2013 Kia Sportage SX AWD

2013 Kia Sportage SX AWD Review

Trolling the desert in Kia's sporty crossover.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: December 21st, 2012

Automakers love to call their compact crossovers "sporty" so that they can duck the stigma that SUVs aren't fun to drive. Kia even goes so far as to put "sport" right there in the name "Sportage."

It's not all that audacious, really, since the Sportage does pack a punch under the hood in SX trim (a 260-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sits in the engine bay). Kia has also added 18-inch wheels and a dual exhaust to outline the SX's sporting mission.

We spent some time traversing across the Southwest in the SX's natural territory--suburbia.

  • On the Road

    We didn't have any real opportunity during our time with the car to hit a curvy backroad, but then again, few Sportage SX buyers will be using their crossovers for anything outside of grocery-getting. So we contented ourselves with freeway blasts and tooling around town.

    Acceleration from the four-banger provided a nice swift kick, but when hammering on the throttle for passing maneuvers, there was a delay as the transmission kicked down and the power ramped up. Using the manumatic function of the six-speed automatic transmission probably can help alleviate this problem.

    High crosswinds pushed the tall Sportage to and fro on our first interstate run, but when the weather calmed down, so did the Kia--it rode with grace and stability that's somewhat surprising for an all-wheel-drive SUV. It felt heavy and solid, but not cumbersome.

    Cornering was competent in around-town situations, with a nicely weighted steering system that provided a lot of the Sportage's sporty feel.

  • Interior

    We liked the Sportage's interior layout--everything was easy to reach, and we didn't need to scratch our heads to figure out which button performed which function. Even the navigation/audio/phone system had a short learning curve, although we didn't like the fact that it took a while to wake up every time the vehicle was restarted

    Our official test-driver is a bit on the tall side, and he had no complaints with leg or headroom, although he did wish the tilt steering wheel would have gone lower. Cargo room was enough for a suitcase and a backpack without much room left over, and we were mystified by a power liftgate that refused to do what it was told via the key fob.

    Tire noise was muted, and the engine only intruded at higher RPMs, but wind noise from the A-pillars was noticeable at highway speeds.

  • Exterior

    We dug the Sportage's vaguely egg-shaped design, and the SX trim, which adds a different grille along with a dual exhaust, unique wheels, and sculpted side molding, looked pretty good from all angles. We wouldn’t be ashamed to park one in our driveway.

  • Final Thoughts

    While we think it's tough for any compact crossover to be truly sporty, since basic physics works against the handling ability of tall vehicles (especially those burdened with the weight of all-wheel-drive), Kia has done a pretty decent job here. Most of the credit goes to the engine--once the transmission kicks down, it packs a punch--and the steering feel. But few of the driving dynamics are sacrificed: opting for the sportier SX trim over the base, LX, and EX flavors doesn't mean you need to give up much in the way of ride or utility. Pretty impressive for a "sport" trim that includes more than badging and body-style elements.

    Crossover SUVs are about compromise in the end--they exist so that drivers who need an SUV (either for extra cargo/passenger space or for better handling in inclement weather) can still get a somewhat car-like user experience. The Sportage fits that bill nicely.

  • Specs, Features, and Prices

    Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic

    Drive Wheels: All

    Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway

    Base Price: $28,400

    As-Tested Price: $32,400

    Available Features: Navigation system, satellite radio, heated front seats, Bluetooth, air-cooled driver's seat, sunroof, heated outside mirrors, cargo cover, leather seats, push-button start, backup warning system, tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control.

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