The 2017 Kia Sportage First Drive: A Tech-Friendly CUV

Want something that looks like an SUV, handles like a sports car, that comes with all the bells and whistles without breaking the bank? You’ll want to look at the 2017 Kia Sportage CUV. I recently tried it out, and I came away impressed. Get this — the top of the line model with every option can be had for $34K!

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We test drove two loaded-out turbo models last week; the red Sportage had front wheel drive and the silver Sportage had AWD. I can’t say that I noticed a huge difference in the way one drove from the other, but my driving partner Chance and I took each over a variety of terrains and roads and both performed very well.

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Since 2011, every one of Kia’s vehicles has undergone a transformation in product reinvention. With high rankings in consumer satisfaction, quality, safety, reliability, and re-sales, the brand feels that it is “time for consumers to discover the new Kia.”

Introduced in the original 1994 lineup, the Sportage has gone through several major body changes, and it has gone on to sell 716,000 units (and counting). You might think of Kia as primarily a Korean brand, but the fact of the matter is that they produce vehicles all around the world. 40% of their US sales come from vehicles that are produced here in the United States; they call themselves a “truly global brand”.


Checking out our options; photo courtesy of Kia

From a marketing standpoint, the Sportage is aimed at what Kia calls “passionate nomads”, people who are constantly searching for something new and exciting — “people who blaze their own path in life.” These drivers are taking the technology that they hold in their hands, and they are pairing it with the technology in their vehicle.

Designed in Frankfurt and Korea under the watchful eye of Peter Schreyer, Kia’s Chief Officer of Design (well-known for his design contributions of the iconic Audi TT), the Sportage is built at Kia’s Gwangju plant in South Korea. Design has always been a key component to Kia’s success, and it continues with the new Sportage.

The interior of the fourth-generation 2017 Sportage is roomy — there is plenty of legroom in both the front and back seats, and while four would be most comfortable, the Sportage can handle up to five.

The interior gives a feeling of spaciousness, and there is a great cockpit feel. Sitting in the driver’s seat, you’re treated to a plethora of techie goodness which all feels like it is aimed directly at you, the driver. There are buttons for the three different drive modes, a full UVO navigation experience on an 8″ screen (screens start at 6″ or 7″, depending upon options chosen), along with every kind of sensor you could wish for. Cup holders, easy to reach controls, cubby holes for your phone or other doo-dads abound.

Kia has partnered with Harman Kardon for the Sportage’s premium sound system; it has 320 watts, 8 speakers, and it features Clari-Fi Technology which is present in some of Kia’s other vehicles. In a word, the Harman system sounds fab!

The 2017 Sportage features the third generation of UVO, Kia’s infotainment system. The touchscreen is capacitive; you can pinch and zoom it — just as you can do on your favorite smartphone — to get closer to detail on a map. Kia is also introducing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time on their vehicles; you’ll just need to download the app on your smartphone.

Kia is also introducing some of the features found on their K900 and Sorento in the 2017 Sportage, including autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection with lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Kia’s strategy for the Sportage, as well as all of their models, is to produce a car that is safe, reliable, high-quality, feature-packed, a vehicle that is offered at a great value.


Photo courtesy of Kia

The Sportage has a distinctly Eurocentric design. The new model is wider, at 73″ overall width, which is wider than any other vehicle in its segment. The car has a stable, athletic stance, along with a wheelbase that is up about 1.2″; the overall length is up about 1.6″.  The headlights have been moved up, and they have added a lower and wider grille, as well as they “ice-cube” LED fog lights and standard LED running lights.

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All of the Sportage’s components have been dramatically improved, including the body’s overall rigidity; due to the use of high-strength steel, it is stiffer and safer. The bushings have been improved and increased in size, so they provide more isolation and a quieter, less jarring ride. The steering system has also been completely redesigned, it now offers a more precise linear control. The result is a car that is much more responsive on twisty roads or when control is needed in situations like when someone pulls in front of you, and you need to quickly turn to avoid a wreck.

The front wheel drive and the all wheel drive versions have picked up about 2 mpg more, giving the front wheel drive model approximately 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The AWD Sportage gets approximately 21 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. There are two engines available, 2.4L GDI I4 and 2.0L Turbo GDI I4, and there are three wheel sizes are available: 17″ on the LX, 18″ on the EX, and 19″ on the SX.

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The Sportage has wrap-around LED tail lights, dual exhaust, and a standard rear spoiler. It’s very sporty, and it’s a great looking vehicle both coming and going.

AWD has become a very popular option; due to a partnership with Magna, the Sportage offers Dynamax AWD, which they say is an intuitive and predictive system that over time uses artificial intelligence software to learn your driving style and habits, so that it can anticipate based on inputs from all different areas on the vehicle what the driving conditions will call for as you go, rather than reacting to conditions after the occur. “Dynamax makes sure that your drivetrain is always a decisive step ahead of the rest of the vehicle. The result is maximum performance at the highest level of safety on every surface and in any driving situation. By continually optimising the distribution of torque through the driveline, the lateral stability of the vehicle is improved, even when cornering too quickly.” The Dynamax technology is transparent to the driver; it is immediately active without any delay.

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Perhaps most impressive, the pricing on the Sportage is extremely reasonable. Starting at $22,990 (+$895 destination fee) for the base LX; you can get a loaded out SX Front wheel drive model for $32,500(+$895 destination fee) or a loaded out AWD Turbo for $34,000 (+$895 destination fee). Each SX model comes with every single available option — that includes the heated front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as leather seats and 18″ alloy wheels.

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The 2017 Kia Sportage, whether you get the front wheel drive or the AWD model, is fun to drive, comfortable to ride in, and loaded with tech that makes it feel and drive like a much more expensive car. If you aren’t in the market for a full-size family wagon or SUV, the Sportage CUV is a great choice.


Chance looks nervous, doesn’t he? Photo courtesy of Kia

Disclosure: Kia paid for my travel, room, and meals; there were no conditions or expectations made regarding what I chose to write about regarding my experience.

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.