Here’s a nice little SUV for those seeking basic transportation. It drives well enough for commuters, and the cargo area is pretty large when the seats are folded down. There’s enough power to merge on the highway and pass people on country roads, and the ride quality isn’t bad.
The so-called luxury package is a bit misleading. I thought this was a very basic interior, and the heated leather seats are the only things that even come close to a luxury touch. But that’s not a bad thing. All controls are intuitive, and everything is very functional. I’d like a more modern radio with satellite radio and/or some kind of iPod connectivity, even if it’s just an auxiliary input port. It’s amazing how quickly the state of in-vehicle stereos has changed, and a basic unit like this one feels a decade old without the aforementioned options.
If you want the taller seating position and all-wheel drive that SUVs are famous for, this Kia Sportage isn’t a bad choice. It’s not nearly as refined as a Mercury Mariner, but not everyone wants a highly refined SUV.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Sorry, Phil, but I can’t quite get my head around this aging Kia. I found the power barely adequate despite the V-6 engine. Also, the 17/21 city/highway EPA mpg rating just isn’t good enough. The archaic four-speed automatic surely doesn’t help either issue. The ride and body control aren’t up to class standards, and the Sportage suffers from that old, dorky Korean styling that thankfully is quickly disappearing as both Kia and Hyundai dramatically improve their products. Yes, the Sportage has a mega warranty, stability control, plenty of airbags, and heated leather seats, but you’re still better off with newer, more impressive, and more fuel efficient offerings like the Honda CR-V or the recently revamped Ford Escape.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
This is pretty much the fancy version of my wife’s 2007 Sportage, which is a stick-shifted four-cylinder that features air-conditioning as its solitary option. Based on the performance of that Sportage, I was pretty disappointed with the oomph provided by our test car’s V-6, which is obviously held back by its four-speed automatic, as Marc noted. I also agree with Phil regarding this vehicle’s features: 4WD, sunroof, heated seats but with manual controls? Very weird … Anyway, I much prefer the four-cylinder/manual version of the Sportage, because at least you can have fun revving it and enjoy the slimmer weight and better mileage. The price advantage, of course, is paramount, and like most Kia customers, that’s why we bought the one we did.
In general, I really like mini-utes like this because they offer lots of cargo versatility but still yield decent mileage. Plus, there aren’t many good stick-shift wagons on the market that were in our price range (and whose dealers were willing to bend over backward on our trade-in). That said, when it’s time to get a new car for my wife, we certainly won’t be moving up to a fancier Sportage like this one, even though we do like the base Sportage. There are simply many better options once you’ve moved from the base Sportage price range (about $17,000) to the almost $25K on the window of this test vehicle.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Base Price (with destination) : $23,520
Price as tested: $24,820
-Color-keyed Bumpers & Dix Scuff Plates
-Heated front seats
-Auto-dimming Inside Mirror w/Homelink
-AM/FM/Cass/CD Changer w/Sub-Woofer
-17 / 21 / 19 (city/hwy/combined)
-2.7L 24 Valve DOHC V6
-Size: 2.7 L
-Horsepower: 173 hp @ 6,000 rpm
-Torque: 178 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm