VALLEY OF FIRE, Nev. -- Zigzag curves on Valley of Fire Highway, an asphalt trace winding through crimson canyons in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas, shows off the spirited and spry manners of the redesigned 2017 Sportage, a car-based crossover utility vehicle for the compact class from the Kia brand of South Korea.
Kia's fourth generation arrangement for Sportage '17 represents a total reset for the CUV. The unibody structure measures 5.1 inches longer than the previous edition of Sportage and gains more room for riders and cargo in the 5-seat passenger compartment.
The platform for the 2017 Sportage is new with a wheelbase length drawing out to 105.1 inches long and the wheel track width running 63.5 inches up front and 64.0 inches in back. Positioning the wheels out near edges of the chassis brings stability to the stance and enhances Sportage's agility when cornering.
The new structure also increases substantially in rigidity through the increased uses of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) and strategic applications of structural adhesives as well as hot-stamping methods. About 51 percent of the Sportage's structural body consists of AHSS versus the previous model's 18 percent. As a result, torsional rigidity of the new structure improves by 39 percent, which hones the vehicle's handling.
Sportage carries a refined 4-wheel independent suspension system designed to boost the vehicle's precise handling ability while still delivering smooth and comfortable ride sensations for passengers. Components include front MacPherson struts with coil springs and gas-pressurized shocks. The rear independent multi-link arrangement employs a dual-member shock absorber housing.
Every Sportage packs a motor-driven electric power steering system and 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brake system, electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability control and traction control system.
Further, the optional equipment list for Sportage '17 includes noteworthy electronically controlled safety devices: Forward Collision Warning System and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning System, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Front + Rear Parking Assist, and bi-HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Light and High Beam Assist technology.
Specifications for the fourth generation Sportage encompass two powertrains for three trims with front-wheel-drive (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction. Trim nomenclature changes to include the Sportage LX price leader, the upscale Sportage EX edition with comfort gear added, and a sporty Sportage SX with zippy turbo power.
Sportage LX and EX editions draw from a DOHC (dual overhead cam) 2.4-liter 4-cylinder GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine which produces 181 hp at 6000 rpm with torque pegging to 175 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. The 2.4-liter plant connects to an electronically controlled 6-speed Sportmatic automatic with shift control via a console-mounted shift lever.
Sportage SX edition scores a DOHC 2.0-liter 4-cylinder GDI engine with turbocharger plus the electronically controlled 6-speed Sportmatic automatic with hands-on shift control via steering wheel paddle shifters. Kia's 2.0T plant delivers 240 hp at 6000 rpm for FWD (237 hp with AWD) and 260 lb-ft of torque at 1450-3500 rpm.
The optional Magna Dynamax electronic AWD system for Sportage normally directs all power from the engine to the front wheels, thus reducing the fuel consumption. When front wheels slip, however, the device can divert some of the power to turn the rear wheels. A driver-activated locking switch for the center differential fixes the torque split evenly at 50/50 front/rear when steering Sportage on slippery dirt trails or winter-slick pavement.
EPA fuel economy figures for 2017 Sportage issues climb to 30 mpg for highway driving with the 2.4-liter engine, or 25 mpg with AWD traction equipment.
The cabin layout for Sportage pitches a pair of bolstered buckets in front flanking a versatile console. On the second row a bench is designed to seat two comfortably but hold three riders when needed. The rear seatback splits 60/40 and folds to expand the rear cargo area. The storage area is vast at 31 cubic feet but with rear seatbacks folded the space doubles -- 60.1 cubic feet.
Kia's MSRP chart for 2017 Sportage models extends from $22,990 to $34,000.