It wasn’t so long ago that massive SUVs dominated America’s highways and byways, forcing smaller cars off the road and guzzling gas like it was going out of style. But those days are gone, and a new kind of car, the crossover, has stepped up to fill its place. The 2013 Kia Sportage celebrates two decades of production this year, and Kia has learned a lot when it comes to building a better family crossover, though there is still room for improvement, especially in the rear seats and cargo area.
Performance: My test car came armed with the standard 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, rather than the 2.0 liter turbocharged engine. That was a bit of a disappointment, especially given the barely-adequete performance of the 2.4 liter engine. With a $30,800 MSRP and all-wheel drive, the Kia Sportage could really have used that 260 horsepower turbo engine. The only benefit of the non-turbo is slightly-better MPG ratings, with the 2.4 liter engine netting a 21/27/23 with all-wheel drive. The turbo engine gets 20/25/22 mpg.
The Sportage also wasn’t the most comfortable car in terms of ride quality or handling, but it wasn’t awful either. The seats and suspension absorbed most bumps, though there was a fair bit of body roll around tighter turns. The all-wheel drive stuck the Sportage to the road, even in wet weather, and it made for a confident, if a bit sluggish, ride.
One-Sentence Review: Opt for the turbo engine and all-wheel drive, and you’ll have no complaints.
Exterior: This is one sharp-looking crossover, and when it debuted in 2010 there was nothing like it. However, with competitors rolling out increasingly attractive vehicles, it isn’t the only option if you’re looking for a family car with some personality.
That said, I love the looks of the Kia Sportage, and it really didn’t feel like I was driving a crossover. It stuck out from the crowd in a good way, and the aggressive front fascia goes a long way towards soothing my masculine car sensibilities. It is a wonderful alternative to a minivan, and I didn’t mind being seen it, despite my lack of children. Even the name, “Sportage”, seems aimed at mid-life men.
One-Sentence Review: This is a great-looking ride with a more manly appeal than many crossover competitors.
Interior: The Kia Sportage is, straight up, a comfortable and luxurious-feeling crossover. Like its partner Hyundai, Kia has stepped up the level of quality in their cars in an unexpected way in this price range. Standard features include air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, a radio with USB/iPod integration, and power everything.
Stepping up to the top-tier EX model nets you bigger wheels, dual climate-control, foglights, upgraded cloth seats and sound system, and the Uvo infotainment system. Soft materials cover most surfaces, and the optional leather seats include cooling and heating elements, which I found especially useful on hot days where leather surfaces can be scorching. This feels like a more expensive car than it is, and I don’t know how Kia manages it.
One-Sentence Review: Stepping into the Kia Sportage feels like stepping into a more expensive car than it is thanks to the long list of features and quality workmanship.
Overall Value: Despite it’s attractive exterior, comfortable interior, and optional turbocharged engine, I have a few other gripes with the Kia Sportage. The rear seats don’t provide much room for a full-sized adult, and the cargo hold is just 26.1 cubic feet with the seats up, 54.6 cubic feet with the seats down.
That said, at $30,800 my tester came with just about every option save the turbocharged motor, and most people probably don’t need the extra 80 or so horsepower. I enjoyed coming home and seeing the Kia Sportage in my driveway, and some of my neighbors made a point to ask me about it.
It definitely has a premium feel to it, but at a very agreeable price point. If you live in an area where all-wheel drive isn’t necessary, the Sportage also offers competitive fuel economy of up to 30 mpg highway.
One-Sentence Review: The 2013 Kia Sportage is a good-looking, well-appointed crossover that feels good to drive, looks good in your driveway, and won’t empty your wallet at the dealership or gas pump.