Hello, Cutie: First look at the 2017 Kia Sportage

A Girls Guide To Cars | Hello, Cutie: First Look At The 2017 Kia Sportage - Sbckiasportage

This more-for-your-money darling dazzles, too.

Oh, Kia. You steal my heart every time. First, it’s the cute Soul. Then it’s the K900 that makes me feel like a rock star. Now it’s the Sportage that makes me feel super smart. 

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.

2017 Kia Sportage

The rear end of the 2017 Kia Sportage shows off a more muscular and sculptured look. Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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.

2017 Kia Sportage

The command center of the 2017 Kia Sportage is designed to have all necessary functions at your fingertips. Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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
2017 Kia Sportage

The driver’s seat in the 2017 Sportage SX; notice the metal pedals! Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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

2017 Kia Sportage

The roomy back seat; I rode in back for a while and found it to be very comfy. I also loved the leather throughout and would only choose this option. Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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.

2017 Kia Sportage

My drive partners for the day Alice Chase and Dan Sherman, product planner for the Kia Sportage; notice the oversized sunroof (Dan was quite proud of this feature). Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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

2017 Kia Sportage

The steering wheel is a “D” shape, which is flat at the bottom, making it more comfortable for driving. Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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.

2017 Kia Sportage

Pricing for the 2017 Kia Sportage’s three model levels in AWD ad FWD; Photo: Scotty Reiss

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

2017 Kia Sportage

The Pacific Blue was my favorite color in the 2017 lineup; notice the ‘ice cube’ fog lights that are actually a cluster of four lights and the more square, aggressive front end. Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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

2017 Kia Sportage

There’s that luscious sunroof again; we found this cute little mission church and had to stop and take a photo.  Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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:

2017 Kia Sportage

Roadside attractions on our drive included a statue of Sasquatch. Photo by Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

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.

2017 Kia Sportage

The Monroney for the 2017 Kia Sportage

Disclosure: Kia provided my travel and accommodations to test drive the 2017 Sportage; all opinions are strictly my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss