Saturday, June 25, 2011

Give it a chance: Kia Sportage

Besides the Jeep Patriot, the Kia Sportage is the cheapest crossover/SUV on the market today. For a number of reasons, the Jeep Patriot (as well as its more unattractive sister the Jeep Compass) is not very competitive in the segment, although Fiat has improved the interiors as of late).

Despite being the cheapest SUV, the Kia Sportage is surprisingly very attractive, in my opinion. However, every time I mention the car to friends and people I know looking for a small crossover, they instantly dismiss me, in large part because the Kia brand is still not considered cool in America. People think back to the early 90s when the Sportage, Spectra, Sephia, and Rio were in fact horrible cars to drive. I have never driven this car, so my review is based on exterior and interior design, driving reviews I've read in major car mags, and common business sense (remember, Hyundai/Kia's warranty is still the best in the US!). Click through for more:

The most exciting design cue on this car are the LED headlights which, admittedly, are only standard on the EX model and upward, which starts at a higher $23k. This feature reminds me of an Audi R8 or the eyebrows of the last-gen BMW 5 Series. They look great at night.

A recent Car and Driver road test suggested that the Kia was the slowest of its peers. While that may be the case, you best not be expecting an exhilarating drive when you buy a $20k SUV. You would have to spring for the $25k+ SX turbocharged model to have a little more fun. When you size up the direct competition to the Sportage, I'm not sure I can find another crossover at a better value and better overall "look".
  • Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute is capable but well overdue for a makeover
  • Honda CRV is also well overdue and I cannot get over the 
  • Subaru Forester is more of a station wagon
  • Hyundai Tuscon is the Sportage's cousin, and while attractive, I think the Sportage has it beat
  • Toyota RAV4 is well put together, but you pay a premium for the extra fit and finish
  • Honda CRV is quite old and unattractive - I do not understand the ovular rear window between C and D pillars, as well as the awkward multi-tiered front end
  • Dodge Nitro / Jeep Liberty suffer from legacy Chrysler quality woes and need a shot in the arm from Fiat...badly. With Toyota/Honda-quality interiors, these cars could be strong competitors.
  • VW Tiguan is very attractive and sporty but accordingly priced upmarket

I will admit that the interior of the Sportage leaves much to be desired. Shiny plastics and a dull design remind you that you own a $20k CUV, not a $30k one. However, with a car that looks this good from the outside, who cares?


  1. I agree with your theory of how people react to buying a Kia. I will make it a point to test drive one, which is the ultimate answer. I think this car is fairly good looking, but wonder about the visibility in the back when backing up or parallel parking. Great post!

  2. I agree, there are few alternatives that match up. Looks good except for the front end - I don't like the LED headlight detail. I wonder what it feels like to drive.

  3. @ Peggy: Definitely agree that visibility will be an issue - that's one thick D-pillar.

    @ Warren: The LED lights are definitely a matter of taste. Regardless of whether you like them, they definitely suggest an up-market feel that you don't see often on sub-$30k cars/CUVs.

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    . That may be the best thing Dodge Brisbane.