Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
June 5, 2013
“The Power To Surprise”
This was Kia’s tagline back in early to mid 2000’s. It was supposed to reflect that the automaker had grown from its cheap car roots to being somewhere in the range of mediocre. It is sad Kia doesn’t use that tagline anymore since now, their lineup really does have “The Power To Surprise”.
Case in point, the 2013 Kia Sportage. The longest running nameplate in Kia’s lineup has changed from a rough and ready compact SUV to a compact crossover with some very distinctive looks. But is that all there is to the Sportage's "Power to Surprise"? I spent a week with a 2013 Kia Sportage SX to find out.
Let's start with the exterior; a dramatic departure from previous models. The Sportage looks be something you would expect to see from the Europeans, not Kia. Up front is Kia's family grille and headlights with a strip of LEDs running along the outside edge. The side profile shows the curvy lines and sloping roofline. Also the doors feature scalloping to add a bit more character. The back is very smooth and clean.
There are a couple of problems with Sportage’s design. The thick D-Pillars and sloping roofline make outward visibility somewhat null and void. Thankfully my test Sportage had a back-up camera to help me out somewhat. However, I was wishing for a blind-spot monitoring system whenever I was on the freeway. The other problem deals with the tailgate release. Any idea where it is? If you said the bottom edge, then give yourself a pat on the back. The problem with this location is that its a bit of stretch to get there. I’m hoping a power tailgate is in the cards for the Sportage.
Heading inside, you get the impression that Kia had locked their exterior and interior design teams into two separate rooms and weren't allowed to see each others work till the Sportage was put into production. It doesn’t seem the interior really belongs here at all. Also, I found most of the dash materials to be of the hard plastic variety. This is somewhat of a disappointment since Kia has made great strides in adding more soft touch materials. Build quality is very high with no apparent gaps or trim pieces loose.
Up front, driver and passengers get power adjustments and heated leather seats. The driver also gets a cooled seat, a surprising feature to find in the entry-level compact crossover class. The center stack is well laid out and controls are within easy reach. My test Sportage also came equipped with the optional navigation system which in my books is still one of the best out there for its ease of use and amount of features. In the backseat, headroom is somewhat tight due to the panoramic sunroof. Legroom though is very good.
Under the hood, you’ll find two different engines. LX and EX models use a 2.4L inline-four producing 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. The SX model uses a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four with direct-injection making 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. That is mated to a six-speed automatic to either the front-wheels or my test vehicle’s AWD system.
With torque arriving between 1,850 and 3,000 rpm, the Sportage SX really scoots. This is very noticeable when you’re trying to make a pass or you stomp on the accelerator. Also noticeable is how much time it takes for the turbo to spool up. You’re wondering where the power is when you leave a stop and a few moments, the power arrives. It isn’t a deal breaker per say, but adjust your driving habits accordingly. The six-speed does a very impressive job of providing smooth shifts.
The EPA rates the 2013 Sportage SX at 20 City/25 Highway/22 Combined. During my time, I saw an average of around 21 MPG.
The Sportage SX’s ride attempts to be sporty with a firmer suspension. However the suspension doesn’t quite make it the Sportage SX feel sporty at all. It does reduce body rolls, but also makes for a very unpleasant ride - especially if you live in area where the roads are less than perfect. Steering is okay with the system providing a good amount of weight.
Kia has got half of the recipe right with the Sportage SX. The turbo engine adds quite the punch and the exterior design could be in an art museum for how beautiful it looks. However the interior looks to be a bit of an afterthought and the ride needs some finessing. If Kia can work on those problems, the Sportage could be one of the best in class.
Disclaimer: Kia provided the Sportage, Insurance, and one tank of gas.
Year - 2013
Make – Kia
Model – Sportage
Trim – SX AWD
Engine – 2.0L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder
Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM – 260 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque @ RPM – 269 @ 1,850-3,000 RPM
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/25/22
Curb Weight – 3,355 lbs
Location of Manufacture – Gwangju, South Korea
Base Price - $28,400.00
Estimated As-Tested Price - $32,450.00* (Includes $850.00 destination charge)
SX Premium Package - $2,000
Navigation Package - $1,200