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2016 Kia Sportage: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader October 2015

When it comes to making a statement, the 2016 Kia Sportage speaks loud and clear. With its strong visual appeal, powerful turbocharged engine and long list of available features, the Kia Sportage elevates expectations of what a compact SUV can be. The Sportage is more than just a pretty face, however. It's a truly compact crossover. While this means that cargo capacity is subpar, the benefits of downsizing are evident from behind the wheel.

Whether you're darting through urban streets or taking your time on a rural byway, the Sportage feels more like a nimble hatchback than a high-riding utility vehicle. Toss in the all-wheel-drive option, and the Sportage becomes a year-round commuter that can handle almost any weather condition. Other strengths include an available 260-horsepower turbocharged engine, which really puts the "Sport" in "Sportage." Throw in adequate back-seat legroom and a wealth of standard and optional features, and it's clear that the Sportage's strong first impression is just the beginning.

What's New for 2016?

Changes for 2016 are limited to some shuffling of equipment and packages. Leather seating is now standard on the EX trim, while the LX Popular package and EX Premium package gain more equipment. The SX gains ventilated front seats and a panoramic sunroof.

What We Like

Distinctive looks; fun to drive; excellent optional turbocharged engine; available UVO voice-recognition system

What We Don't

Firm ride; fuel economy falling behind newer competitors; limited cargo capacity; narrow side glass creates blind spots

How Much?

$23,045-$35,000

Fuel Economy

The Sportage starts with a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine rated at 182 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is the only transmission choice this year. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive model is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while all-wheel-drive models earn a slightly lower 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

Exclusive to the SX trim is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder that cranks out 260 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. This is essentially the same engine featured in the Optima midsize sedan. It's a gem, and it delivers strong, lag-free acceleration that evokes fancier crossovers such as the BMW X3. Its fuel economy is impressive, considering all that thrust: 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive and 19 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Kia Sportage comes in three possible trims: LX, EX and SX.

The Sportage LX ($23,045) includes an automatic transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, audio controls on the steering wheel, a tilt-telescoping steering column, reclining rear seats, rear privacy glass, an AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, USB/iPod interface, air conditioning and power functions for the windows, mirrors and door locks.

The Sportage EX ($26,245) adds leather seating, 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, auto headlights, rear backup sensors, a cooling glove box, heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, one-touch driver's window, Smart Key keyless entry with push button start, sun-visor illumination, Infinity premium audio, trip computer, a rear backup camera, UVO infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and a power driver's seat with manual lumbar support.

The Sportage SX ($30,885) builds on the EX features by adding a 260-hp turbocharged engine, ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights, LED daytime running lights and rear taillights, power-folding outside mirrors, voice-command navigation with a 7-in color touch screen and unique 18-in alloy wheels.

The LX can be equipped with the Popular package, which adds a trip computer, rear spoiler, rear backup sensors, roof rails, a rear backup camera, touch screen audio, auto headlights and the UVO system. The EX Premium package adds a panoramic sunroof, navigation, power-folding outside mirrors, ventilated front seats, Infinity premium audio, heated outside mirrors, front fog lamps and an air-conditioned glove box.

Safety

The Sportage offers standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side curtain) and active front head restraints.

The 2016 Sportage was a standout in government crash testing, scoring a perfect five stars overall in both front- and side-impact tests. Likewise, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Sportage as Good in all categories.

Behind the Wheel

The 2016 Kia Sportage feels intimate and sporty as soon as you sit behind the wheel, and a spirited drive confirms this impression. Thanks to its firm suspension and responsive steering, the Sportage engages the driver like few other affordable crossovers can. Add the turbocharged engine to the mix, and you'll really have some fun. The addition of sport dampers to all models means that ride quality may leave something to be desired, so make sure you find rough pavement on your test route to see if the Sportage's ride suits you. Similarly, at times road noise is more intrusive than we'd prefer.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Escape -- Based on the superb Focus, the Escape matches the Sportage in terms of entertainment value, and surpasses it in cargo space and interior quality. However, the Escape is also more expensive, and the styling isn't as special to our eye.

2016 Mazda CX-5 -- If athletic handling is what you're after, the CX-5 is the car for you. However, even though its fuel economy is best-in-class, the CX-5 doesn't have anything to rival the Sportage's 260-hp turbocharged engine option.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander -- A dark horse pick, the Outlander Sport provides Sportage-like dimensions and maneuverability at an affordable price.

Used Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -- An older Hyundai Santa Fe Sport offers many of the same technology and comfort features found on the Kia Sportage, but with more room and a more comfortable ride.

Autotrader's Advice

The turbocharged SX is pricey by Kia standards, but it's an excellent all-around vehicle that showcases the Sportage's potential. Check the spec sheet on an Audi Q5 2.0T, for example, and you may develop a newfound respect for this Kia.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Kia Sportage: New Car Review - Autotrader