improvements cited make the styling change worth the effort. Too bad styling and side/rear visibility can’t seem to co-exist.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    I appreciated the L/100km fuel economy numbers in parentheses. Maybe that’ll become a TTAC standard going forward?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      But we don’t buy gas in litres and the only time we hear kilometres is watching a WW2 movie, so why should it be a TTAC standard?

      • 0 avatar
        bertvl

        >> “But we don’t buy gas in litres and the only time we hear kilometres is watching a WW2 movie, so why should it be a TTAC standard?”

        Because this was (presumably) a Canadian author testing a Canadian vehicle in Canada for a Canadian-owned website run by a Canadian editor and Canadian staff. And we in Canada use litres per 100km.

        What, you thought this was an American website?! ;)

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    Is the anvil-like wall of a front end there for “pedestrian safety”?
    It looks about as safe as a fly swat would look to a fly.
    The body is so round that if it were to flip on its side in an accident, it would roll like a soccer ball.
    Last of all, is that a genuine skid plate, or just silvery plastic under the radiator?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It’s like the blunt-faced big pickups. The grille is breakaway plastic so when a pedestrian is hit, he’s partly embedded in the front of the vehicle, saving him from injuries incurred in flying over the hood or falling under the wheels. The screaming of the pedestrian, apparently coming from the engine compartment, will alert the driver that something is wrong and induce him to pull over and check the source.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    “Buyers flocked to them like Brexiters lining up to change their vote.”

    ***Hits snout with newspaper***

    We don’t sneak politics into auto reviews. We do that outside. Bad reviewer! Bad!

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    Looks sorta remind me of the 2nd-gen Cayenne. I do think these look better in person.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    It’s trying to look like the Porsche

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    For those of us who are old enough to remember when the first generation Sportage (1993 to 2004) was new: “You’ve come a long way, Baby.”

    Is this truly terrible? No. Is it truly great? No.

    But honestly it sounds like if “Sport” mode was the default mode for the vehicle many of the reviewers quibbles would have gone away.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      The previous model was much more agile both in steering and suspension. Many viewed this as “twitchy”. This has lost that tall sports car feeling. It’s a shame.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    My 14-year-old Mazda gets the same MPG. And it has windows behind the doors.

    The FWD ’08 my mother had (which went to my sister) had the 2.0 and was good for 26 MPG (unless you drove it like my sister).

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      And your 14 year old Mazda would fail miserably at every single crash test that’s out there. I expect this, like the Tucson, to pass the small overlap test on the passenger side. (As the Tucson was the only small crossover to provide protection on both sides)

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        I wouldn’t say “miserably” (it got four stars at the time), but yes, it probably doesn’t do so hot. I never explicitly said my car was better overall than this new Sportage–you assumed that implication.

  • avatar
    Shiv91

    Underpowered and crappy gas milage, yep sounds like your typical HyunKia.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      How is it underpowered?

      C&D got a 6.9s 0-60 time with the T4.

      Slow and underpowered would be the T4 Escape with 179 HP and a 9.2s 0-60 time.

      The V6 equipped Cherokee Trailhawk (which has a 9-spd AT) was slower than the T4 Sportage with a 7.2s time.

      Anyhow, sales of both the Sportage and Tucson are up big as increased supply has been allocated for the US market.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Reviews that don’t mention a vehicle’s actual ride and handling have no place on an automotive website. Save those for GQ or Esquire…

  • avatar
    probert

    I fly and ride in the west/southwest most years and take cars about 6k mies on varied roads and terrain. I have driven both this (this year) and the prior model through storms, in the sand, dirt, through washes, and on highways. To me, the prior model was a better car in most ways that matter.

    The prior model was agile with a stiffer suspension. The steering was more direct, and the engine shifted with purpose. It seems to the US driver, this translated to twitchy and too stiff, and this iteration is dumbed down. This model (4wd) felt heavy and shifting was sluggish. I had to revert to manual shift in order to get into, and hold the gear I wanted. Particularly on mountain roads.

    The steering difference could be partly due to the tire/wheel combo. The earlier model had larger wheels with lower sidewall tires. But that isn’t the whole story. This is a softer car, with more understeer. Perhaps this lack of visceral response will be viewed as “more refined”. Screw that.

    One thing to note – the headlights on this car – for all the design drama – are well below par. Also, the dash light shows “headlight” when only the parking lights are on and dim. Another turn brings up 2 lights, and now the headlights are on. My bad maybe – but I was almost taken out by a mis-timed truck passing in my lane on a long straight desert road.

    The lovely styling, and steep windshield rake cause some issues. The A pillars on both are large, and intrusive on sharp left turns. As a motorcycle rider, I’m trained to look ahead to where I want to go. Bam – there’s the pillars. Not a deal breaker but style has its price. The other price is dash reflections. I use a cheap black towel on the dash top – otherwise – in the desert – the reflections are too much.

    One place both cars shine is off-road. It has locking diffs and hill descent functions. Nothing held me back from whoops , uphill sand and washes. In the mohave, I only turned around when the trail became littered with volcanic rocks which I felt might shred the tires. In Death valley, I took tough roads that were otherwise populated by true desert sleds. I couldn’t keep up regarding speed, but I traversed the same tough road.

    I like these cars – I think they look great, and they get the job done. I’d take the prior model though – it was a real joy.


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