In recent, I have had the luxury of test driving a BMW 750Li, an Audi A8L, an Audi A5 and a BMW ActiveHybrid 5. All are opulent cars that by most accounts are considered luxury vehicles – the BMW 750Li was the most expensive to date, tipping the proverbial money scale at over $110,000. When it comes time to returning these cars, it’s something akin to returning home from a week-long stay in a tropical paradise; I just don’t wanna do it. So with that in mind, this is how I felt about the delivery of 2013 Kia’s Sportage, at least at first…
The Sportage uses a design language that in my opinion has become fairly ubiquitous amongst a vehicle of this class, the compact SUV. But that isn’t to say it isn’t aesthetically appealing.
It boasts a set of sleek lines that make the vehicle appear as if it were always in motion. My particular Sportage was slathered in a candy red finish, and complemented by a set of chrome wheels with black inlays. It’s a nice color combo that is masculine without being distasteful. The front fascia ditches the traditional design, and instead uses a honeycomb grille that further exudes the vehicle’s name.
Inside things are a little less remarkable as plastic covers the entire dash, a feeling that is analogous to that of the Soul. Nevertheless, thermostat controls are easy to grab and operate at a moment’s notice, and a USB plug sits just below for charging up a smartphone.
Leather seats, while not as supple as that of the 750Li or Audi A8L, are of decent quality and enough of an added expense to offset any damage that might occur courtesy of dogs or grape juice chugging children.
The steering wheel of the Sportage contains a number of ‘shortcut’ controls for the infotainment system. Though I didn’t appreciate where the call start/stop and voice command buttons were located, which are at the 6 o’clock position on the wheel – it just didn’t feel intuitive while driving.
The seating position of the Kia Sportage felt very high. So high I kept looking for a way to lower my seat despite it being set to its lowest setting. However, after a few days it wasn’t really a bother, and provided me with a good driving position that instilled a bit more confidence during spirited hurdles down the road.
And while I wouldn’t generally attempt to cut in and out of traffic in a compact SUV, the Kia Sportage is more than apt in both handling and engine power. That said, the Sportage does suffer from torque steer, pulling to the right if my memory serves correct. Nevertheless, slamming on the car’s accelerator can also induce a bit of tire squeal, which is flattering for a vehicle of this ilk, and shows that it’s not just destined for soccer moms.
Backing up the Sportage, and you’ll be glad you had the rear camera, as visibility is very limited when staring out of the aft of the Sportage. A compromise I suppose for a back that is rounded much like your favorite swimsuit model. Fortunately looking up offers a converse experience; you and rear passengers will be able to enjoy the night’s sky thanks to the dual moonroofs – the rear one doesn’t open.
As with the Soul, the navigation system is rather bland, but usable by all accounts. Unfortunately, there are no color changing speakers as found in the aforementioned vehicle, but that’s quickly compensated by what the car’s moniker suggests, a sporty ride.
Body roll is surprisingly low in the Sportage and the steering, while far from a sports car, offers enough connectivity to the road that you feel confident negotiating turns and winding highways at their intended speeds. With that, though, comes a much stiffer ride. Pot holes, cracks in the road, and really anything that isn’t a recently laid strip of tarmac is felt throughout the cabin of the Sportage. That all said, the Kia Sportage goes when it needs to, and stops when demanded – everything felt commensurate.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Sportage is a sub $30,000 vehicle. The base model comes equipped with the company’s 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, front wheel drive, and a 6-speed manual. You’ll want to upgrade things to the turbo charged engine that I tested, and most likely opt for the automatic transmission, that is for the most part smooth – it offers a manumatic mode from the gate that is useful for downhill descents; there is no paddle shifter option that I’m aware of. Ticking the 4WD option will really depend on where you reside, but for those concerned about the torque steer, this might be an ok but albeit pricey resolve.
I’m still astonished how much I liked the Sportage, even though my expectations said otherwise. It’s a nimble vehicle that still offers some of the utility found in a traditional SUV. Gas mileage for me, which was most city driving, was 20.9 mpg according to the car’s trip computer. Keep in mind this includes a number of “blast offs”, so things are skewed by comparison to average driving. I’d like to see the interior receive an update, though Kia has already come leaps and bounds in the last 10 years, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Bottom Line: a surprisingly nimble compact SUV, provided you’re willing to compromise on ride comfort.
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