There may be some mid-size SUVs that aim to go everywhere and conquer off-road terrain but most buyers in the segment will only require capability for the daily urban adventures in life. These adventures include navigating heavy traffic, fighting for a parking spot at the mall, heading out for a nice dinner, or a weekend escape to the beach. We took a spin in the all-new 2017 Kia Sportage to see if it may have all the right elements for the adventures of your day-to-day life.
Comfort and Quality
The Kia brand is known for being budget friendly but often that came with an understanding that you were sacrificing quality and some creature comforts. With this new Kia Sportage you can forget about sacrificing features to stay within your budget. Our model was the mid-level EX which starts at only $25,500 and comes standard with projection headlamps, fog lights, leather seats, and a media system with support for Android Auto. Our tester had the optional Premium and Technology packages to add items like a panoramic sunroof, power folding mirrors, emergency braking, lane departure, and a magnificent Harman Kardon sound system. This brought the price to $31,500 but the Sportage felt much more premium than you would expect.
When walking up to the Kia Sportage the car will detect your key and unfold the mirrors to welcome you with a pleasant LED glow on the inside and outside of the car. The large panoramic sunroof is perfect for opening up the feel of the interior and the sound system is luxury-level clear. Many of these may seem like small items but together they bring the Sportage closer to the overall spirit of an Audi than they do to any Kia I have driven in the past. The interior seats are comfortable enough compared to others in the price range but don’t expect German levels of quality. The gray interior coloring of our Sportage EX was dull to put it nicely. I would make a tired “50 Shades of Gray” reference to describe the color palette on the inside of the Kia but there simply wasn’t enough variety.
Controlling Your Media
This is our first long-term interaction with a system supporting Android Auto and it is absolutely the future of infotainment. The Kia standard media system is not bad but comparing Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay to any manufacturer’s systems are night and day. Having the ability to keep resume listening and controlling the music from your phone seamlessly as you enter your vehicle is fantastic. Auto makers should leave user interface design to the companies that created the way we currently browse our podcasts, music, and navigation. The voice search in most automotive applications requires a non-human format for your request that can often be more distracting while driving. The Google voice search is simple and you can easily get the directions or information you want like letting you know if the business you are navigating to will be closed when you arrive.
A night out to dinner in Pasadena we could easily find a local spot for desert on the phone in the restaurant. Then when connecting the phone back inside the Kia Sportage we already had directions headed to our destination – Afters Ice Cream in nearby Arcadia. This type of example may seem simple but makes day-to-day interaction with your vehicle more natural to the way we live. For your urban adventure this means that you’ll already have your attack plan set while everyone else is dealing with complicated manufacturer apps or media systems.
Performance and Efficiency
When it comes to extending your urban adventure the Kia Sportage has the efficiency to keep you on the road. With the 2.4L 4-cylinder the Sportage accelerates swift enough to please most drivers but certainly won’t get your adrenaline pumping. On paper the 180 horsepower seems like it may be an absolute pain to try and keep up with traffic. However, when paired with the 6-speed automatic the Kia was ready for nearly anything as we darted through city streets. Only when trying to really get on it at freeway speeds did the car feel underpowered. For those who need additional power for a steep grade or proving your dominance to others on the freeway there is always a turbocharged 2.0L in the SX Turbo trim to give you 240 horsepower. The most surprising driving dynamic of the new Sportage is the good fuel economy without forced induction or electronic neutering. Most vehicles that use a naturally aspirated engine and an “Eco” mode are miserable to drive and cripple the motor electronically to achieve rated MPG numbers – I’m looking at you Chevy Equinox. The Kia saw around 26-28MPG in mixed driving without ever seeming like the computers were controlling the engine more than your right foot.
Overall the Kia Sportage is a perfect example of how far the company has come in the last 10 years. No longer do you have to trade cost for quality and lose features found on cars in a much higher price bracket. It was also recently announced that Kia became the first non-luxury brand to top the J.D. Power initial quality study. Kia just needs to make sure that the message of their success reaches consumers who may have a negative opinion of the brand. Sure, the “bug-eyed” looks of the Sportage may turn some folks off but I grew to like it over the week. Also, if I am being picky the design interior can be improved to look a little less “budget.” But the Kia Sportage is a fantastic value for money overall and really shows how strong the brand is performing.