I have a thing for Kia lately. Namely their ability to add that little bit of extra flair to a car that doesn’t really need it at all. That’s the case with the quite good Optima SX turbo, as well as this, the Sportage SX. Despite not having “turbo” officially added to the moniker, it has the same engine you’d find in the aforementioned Optima. It helps this car shine in the cross-over segment that the Sportage calls home.
It also oozes a bit more style than most in the segment. While it might not be the prettiest thing out there, it certainly does have an identity. The front end is dominated by LED lights, mounted next to more LED lights, mounted above and below and within more LED lights. It does take some getting used to.
What doesn’t take some getting used to is the way it drives. This one only directs power to the front wheels, which is fine when the temperatures permit wearing shorts. When you’re forced to layer yourself in a down jacket, AWD would make a better choice. But it’s not snowing, and as such, it’ll chirp away in anger any time you step on the throttle.
It’s not blisteringly quick, but it is unexpected to get this level of shove from a smaller crossover. It packs a huge punch for what it is. You may recall I compared the Toyota RAV4 to an Android phone, well, the Sportage SX is the iPhone 7. One’s missing a headphone jack, the other is missing a driveshaft to the rear wheels.
Yet you don’t want to go back to the Toyota. Sure, it does everything fine, and can probably drive through the snow with ease, but you’d miss the turbo thrust of thew Sportage. And I think the UVO entertainment system is more intuitive to use. And, at $33,395, it is cheaper than the Toyota. More car for less is something I can stand with.
Mind you, that MSRP represents a car that has literally zero options on it. But that’s not a bad thing. It has everything on it that you’d need anyway. When you’re struggling against wild understeer in the snow, you’ll be holding a heated, flat-bottom steering wheel. You also get heated and ventilated seats, and Harmon Kardon premium audio, and navigation displayed on a big 8 inch screen.
That’s not all either, because you get a back-up camera, blind spot detection, lane change assistance, autonomous braking, and it’ll even alert you to cross-traffic as you’re backing out of a parking stall. And you get one of those kick-under-the-back-bumper tailgate lifts, too. This is a lot of stuff for $33,395, which is why it recently got my vote as family vehicle of the year.
Oh, and this one does come with a headphone jack input.
2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD
Engine: 2.0L gas direct injection 4-cyl
Torque: 260 lb/ft
Front wheel drive
Base MSRP: $32,500
As tested: $33,395