Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The 2016 Kia Sportage isn’t your average compact SUV. It packs a big dose of style and substance, not to mention an available turbocharged engine, all for about the same price as its competitors. Unfortunately, the Sportage doesn’t excel in the areas of storage space or fuel economy, two attributes most compact-SUV owners seek out first.
You'll Like The 2016 Kia Sportage If...
Think of the 2016 Kia Sportage as a sporty 5-door hatchback with a bit more ground clearance. Those who like rapid acceleration in an economy-minded crossover SUV that looks more expensive than it really is will love what the Sportage has to offer.
You May Not Like The 2016 Kia Sportage If...
If your compact-crossover-SUV needs include a smooth ride, lots of interior space and the ability to go off-road, a Subaru Forester, Ford Escape or Hyundai Tucson might be a better choice.
Enhancements for Kia’s 2016 Sportage compact SUV are limited to some option shuffling. The EX loses its standard Infinity audio and UVO (now part of the Premium package), but gains leather seating and Smart Key with push-button start. The LX’s Popular package gains a touch-screen display and a rearview camera.
Generally speaking, we like the 2016 Kia Sportage interior. The comfortable front seats and simple controls make it easy to drive around town. Rear passengers will like the roomy rear seats, but if you’re looking to haul cargo, the modest 54.6-cubic-foot cargo hold you get with those seats folded may not cut it as well as a Honda CR-V, which offers over 70 cubic feet of cargo space. That said, we like the leather seating on EX and SX models, which adds support and style. While we’re fans of the panoramic sunroof, we wish the sunshades were power-operated, not manual.
Kia calls its signature grille design a "tiger nose," although we’re not sure we see the resemblance. Regardless, sweptback headlights flank the distinctive grille, fitting with the sharp lines and narrow side glass of the Sportage. The Sportage’s high beltline and big wheel-and-tire combo make it look a bit like a hopped-up VW GTI. Don’t be fooled by the Sportage’s sporty appearance, however, because its available all-wheel drive and nearly seven inches of ground clearance make it a capable compact SUV.
There are two distinct personalities lurking beneath the 2016 Kia Sportage’s skin. Choose a model powered by the 182-horsepower 2.4-liter engine and you’ll get a competitive compact-crossover SUV with decent performance, so-so fuel economy and a long list of standard features. For the same money, however, you could get similar performance, better fuel economy and more interior room from a Mazda CX-5 or Nissan Rogue. Pick the sleek SX trim and you’ll get a 260-horsepower turbocharged engine that smokes everything in its class, save for the 250-horsepower Subaru Forester XT. Unlike the Forester, however, the Sportage’s stiff suspension doesn’t translate into superior handling. Excessive body lean coupled with a bouncy ride conspire to take the fun out of winding back roads, which relegates the Sportage to being a straight-line performer. We also have issues with the Sportage’s narrow windows and thick pillars that severely limit 360-degree visibility.
The 2016 Kia Sportage compact SUV starts with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a bit more than $23,000. The additional features of the EX model start just north of $26,000, while the turbocharged SX is right under the $31,000 mark. Note that all-wheel drive adds $1,500 to the price of any Sportage. A fully loaded AWD SX will run you about $33,000, but we think a better bet is the mid-level EX with the Premium package, which lacks the turbo’s power, but gets better fuel economy. Be sure to check KBB’s Fair Purchase Price before you buy to see what others are paying for the Kia Sportage in your area. Residuals won’t be quite as good as the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester, but probably on par with the Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4, and better than the Nissan Rogue, Jeep Compass and VW Tiguan.
The Kia Sportage LX comes with a 6-speaker audio system that includes Bluetooth, USB and SiriusXM satellite radio, and steering-wheel-mounted buttons for audio, phone and cruise control. An Active Eco system helps drivers save fuel, and rear-seat passengers get their own air-conditioning duct. Also included is a tilt/telescoping steering column and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The Sportage SX gains Kia’s UVO infotainment system, Infinity premium audio system with a subwoofer, navigation, ventilated front seats, automatic climate control, high-intensity headlights, plus the turbocharged engine and 18-inch alloy wheels.
All-wheel drive (AWD) is the most important stand-alone option on the Kia Sportage, adding $1,500 to the price over any front-wheel-drive (FWD) model. You can enhance the LX with UVO eServices and the Popular package, which bundles touch-screen audio, a rearview camera and automatic headlights. The EX Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, a cooled glove box, integrated outside-mirror turn signals, Infinity audio, heated outside mirrors and fog lights.
PANORAMIC SUNROOFThe 2016 Kia Sportage compact SUV offers a huge panoramic sunroof that helps lessen the otherwise claustrophobic feel inside the Sportage’s smallish cabin.2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINEIf you’re the type that likes jackrabbit starts and V6-like passing power, the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the 2016 Kia Sportage is your kind of animal. Its 260 horsepower makes it the most powerful vehicle in the compact-SUV class.
Under the Hood
The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder under the hood of LX and EX Sportage SUVs may be overshadowed by its turbocharged cousin, but with advanced fuel injection and competitive power and torque, it’s no slouch. But, yes, we have to admit we like the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the SX. Who wouldn’t? With 260 horsepower delivered smoothly through its 6-speed automatic transmission, it gives you the power of a V6 engine. Like the turbo, the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is connected to a 6-speed automatic, which can be shifted manually. While both engines are competitive in power, they lag the field in fuel economy.2.4-liter inline-4182 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm177 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg (FWD), 19/26 mpg (AWD)2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,850-3,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 mpg (FWD), 19/25 mpg (AWD)
For 2016 the Kia Sportage remains one of the most stylish and feature-rich compact-crossover SUVs one can buy. Up against the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and even the new Hyundai Tucson, Kia’s 2016 Sportage compact-crossover SUV plays in an increasingly crowded field. All of these competitors offer more interior room, better fuel economy and a smoother ride than the Sportage, so Kia’s little SUV has to emphasize its strong points, namely its available 260-horsepower turbocharged engine and sleek exterior styling. Although it offers a bit more horsepower than the Subaru Forester XT, the Sportage is no match for the Subaru’s impressive combination of fuel economy, handling and interior accommodations. Then again, the Sportage’s styling is superior to the Forester, as is its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.