"Can we stop complaining about the naturally aspirated engine, already?"
That was associate web editor Evan McCausland's desperate plea as he read through his colleagues' notes on our Four Seasons Kia Sportage.
Apparently, Evan, we cannot. The question of whether the Sportage's 176-hp four-cylinder is really sufficient for motivating a 3355-pound, $30,240 crossover with performance pretensions (hey, the word "Sport" is right in the name) remains a popular and contentious one among our editors. The debate seems to be framed by where the Sportage is used.
For instance, associate web editor Ben Timmins, who lives close to our Ann Arbor office, finds the Sportage downright peppy.
"For all the talk of the Sportage being slow, it's actually rather quick around town. The engine is willing to play immediately from idle, and 0-30 acceleration (don't expect more on the streets of the University of Michigan at rush hour) is plentiful."
Another townie, associate web editor Donny Nordlicht, goes even further to say, "There's no reason to buy the turbocharged Sportage SX," adding, "The four-cylinder engine has more than enough power for 99 percent of what any owner will use it for, and paired with the well-sorted transmission seems peppy no matter where in the rev range it is."
Those who venture beyond the city limits, however, have been more inclined to wonder why we didn't get the turbo.
"Sorry, Donny, there is a reason to buy the Sportage SX - it's more fun to drive," says senior web editor Phil Floraday, who has a 45-minute commute and has taken the Sportage on multiple long-distance trips. "I spend too much time with the Sportage's accelerator floored waiting for some acceleration, like when I'm entering a freeway or trying to pass someone going 10 mph under the limit on a two-lane road."
There's greater consensus on the interior. Everyone loves the clear, attractive gauges and the easy-on-the-first-try infotainment system, though there is some griping about the fact that you have to press the tuning dial to select a radio station or iPod track (as opposed to a station or track automatically playing when the dial is turned to it). There's also an impressive amount of passenger room for a compact crossover, as deputy editor Joe DeMatio learned on a recent trip when he had to squeeze in the back of the Sportage with two other grown men:
"There's plenty of hip and leg room, and the fact that the outboard passengers can stick their feet easily under the front seats is a boon. The moonroof is also welcome, as it makes the cabin feel less claustrophobic."
Associate web editor Jake Holmes folded that back seat down and found that although it doesn't create a completely flat load floor, there was enough room to stow his bicycle without the going through hassle of removing its front wheel.
On the negative side, there's been unanimous disappointment with the rearward visibility, hampered by both the mail-slot thin rear window and the obstruction of the rear headrests.
"If it weren't for the backup camera, the Sportage would be near-impossible to parallel park," gripes Nordlicht. Sometimes, even that's no help, as the camera takes several seconds to display after you've shifted into reverse.
"If the rearview camera doesn't come on instantly, what's the point?" DeMatio notes. He puts it in perspective though: "That high, narrow rear window is one of the prices we pay for the high-style exterior that we like so much."