Half a decade ago Kia Motors America launched a marketing campaign for the all-new Sportage compact utility vehicle that begged the question (through song), ‘How do you like me now?’ We liked it just fine, but fast forward to the fourth-generation 2017 Kia Sportage and the Korean automaker is asking that question all over again.
For the 2017 model year, Kia has taken its popular cute ute back to the drawing board – again – and gives the model new looks, new content, and improved driving experience – again. Kia has been improving its vehicles leaps and bounds in successive models over the past decade or so and it is a brand that has to be taken seriously, cute campaign or no. This segment, the compact crossovers, is one of the most crowded and there is little room for error with the competition so automakers have to get things right and with the 2017 Sportage, Kia has gotten it right – again.
Overall the new model is slightly longer than the outgoing model and features a wheelbase that has increased by just over an inch. Width is about the same but thanks to additional redesign, interior space has grown with more comfort for rear seat passengers. Cargo space is also up – now 30.7 cubic feet behind the second row – and Kia offers the hands-free Smart Power Liftgate that was introduced in the new Hyundai Tucson CUV last year.
Sportage is offered on LX, EX, and SX Turbo trim levels in front- and all-wheel drive. Engines include the 2.4-liter I-4 rated at 181hp and 175 lb. ft. torque or the peppy 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 240hp on FWD models (237hp when equipped with AWD) and 260 lb. ft. torque. Our recent tester was the SX Turbo in FWD. Both engines are mated to a smooth six-speed Sportmatic automatic gearbox and AWD vehicles feature the next-generation Magna Dynamax intelligent AWD system that is available on every trim level and features a 50/50 locking center differential.
The front suspension of the new Sportage has been completely redesigned to deliver greater stability while providing more precise handling. Both front and rear suspension designs are fully independent and offer a very balanced driving experience that is smooth and controlled in all situations and road conditions. Slightly firmer shocks are given to the SX Turbo model for a bit more athleticism during your drive.
The 2017 Sportage is quiet and comfortable and features every amenity drivers and passengers might wish for in their compact utility. Summer was just kicking into high gear around here so the ventilated seats were well received but come winter we would appreciate the heated steering wheel. This Sportage did come with steering wheel paddle shifters but I find myself seldom (if ever) using those. Most times I would just wish for something else in the vehicle if they could be traded out, say a larger touchscreen display in the center console. Oh wait, our tester did arrive with the big screen 8-inch UVO system along with the rocking Harman/Kardon premium audio system with Clari-Fi music restoration technology, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Other advanced technology in the new Sportage is the blind spot detection with lane change assist, rear camera display, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear park assist, and autonomous emergency braking with forward collision alert. This is on top of the usual traction and stability control systems and downhill brake/hill-start assist. This SX Turbo rides on 19-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires and this trim level includes panoramic sunroof, power-folding heater outside mirrors, LED fog and tail lights, and dynamic bending lights with high beam assist. Pricing begins at $22,990 for the FWD LX model. Our SX Turbo FWD tester arrived with a final sticker of $33,395. Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.
As for design, I appreciated the outgoing model’s looks both inside and out. The 2017 interior is just as smart with things being nicely driver cockpit-focused and comfortable seating with ample space all around, especially for a compact. The front fascia is called “cutting-edge” by Kia and sports the new corporate “tiger-nose” face of the brand. I understand Kia wants to shake things up every so often and perhaps the old look did not test well in focus groups but I think I actually prefer the outgoing exterior styling over this new look. Sorry, Kia.
Kia Sportage is a great little utility vehicle and perfect for families just starting out, singles with active lifestyles, and anyone downsizing their lives. The SX Turbo is very fun to drive offering tire-spinning launches and sprite acceleration. Do not make the mistake of overlooking this model when shopping competitive vehicles in the compact crossover segment and even if you are looking at small sedans or hatchbacks, do yourself a favor and check out the all-new 2017 Kia Sportage and see just how well you will like it now!