2017 Kia Sportage EX SUV

When a vehicle’s been around for a few generations, as the Sportage has, its basic characteristics are usually well-established, so you know what to expect from the next one. But for the fully redesigned 2017 Sportage, Kia directly addressed two of our primary complaints about the previous model. First, the formerly cramped backseat is now remarkably roomy, to the point that a family might not need anything more. And second, the formerly firm ride is now relatively compliant.

In short, we’re running out of reasons why the Sportage isn’t a head-of-the-class standout among small crossover SUVs.

The new 2017 Kia Sportage has a fresh face that prominently features Kia’s corporate grille.

If there’s one thing that still holds the Sportage back, it’s lackluster fuel economy, which we called out last year and must underscore again for 2017 despite mild improvements. This is a predictable problem, as both available engines and the mandatory six-speed automatic transmission are largely carryover items from the outgoing Sportage. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive combo is pegged at 22 mpg in combined driving, according to EPA estimates, trailing the Honda CR-V by a significant 5 mpg, while the optional 2.0-liter turbo can only manage 21 mpg in combined driving. On the bright side, the engines are quiet and refined, and the smooth-shifting transmission responds quickly when you need a downshift.

By the numbers, at least, another 2017 Sportage shortcoming is its cargo capacity, which is limited to 60.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down, easily outdone by the RAV4’s 73.3 cubes and the CR-V’s 70.9. Still, you might find it more than adequate for your needs, and the Sportage is notably nose-to-tail shorter than both rivals, making it a bit more maneuverable in close quarters. Additional strengths include an upscale cabin that’s surprisingly quiet at speed, an excellent optional 8-inch Uvo touchscreen and responsive steering that gives this Kia an appropriately sporting feel.

The 2017 Kia Sportage joins a group of affordable crossovers that’s never been more competitive. In addition to the above-mentioned RAV4 and CR-V, there’s the smaller Honda HR-V, which offers an exceptionally spacious interior for its size and impressive fuel economy but suffers from laggardly acceleration. The Mazda CX-5 is a perennial favorite among our staffers for its capable handling and well-rounded feature set, while the reinvented 2017 Ford Escape merits strong consideration. But if you’re shopping for a crossover in this genre, you owe yourself a drive in the thoughtfully redesigned 2017 Sportage.

The 2017 Kia Sportage is a small crossover SUV with seating for five. It’s offered in three trim levels: LX, EX and SX Turbo.

All 2017 Sportage versions have a central control layout that wraps toward you for ease of access.

The LX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic headlights, rear privacy-tinted windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear climate vents, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a USB port, an auxiliary input jack and satellite radio.

The EX upgrades to 18-inch wheels, foglights, heated mirrors, roof rails, a gloss-black grille, a windshield-wiper de-icer, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rear USB charging port and a 7-inch touchscreen with the latest version of Kia’s Uvo infotainment system (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

The SX Turbo boasts 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, automatic high beams, LED foglights and taillights, power-folding mirrors with LED turn signals, a sport-tuned suspension, a hands-free power tailgate, a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters, an upgraded driver information display, an eight-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, dashboard accent stitching, gloss-black interior accents, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a navigation system and an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

A number of these standard features can be added to lower trim levels as options. For the LX, the Popular package adds the roof rails, heated mirrors, windshield-wiper de-icer, power driver seat, heated front seats and illuminated vanity mirrors, while the Cool and Connected package throws in the 7-inch touchscreen with Uvo and the automatic climate control. For the EX, the Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED interior lighting and heated steering wheel (though this wheel lacks the SX Turbo’s flat-bottom design and shift paddles), while the Technology package tacks on the automatic high beams, hands-free power tailgate, ventilated front seats, power passenger seat, 8-inch touchscreen and Harman Kardon audio system.

In LX and EX trim, the 2017 Kia Sportage is motivated by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The SX Turbo model gets a stronger turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft. Both engines come paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available as an option.

Given the turbocharged engine’s surprising thirst and so-so acceleration, we’d lean toward the regular 2.4-liter engine that comes standard in this 2017 Sportage EX.

According to the EPA, the Sportage LX should return 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway) with front-wheel drive and 22 mpg combined (21/25) with all-wheel drive. The Sportage EX’s official estimates are slightly different, but expect essentially the same in real-world driving. The SX Turbo drops to 23 mpg combined (21/26) with FWD and 21 mpg combined (20/23) with AWD.

Although these fuel economy numbers are a tick or two better than those of the previous Sportage, they’re still unimpressive for a small crossover with four-cylinder power. Many rivals, especially those with AWD, are typically better.

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