Like so many compact sport utility vehicles (SUVs), Kia’s Sportage has grown since it was first introduced in 1993. There have been several generations of Sportage; today’s is the fourth iteration of this SUV. The 2017 Kia Sportage SX turbo front-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle is a bit larger in every dimension than Gen Three, but certainly hasn’t lost its verve and performance capabilities.
This is a handsome vehicle, with a protruding nose punctuated by a series of LED light enclosures and a black, menacing grille. Dressed in a luscious hyper red with a black leather interior, the latest Sportage SX has integrated good looks to match its capabilities over the road. With its brightwork accents showing flowing lines and barely a flat surface, the Sportage looks good from its purposeful front to its dual-pipe-clad rear.
The 2017 Kia Sportage SX turbo in FWD trim came to stay in Indianapolis, where I was working the 101st Indy 500. From the first I liked it, enjoying the running gear and the exceptional infotainment gear inside the cabin. I like the looks, I like the fact that this is a fast and quick, nearly stealthy machine and I like its stability both on- and off-road. And I like being able to instantly attain and use the information I need to take the Sportage wherever it’s needed.
All Kia Sportages come with a 2-liter inline, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that, in SX FWD trim makes 240 horsepower at 6,000 rpm along with 260 lb-ft of torque at a usable 1,350 rpm. Redline comes at 6,500 rpm. A paddle-shiftable 6-speed automatic transmission with excellent gearing complements the engine and, with compliant and well-damped strut/multi-link suspension, precise rack and pinion power-assisted steering and excellent braking, this vehicle is definitely a sleeper. And a keeper. Triple power modes of Eco, Normal and Sport allow a driver to satisfy any need.
Economy for the 2017 Kia Sportage SX turbo FWD turned out to be better than expected from the 16.4-gallon tank. While rated at 21/26/23 mpg, it was rare that mileage over this trip was less than 26, hedging more toward the 29-30mpg range – and using regular unleaded. Even when using the Kia’s sport mode, mileage didn’t suffer and fun soared, which is why this mode got primary usage. Power is excellent in normal and sport modes; I stayed away from Eco because economy for this 3,666-pound car was just fine without it. Unsprung weight is reduced by the 19-inch painted and polished, aesthetically pleasing alloy rims that carry 245/45R tires.
A solid thunk of the driver’s door as it closes alludes to strength in this SUV and everything about the interior feels substantial. Both driver and passenger have power seating – driver gets lumbar changes – and seats offer both comfort and support with all of their adjustments. All gauges are easy to read and Kia does include a temperature gauge for the Kia Sportage SX. A central, third gauge in the enclosure gives trip information, odometer readings and acknowledges every move a driver makes, such as turning on lights, changing cruise settings and using wipers.
The tactile leather steering wheel has phone and audio settings on the left and trip information, along with cruise control activation to the right. The cruise control must be reactivated with each drive, but does not have radar controls (something I detest). One can ratchet speeds up and down on the steering wheel and make adjustments to the cruise app on the fly, a nice feature. Seats are heated and cooled and the steering wheel can be heated, which is handy in Indianapolis in May, when weather fluctuations regularly occur.
Rear seat occupants are offered air flow, a USB and 12-volt access for their electronics. There are cup holders in all four doors and in the pull-down armrest; a 60/40 fold to the rear seats increases overall cargo space from 30.7 cubic feet to a massive 60.1 cubes when the rear seats are down – and flat. That last made the 2017 Kia Sportage SX turbo FWD into a most accommodating sleeper the night before the 500.
As I was staying with friends nearly 40 minutes from the track during my Indianapolis visit, I decided to stay in the Sportage Motel Saturday night. I grabbed my blanket and pillow from their home, set up the boudoir before enjoying some raucous night life on Georgetown Road next to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, climbed back in and locked the doors, turned off my hearing aids and slept until waking up naturally before the lot became full. It was a comfortable stay as the seats remained flat for optimal usage.
Just as Kia spent a good deal of energy upgrading the exterior, running gear, underpinnings and the luscious interior of this soft-plastics-imbued vehicle, so did they pay rapt attention to this Sportage’s infotainment interface. For instance, most of the touchscreen functions on the easy-to-see UVO 8-inch navigation screen can also be utilized with standard buttons that lie below the screen. There are three horizontal rows of controls. The upper row holds shortcuts to media, the Harman Kardon premium Clari-Fi audio (including Sirius/XM), phone, navigation and setup menus. Below lie climate controls and there’s a third, smaller row for the heated and cooled front seats and quick steering wheel heater. Nice.
During my nearly 1,000 miles with this Kia vehicle, I was entranced by the navigation system, which gives a blue line to follow, notes the ETA and total, decreasing miles to the designated destination. Even with extremely unfamiliar routes, I never got lost. Going to the same place a second time, the navigation system recalled the route and made certain I was going the right way.
I also loved the panorama sunroof that makes the Sportage feel larger and more open. I loved the power lift gate with a closure button reachable even by a small human like me, the fact that doors open and lock with a touch, that this Kia is ignited by a button on the dash and that visibility is exceptional. I like the blind-spot detection, can’t stand lane change assist or lane departure warning (both can be disabled) and rear cross traffic alert (I always back into parking spaces to make a departure safer). The front and rear parking assist are excellent with the rear camera crisp and clear, except in snarky Indy weather.
And then there’s price: there are no options on this lovely Kia Sportage, which has a list price of $33,395 including destination. With Kia’s excellent safety ratings and its undeniably excellent warranties for both the vehicle and its drivetrain, there’s a whole lot of value to go with the luxury and performance of the Sportage SX turbo in front-wheel-drive SUV.
So what would I change? I’d like to see Kia put the hood on struts rather than if propped up by a pole; that’s my one pet peeve for this SUV. But that’s just a niggle and one anyone can get beyond, don’t you think?
The 2017 Kia Sportage SX turbo in FWD trim is just a dandy little SUV; it can be packed with four riders comfortably, it can carry the results of a massive shopping expedition, it can transport a small person with lots of expensive equipment that needs to be hidden in style. And it’s a comfy bedroom in a pinch. What more could you want?
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit