You'll Like The 2010 Kia Sportage If...
If you're on a modest budget but don't want to give up comfort or convenience, you'll appreciate Kia's approach to the compact SUV segment. And, while its V6 engine produces little more power than Honda's in-line four, you'll appreciate the V6's smoothness with every tip of the accelerator.
You May Not Like The 2010 Kia Sportage If...
If you're an individual who cherishes an established nameplate, Kia (despite dramatic sales growth) lacks the long history of some other brands. And though Kia has definitely made strides versus segment leaders from Toyota and Honda, the Sportage might be a shade down from them in product refinement.
The 2010 Kia Sportage receives an "EcoMinder" indicator light on automatic transmission-equipped models that helps the driver maximize fuel economy. A new backup warning system is now offered with the EX Luxury Package.
Most Sportage prospects will be pleased by its interior, combining real functionality with a number of upscale touches. The attractive cloth upholstery gives an impression of comfort and durability. The instrument panel has easy-to-read gauges and the center-mounted cluster has controls that are easily identified and appropriately ergonomic. Adding to the upscale appeal are aluminized accents on both the instrument and door panels. Seating position is appropriately upright and, while the available sunroof encroaches slightly on rear-seat headroom, most adults will find either front or rear seating to be generous. As with most compact SUVs, the fifth passenger's area, in the center of the rear seat, is somewhat marginal.
The 2010 Kia Sportage represents a dramatic departure from the original Sportage design, which was discontinued in 2002. Today's Sportage wears a curvaceous, almost organic look, with a get-up-and-go attitude accentuated by short overhangs, a relatively wide track, ample tires (235/60-16 all-season radials) and generous headroom. Freshly revised last year, the 2010 model carries over the new face of Kia design. New wheels add a sporty look and 17-inch alloys are offered for the first time. The Sportage's hatch features an opening window for convenience; while the V6's dual exhaust system with chrome tips accentuates the Sportage's SUV intensions.
Kia's product team has hit the sweet spot in achieving a ride and handling balance completely appropriate to the target consumer. With a curb weight of roughly 3,400 pounds, the 2010 Kia Sportage is no lightweight. That fairly substantial heft is reflected in a feeling of solidity from the unit body structure. Suspension settings are biased toward comfort and the steering provides some appreciated feedback. The V6 engine, while offering two more cylinders than the 2010 Honda CR-V (Toyota offers a V6 with its RAV4), doesn't seem any more responsive than the Honda when connected to the standard four-speed automatic. We'd view the Sportage's on-road demeanor as creditable, although not entertaining, but, for an SUV, being creditable is more important.
The 2010 Kia Sportage LX, equipped with two-wheel drive, a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting slightly above $17,500. The EX, with V6, four-speed automatic and four-wheel drive, is close to $25,000. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. It shows the typical transaction price others have paid for the 2010 Kia Sportage in your area. Also be aware that, despite one of the industry's best warranties, a Kia will not offer the return on investment in the form of resale value enjoyed by Honda or Toyota owners. The Sportage does, however, retain values similar to the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Hyundai Tucson.
Kia's tagline, "The Power to Surprise," is abundantly evident when viewing the Sportage's window sticker. A high level of standard equipment is part of Kia's core strategy. Available in either LX or EX variants, the Sportage enjoys an almost opulent level of equipment, especially considering its price range. Young families concerned with safety will appreciate the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and traction control (TCS). Audiophiles will enjoy an AM/FM/CD/MP3 system with six speakers and a three-month subscription to SIRIUS Satellite Radio. Privacy side glass is standard across the board, while a sunroof is included on the EX at no additional charge. Finally, while we wish the roof rails offered more than the stated 100-pound capacity, they are included in the base window sticker price as standard equipment.
On the EX, the Luxury Package includes leather seats and trim, heated front seats, rear warning system, automatic headlamps and a six-disc CD changer, amplifier and subwoofer. Stand alone items include four-wheel drive, a navigation system (EX only), remote start and a number of dealer-installed upgrades.
The Sportage's distinctive design is modern, clean and attractive. In an era of generic styling emanating from many Asian studios, it's refreshing to see something truly distinctive without the carmaker resorting to "shock and awe."
Quality Interior Appointments
Kia has made great strides in quality, with improved plastics and upholstery throughout the lineup. On top of improved quality is true utility, with easy ingress and egress and a fold-flat rear seat that provides real stowage capability.
Under the Hood
The base LX utilizes a fairly conventional (for the category) 2.0 liter in-line four, while the EX benefits from the 2.7 liter DOHC V6. It, along with the Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape, were among the first to offer six-cylinder power in the compact utility category. We were not overly impressed by the responsiveness of the V6; it will meet consumer expectations, but we don't believe it will exceed them. The four-cylinder should be reserved for light duty only – no full loads, light towing and little exposure to work at high altitudes.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 (2WD),19/24 (4WD, manual)
173 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
178 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23
Those who remember the original Sportage SUV probably won't recognize the current model. Gone are the body-on-frame architecture, somewhat harsh ride and moderate engine power. The 2010 Kia Sportage derives its underpinnings from a car platform to give it a smooth ride, improved handling and better crash-test results. The trade-off is an inability to tackle the harshest sorts of off-road terrain (the Sportage lacks a high/low transfer case and locking differentials), but heavy snow and mud are still easily managed. And, while the humble Sportage must contend with perennial favorites such as the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, many people will find its low price and long list of standard features quite tempting.