This more-for-your-money darling dazzles, too.
Super smart because the Sportage, newly redesigned for the 2017 model year and rolling in to dealerships very soon, was designed by one of the top automotive designers in the world, is filed with a great offering of top technology and is pretty well priced, starting at $22,000 and topping out at $34,000. Kia wants to win your heart over, too.
A designer car? Um, yeah.
So let’s start with the Sportage’s looks. A few years ago Kia hired away Peter Schreyer from Audi and charged him with transforming the look and feel of the Korean carmaker’s lineup. Sportage, like all Kia’s models, has become sleeker, more toned and elegant, taking on a modern and, well, expensive look. From the front grille, ‘ice cube’ fog lights and bumpers, to the swooping roof lines and side panels that seem to stretch out over the wheels like skin over muscle, Sportage looks much more athletic and rugged than the boxy SUVs of the past.
Then, Kia filled their cars with premium details like actual stitching on the dashboard, heated and cooled seats, and panoramic sun roofs. Just so you feel like, yeah, this feels good.
Top technology features give the Sportage a sophisticated feel. And, there’s a lot of it. Standard in all three model levels are:
- Drive mode select (normal, sport and eco) with paddle shifters
- Touchscreen navigation and entertainment
- Apple Car Play and Android Auto phone connectivity (as an option)
- Telescoping tilting steering wheel
- Traction control, electronic stability control, hill start assist, downhill brake control
The mid level EX (optional) and SX (standard) models also have:
- Blind spot monitors
- Cross-traffic detectors that alert you if someone or something is about to cross behind you
- Automatic emergency braking system that is always looking 240 feet ahead to sense if danger is possible
- Park assist that helps you to sense what is ahead or behind you when parking
- Automatic high beam lights that adjust when traffic or pedestrians are in your path
Fun to drive and comfortable for back seat passengers
I got to drive the Kia through some busy highways and winding, hilly roads in Southern California. I also had the chance to ride in the back seat and navigate from the passenger’s seat. All three were comfortable and fun.
Behind the wheel, the Sportage was powerful enough to be fun to drive and it didn’t let a curvy road slow me down too much. This is largely due to the increase in the use of high strength steel, which makes the Sportage stronger and more stable on the road, and an engine that has more power (without sacrificing MPG). I never felt like the Sportage couldn’t merge onto the highway or keep up our speed around curves or over hills.
I also appreciated that being a crossover (higher off the ground) it’s easy to see; you have a good view of the road ahead and also, with the wide rear windows, a panoramic sunroof and slimmer pillars (the posts that hold up the roof) due to the use of high strength steel, the Sportage has better visibility out the back windows. Which, despite all the technology–blind spot monitors, rear view camera, etc– that old-school turn-your-head-to-see-what’s-behind-you tactic might be the one that keeps you safest on the road.
All wheel drive versus front wheel drive: Learning the difference
The Sportage is offered in both front wheel drive and all wheel drive. I got to drive both and on a dry, sunny day in California, and under those conditions it’s hard to tell the difference. But if you ever drive in snow, ice, off road or on muddy roads, you know: it makes all the difference in the world.
Kia executives said that customers in warm climates still like front wheel drive crossovers because they cost less (about $1500 less). But buyer beware: If you ever think you’ll need good traction control and ability in challenging conditions, don’t skimp. I sadly watched a neighbor struggle to get his Volvo out of my snow-covered driveway one day – he barely made it out. He clearly thought he had the capability because he bought a Volvo; what he didn’t realize was the he’d need all wheel drive to have real capability in the snow.
But AWD is actually a good investment
Kia product planner Dan Sherman told me that AWD vehicles get a higher price at resale. I look at it this way: with a $1,000 insurance deductible, I’ve already paid for AWD by not having an accident.
Kia’s AWD models are enhanced by the use of a system called Dynamax which anticipates road conditions and adapts, shifting power and traction where it’s needed. When the system isn’t needed, it uses front wheel drive, saving you fuel.
Why you should go all the way
So, essentially, in the Sportage you can have just its good looks, or you can opt for all the options on the EX, which is essentially the SX without the turbo engine, and get all the goodies. Like the Harman sound system with Clari-Fi, a system that decompresses compressed audio signals (such as MP3, streamed music or satellite radio), giving your music a richer, fuller and more fulfilling sound. We tried it out:
Then, there’s the UVO app suite which gives you—for free!— a whole set of apps including emergency response, car diagnostics and Apple Car Play or Android Auto, all loaded to to your smart phone and accessible on the Sportage’s touch screen.
You had me at leather interior
And, then there’s the real reason for going high end – leather seating. The seats (and the quality of the leather) in the Kia were comfortable and felt like substantial quality. I could (and did) sit in them all day. The models we tested out had perforated seats which are necessary for cooled seats (they are heated, too). If you really are a warm climate girl and can’t possibly think about ice and snow, these seats are for you.
And if there’s anything that will steal your heart, it’s a pretty car that is just as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.
Disclosure: Kia provided my travel and accommodations to test drive the 2017 Sportage; all opinions are strictly my own.