Hanging in There
The Kia Sportage was last redesigned for 2011, but small changes made in the years since have presented opportunities for the crossover to keep up with its newer competition. Over time, Kia has revamped the Sportage’s suspension tuning, refreshed the exterior design, and upgraded the touchscreen interface. But are these changes enough to hold it over until the next full redesign?
Hopping into the cabin, we feared that the Sportage hadn’t changed much since we last saw it. We were pleased with the various amenities on our fully loaded $33,975 USD tester, including navigation, seat heating and ventilation, push-button start, Infinity premium audio, LED daytime running lights, panoramic sunroof, leather trim, and parking assistance system. But our editors still complained of hard, uncomfortable seats. Old-school buttons and pixelated digital readouts for the instrument cluster and temperature controls also awaken our memories from the previous Sportage.
We last saw the Sportage during its 2013 model year, and when we tested the 176-hp, 2.4-liter engine, the crossover hit 60 mph in a languishing 9.3 seconds. This time, instead of testing out the standard engine, we took the optional 2.0-liter, turbocharged model for a spin. It’s the same turbo-four that the new 2016 Sorento has borrowed but tuned to a more potent 260 hp.
On the track, our new 2015 Kia Sportage hit 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds with the turbo engine and all-wheel drive. That’s noticeably quicker than our 2015 SUV of the Year, the Honda CR-V, which reached 60 in 8.5 seconds when equipped with all-wheel drive. It’s also sharper than the current-gen, all-wheel-drive RAV4 Limited’s 8.7 seconds. But the Kia is a bit slower than the 240-hp, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Ford Escape Titanium at 6.8 seconds. The Sportage’s firmer ride reminds us most of the 2015 Mazda CX-5, which managed 60 mph in 7.8 seconds when tested in front-wheel-drive configuration.
We have a long history with the Sportage, and it never ceases to surprise us. Over the years, our 0-60 times for the Sportage have ranged from 7.3 seconds to as slow as 12.7 seconds. The fastest time was achieved by the 2011 Kia Sportage SX 2.0-liter turbo, which had the same engine as our current tester but weighed about 200 pounds (91 kg) less. The 12.7-second Sportage was the ill-fated but always amusing 2000 Kia Sportage Convertible, which put out a meager 130 ponies.
For 2015, the turbocharged Sportage feels decently quick enough to pass other traffic on the road. Our main grievances stem from its lack of refinement. The engine groans but not in a good way, instead adding to the road and wind noise that already permeate the cabin. Although it turns tightly around corners, we also notice the steering wheel doesn’t respond to the most subtle movements when maneuvering on the road. Its suspension feels more evolved than earlier models, but potholes and other road imperfections still disturb the cabin quite a bit. Having just hopped out of the new Sorento, we found it hard not to miss the refinement of that quieter, more stable crossover.
Will a few outdated bits and an overly firm ride be enough to dissuade buyers? Sales for the aging Sportage are up to 34,996 copies through the first eight months of the year, higher than the 28,862 units sold during the same time period a year ago. A low base price of $22,795 USD for a Sportage in LX trim makes a great case for the cute ute despite its drawbacks. That price gives you typical features you’d expect, such as alloy wheels and Bluetooth, but not a UVO infotainment system, rearview camera, remote keyless entry, or dual-zone automatic climate control. A big issue: The 2015 Sportage earned a score of Poor in the IIHS small overlap test, the lowest possible rating. That’s worse than most major competitors.
If you’re still not sure, you might want to wait for the next Kia Sportage that’s just around the corner. The fourth-generation model is expected to have many of the same refinements as the new 2016 Sorento, but it also promises an upgraded interior with higher-quality materials and the latest infotainment system.
|2015 Kia Sportage SX AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$33,975|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/260-hp/269-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,656 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||175.2 x 73.0 x 64.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.8 sec @ 86.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.5 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/25/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.91 lb/mile|