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Kia Sportage continues to climb in stature





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It might not be the exact time for either the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 to get overly concerned, but the Kia Sportage is definitely gaining some ground on these long-time industry leaders in the small sport utility vehicle segment.

Prior to the 2011 redesign, the Kia was known for its impressive gas mileage and appealing sticker price - but not much more. There wasn't a whole lot else that was convincing car shoppers they should be driving out of the lot with a new Sportage.

The Sportage needed some serious upgrading and that finally arrived with a makeover two years ago.

A mere glance at the 2013 Sportage and one recognizes a difference - its longer, wider and lower to the ground than earlier models. Previously, very average in the looks department, the Sportage now has an attractive black front grille, angular headlights, a modest crease in the side doors, and a curved roofline. It also has a sleek interior design and comes with a nice list of standard features.

However, note that the curved roofline makes for below-average visibility for Sportage drivers.

Looks alone don't solely define the revamped Sportage, which shares a platform with the Hyundai Tucson. One feels a difference now when getting behind the wheel and pushing the Sportage a bit. And it responds positively, providing the type of acceleration that makes it much more fun to drive than in the past.

2013 Kia Sportage

  • Power: 2.4-liter, inline-4, 176 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 21-29 mpg
  • Price: $19,00 - $26,900
  • Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles; drivetrain 10 years/100,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/100,000 roadside assistance 5 years/60,000

Yet it's not like the Sportage is top-of-the-line in handling among its classmates. It doesn't do well on uneven surfaces and rough pavement, which can be blamed on its stiff suspension. However, it does muffle wind and road noise fairly well for a vehicle that features a starting price of $19,000 for the base model.

Test driven here was the Sportage SX, an upgraded model that came with all-wheel drive and is pretty quick performance-wise. It's equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 260 horsepower, and comes with a 6-speed automatic.

The other three Sportage models have a 2.4-liter, inline-4 engine with 176 horsepower. The SX model, which goes for $26,900, can get you there in a hurry, while the rest of the line travels 0-60 mph in a not-so-brisk 9.5 seconds.

Although the interior has its plusses, Kia still put far too much hard plastic throughout the cabin, cheapening the overall product.

In the comfort department, the Sportage offers considerable head and leg room for front seat passengers. There's also more than enough room in the back for taller individuals and three people won't be too much of a squeeze. The cargo area rates very high for storage capability.

Even though the Sportage now features many more enviable qualities, it's still not on par with the RAV-4 and the CR-V. But if money is an issue, the Sportage can be purchased for less and still delivers well in a lot of areas.


Weidel on Wheels author Jeffrey Weidel is an award-winning writer from the Sacramento region who has reviewed automobiles for more than two decades. He can be reached at skiweidel@gmail.com
Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.