After a very favorable review for the all-new 2017 Kia Sportage Turbo, l anticipated the drive in the 2018 Kia Sportage SX Turbo to be a good one as well. This mid-size crossover/SUV has been improving over the years, and the current one is not a disappointment.
I have driven this vehicle through all kinds of weather and road conditions; from heavy rain and mud to snow and ice; across high-speed freeway sections; and through the urban jungles of Los Angeles. The Sportage stays balanced with a relatively low center of gravity which provides confidence for the passengers.
The Sportage is improved but not perfect. The suspension is slightly firmer to minimize body lean but jostles occupants around on uneven pavement. The electronic steering felt numb on the last generation Sportage, but Kia has fine-tuned this software over the years. This vehicle is definitely not hydraulic steering, but the on-center feeling can keep the Sportage tracking straight even at high speeds.
Our SX AWD model came with a new technology package with some safety features like Blind Spot Detection, a Lane Departure Warning System, and Rear Cross Traffic alert. The EX trim gets a new Sport Appearance package and available heated rear seats. An electronic parking brake is added for 2018, and all trim levels can opt for the Kia’s Dynamax full-time all-wheel drive.
Kia has categorized the Sportage as a Crossover. It is the definition of an SUV; with sporty looks, agile driving characteristics, and functional utility. As noticed on the 2017 revised Sportage, it looks wider, longer, and larger overall. However, it is still 73-inches wide, the wheelbase has only gained 1.2 inches over the last generation, and the length of just 176.4 inches still fits nicely in a garage or parking space.
The newest Sportage is my vision of a shape from the future, especially at night. LED HID headlamps and fog lights looks like a design from an artists pen rather than a computer cad-cam system. The whole front end is very functional with a lowered front end, redesigned air intakes, and better cooling.
The aggressive rising beltline to the back and hatch does reduce window surface area, mostly out the back. Rear seat legroom was increased in 2017 (38+ inches) and is suitable for this class. Seating for 5 is comfortable and supportive for longer trips. Rear headroom is up because of the rear bench being lowered several inches. The good news is there is more visibility with thinner side pillars and a larger rear window.
The interior has been upgraded with more comfortable leather, arm pads, and a stitched instrument and dash covers. As noted last year, Kia did some clever engineering in the Sportage to create a roomy and airy feeling in the front seats. Also, Kia has spent some real money on upgrading materials on the door arm-rests and hardware- basically everywhere a passenger would touch.
Pricing begins at just $23,600 for an LX 2.4L FWD, and our Sportage SX 2.0-liter Turbo AWD started at $34,400. This is the most impressive powerplant with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder T-GDI creating 240 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Kia continues to use their smooth 6-speed automatic with some paddle shifters for the control-happy drivers.
Another improvement made in the 2017 redesign was in the aerodynamics. The drag coefficient is down to levels that approach some sedans, and the mileage increased a few miles-per-gallon. Expect the city/highway/combined mileage with the 2.4-liter to be 23/30/26 (FWD). Our 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD with the 2.0L Turbo was estimated at 20/23/21 mpg, which we matched under normal driving conditions. This is a decent economy for an SUV that weighs 3,997 lbs. equipped as an SX Turbo AWD.
Many manufacturers are publishing their automated driver assist features as “safety equipment” or “autonomous driving features.” Kia more accurately labels these as “Drive Assistance Features.” The former implies these sensors and software actuated servos are a substitute for driver reactions. The latter suggests these features assist the driver while he/she does their job behind the wheel. The Kia Sportage offers their version of autonomous emergency braking and Kia’s Dynamic Bending Lights, which was standard on our SX.
Overall, the 2018 Kia Sportage SX-T AWD can seat five persons, carry over 140 cubic feet of cargo, and drive through most terrain. It was not designed to be an off-road rock crawler, evident from the 6.8-inch ground clearance and the 7.5J x 19 wheels with P245/45 R19 tires, but it can be driven safely through most anything drivers will face. Sportage is easy to drive, operate, and own longer than the payments due to Kia’s 100k mile/10 year powertrain warranty. It is the right-sized crossover for a family with 2-3 children and a compact parking space.