The Kia Sportage's stylish and well-equipped interior was one of the things that impressed us initially. But at the ten-month marker its charms have started to wear thin.
"I am growing tired of the Sportage's interior. While it's handsomely styled and its controls are clearly and neatly placed, its materials -- notably those hard, glossy plastics -- just look and feel cheap," says associate web editor Evan McCausland. It doesn't help that in our test car those plastics are all black, which exposes some unfortunate graining and sheen changes.
Another associate web editor, Donny Nordlicht, puts forth a laundry list of small complaints about the cabin: "The navigation screen is too bright; the cup holders are too low and too far back for a driver or passenger to easily grab a drink without having to look down; in low temperatures, the passenger seat gets cold; and the front moonroof shade, when open, rattles loudly."
Even the infotainment system, a typical strong point for Kias and Hyundais, has come in for some criticism of late. "The touchscreen controls for the Bluetooth phone don't respond very quickly," gripes Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio. "At the end of a phone call, when I push the 'END' button, the call doesn't disconnect. I have to push it a second time, and it still hesitates. It does eventually disconnect, but the point of these hands-free devices is to keep your eyes on the road, not on the touchscreen."
All this nitpicking about a loaded, leather-lined interior might make us sound a bit spoiled. Indeed, when we loaned the vehicle to freelance contributor who doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time in new cars, we got a rather different perspective:
"Currently, I am driving a 2001 Mercedes E320 wagon, so any trip in a new vehicle is a luxury," wryly notes graphic designer Molly Jean, who took the Kia and her family on a weekend camping excursion. "The front seat was more comfortable than my Mercedes, and after my drive it did not leave my lower lumbar aching. Connecting the iPod was intuitive and we were quickly listening to all of my daughter's favorite tunes. This was a huge improvement over the small boom-box that we Velcroed between the front seats of our car last summer on vacation. After Elle fell asleep we changed over to the Satellite radio and enjoyed our own selection. We had our trusty hand-held navigation system and a county map, so we didn't intend on using the built-in system. But with all of our iPhones charging we ran out of plugs so we used the Kia's nav and it effortlessly guided us to camp."
In other words, the Kia interior is just fine for the average real buyer. Still, Kia hasn't dismissed our complaints, as McCausland was pleased to discover after having dinner with some Kia interior designers.
"The Kia designers I talked to seemed to share my impression that the plastics are too hard. The problem is getting the corporate overlords to recognize this and sign off on the additional expense of better material. They said this is starting to change. The new Optima Limited is evidence that things are shifting in the right direction, and I hope the lessons learned quickly permeate through the rest of Kia's lineup."