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2021 Kia Sportage Review

The 2021 Kia Sportage is a compact crossover that’s big on choice. At one end of the pricing spectrum is the entry level LX version. Starting at around $25,000, it’s relatively affordable, yet still has the constant Sportage attributes of a smooth ride, comfortable seats, quality cabin materials, and one of the best standard powertrain warranties available: 10 years or 100,00 miles, whichever  occurs first.

At the other end is a sporty SX Turbo version with a dedicated suspension and a more powerful engine, plus paddle shifters mounted beneath the steering wheel for ultimate control of the 6-speed automatic transmission. And it comes with virtually every available feature as standard. Anyone looking at luxury compact crossovers may want to stop and think.

The Sportage also earns good marks in crash tests and does fairly well in the areas of resale and reliability. The only areas where the Sportage falls somewhat short is cargo space and fuel efficiency.

What’s New for 2021?

Nightfall Edition and Nightfall Edition Premium packages apply to the S trim and replace last year’s Sunroof and Premium packages for this same trim level. They include cosmetic additions such as piano-black exterior accents and 18-inch alloy wheels with black centers, but the regular version also brings a panoramic sunroof, while the Premium includes wireless charging and satellite radio. See the 2021 Kia Sportage models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Arguably attractive exterior and interior designs
  • All-wheel drive available at all trim levels
  • Gutsy 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the top trim
  • Generous standard technology
  • 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty

What We Don’t

  • Blind spots necessitate choosing at least the S trim
  • Unimpressive fuel economy
  • Unimpressive cargo space
  • Some driver aids not standard in all trims

How Much?

$25,110–$34,770

Fuel Economy

With the exception of the SX Turbo (more on that model in a moment), the 2021 Sportage employs a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) direct-injected 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. That’s around average for the class.

Front-wheel-drive (FWD) is the standard arrangement, with all-wheel drive (AWD) available as an option across the board. A 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is standard in all trims.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel consumption estimates are 23 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and  26 mpg in combined driving (FWD) or 21 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined (AWD).

The SX Turbo model has a turbocharged direct-injected 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 240 hp (237 hp with AWD) and 260 lb-ft of torque. This version gains paddle shifters for the transmission.

Fuel consumption is estimated at 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined (FWD) or 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined (AWD).

Standard Features and Options

The 2021 Kia Sportage comes in LX, S, EX and SX Turbo trims.

All-wheel drive is optional for every version, costing $1,500 except in S trim, where (for some reason) it’s $1,700.

LX ($25,110) has 17-in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, privacy glass, power-adjustable side mirrors, rear window wiper/defroster, rear spoiler, power locks/windows, air conditioning with rear vents, selectable driving modes (Normal, Sport and Eco), forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, 3.5-in thin-film-transistor LCD driver information cluster, 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, 60/40 split/fold/recline rear seat, front seatback pockets, cargo net hooks, luggage under-tray, dual-level cargo floor, three 12-volt outlets, 8-in infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth phone/audio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, USB port, auxiliary audio input, and a 6-speaker/160-watt audio system.

This trim is eligible for a Popular package ($1,595) that brings a power adjustable driver’s seat, stain-resistant cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated/power-folding side mirrors, UV-reducing solar-control glass, windshield wiper de-icer, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and dual illuminated vanity mirrors. An LX with all-wheel drive and this package also gains heated front seats.

S ($27,610) includes 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, simulated leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rails and heated/power-folding mirrors.

As mentioned above, S trim qualifies for Nightfall Edition ($1,500) and Nightfall Edition Premium ($1,800, requires Nightfall Edition) packages.

The former brings metal sport pedals, LED interior lighting, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, flat-bottomed steering wheel, black roof rails, paddle shifters, 18-in dark gray alloy wheels, and a rear Sportage badge (in black) that goes across the lift gate.

The latter adds a self-dimming rearview mirror with compass and remote garage door opener, USB port for the rear seat, leather-wrapped shift knob, electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, and keyless entry/ignition.

EX ($28,410) has a powered lift gate, solar glass, windshield wiper de-icer, keyless entry/ignition, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, heated front seats, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an additional USB port for the back seat.

A Technology package for EX trim ($4,560) includes leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof with powered sunshade, black roof rails, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, adaptive cruise control, navigation, satellite radio, wireless charging, 320-watt Harman Kardon premium sound system, front/rear parking sensors, self-dimming rearview mirror with compass and remote garage door opener, plus a compact spare tire.

SX Turbo ($34,770) comes with the more powerful engine and sport suspension, plus 19-in alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof with powered sunshade, LED exterior/interior lighting, dual exhaust system, metal-finished front and rear skid plates, metal scuff plates, metal sport pedals, leather seating surfaces, ventilated front seats, 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated/flat-bottomed steering wheel, paddle shifters, dashboard stitching, 4.2-in color thin-film-transistor LCD driver information cluster, electronic parking brake with auto-hold, black headliner, black high-gloss interior inserts, navigation, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, and front/rear parking sensors.

Safety

Every Sportage has advanced dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side-curtain airbags and dual full-length side-curtain airbags with rollover sensing. Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, downhill brake control, LATCH connectors, and a rearview camera are also standard.

The driver assistance features in the base LX trim includes forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning and lane-keeping assistance. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is optional in the LX, standard at every other trim level.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Sportage its top marks in all the major categories and made it a Top Safety Pick. The Sportage also earned a maximum five stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Behind the Wheel

It’s all about that raised driving position. American buyers tend to steer away from wagons and hatchbacks that can be just as practical, but put a compact crossover in front of them and it’s a different ball game.

A typical compact crossover offers great outward vision, and nearly matches the performance and fuel economy of its sedan stablemates. The availability of all-wheel drive is another lure.

The Sportage has a quiet and composed ride quality, with well-judged handling. The 2.4-liter engine delivers more than adequate acceleration and there’s no problem darting through traffic or merging onto fast-moving freeways.

The SX Turbo’s 2.4-liter engine is better matched to the Sportage’s nearly 4,000-pound curb weight and enthusiastic drivers will appreciate the sport-tuned suspension’s slightly stiffer ride.

The Sportage’s interior has a beautifully designed and executed layout. Great materials selection and tasteful restraint are complemented by excellent fit and finish. The many standard and optional features should please even the pickiest buyer, especially in the loaded SX Turbo.

There’s plenty of space for people up front as well as in the back. Behind the rear seats, luggage space measures 30.7 cubic feet. Folding those seats down opens up a cargo area of 60.1 cubic feet. For context, the Honda CR-V enjoys 37.6 to 75.8 cubic feet.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Honda CR-V — The best-selling compact crossover in the United States. A great benchmark for refinement and reliability.

2021 Toyota RAV4Toyota’s long-running compact crossover entered a new generation only two years ago, providing more room, more equipment and more power than before. Every RAV4 comes standard with a full array of collision avoidance/driver assistance features. A hybrid version is also in the range.

2021 Mazda CX-5 Mazda always has a distinct edge in terms of styling and driver engagement. The CX-5 delivers the best driving experience in this class.

2021 Nissan Rogue — An all-new generation debuts for 2021. Top trims offer a partially autonomous driving system.

Used Lexus RX — The RX has been the most popular luxury vehicle in the United States for years, so there should be plenty around. It’s a midsize, providing much more space than a Sportage. It’s super-comfortable and build quality is exemplary. Check out the Lexus certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Questions You May Ask

What problems does the Kia Sportage have?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were just four complaints about last year’s Sportage. They related to frozen windshield washer fluid, an issue with the brakes, and a couple of problems with the engine. That’s pretty good in the bigger picture. The year before was similarly low.

What’s the difference between the 2021 Kia Sportage and the 2021 Kia Seltos?

The Sportage is classified as a compact, the Seltos is a subcompact crossover. It isn’t quite that straightforward, though, since the Seltos has the best passenger and cargo space of the two. But its engines aren’t as powerful. The 2021 Seltos has all-wheel drive as standard if that’s important. It’s also a newer model with fresher technology.

When was the Kia Sportage redesigned?

This generation of the Sportage is the fourth and made its debut in the United States for the 2017 model year. It received a refresh last year.

Autotrader’s Advice

The S trim comes at a reasonable price and might leave some money on the table to go for one or both of the new Nightfall packages, and/or all-wheel drive. But even in standard form, blind-spot monitoring is included and it’s always a good idea to have as many safety features as possible. Find a Kia Sportage for sale

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More

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