The Sportage has a navigation system that is a lot easier to use than the MB GLK

I’ve tested a fair share of fancy SUVs, which makes it really easy to nitpick affordable SUVS that aren’t nearly as snazzy as their luxury counterparts. But the 2012 Kia Sportage SX I tested surprised me. It’s a less expensive, well-made, amenity-filled alternative to luxury compact SUVs that are so easy to fall in love with.

In the Sportage SX, you can get a lot of the same features at an affordable price compared with models like the Mercedes-Benz GLK. The Sportage SX has a 2.0-liter 260-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes just 8 horsepower less than the GLK’s 3.5-liter V6 engine. The Sportage SX isn’t as refined as the German-engineered GLK, but the Sportage SX’s smooth, quiet ride and quality, high-tech cabin make you forget you’re in a Kia.

With all-wheel drive, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and a cooled driver’s seat, the SX costs $31,400. With these options and a few the Sportage doesn’t have, like a power liftgate and 10-way power-adjustable front seats, the GLK costs about $14,500 more.

If a difference of nearly $15,000 doesn’t convince you that the SX is a stellar value, the money you’ll save at the pump might. The Sportage uses regular gas and has fuel economy ratings of 21/26 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive, which equates to about $2,100 per year in fuel costs. The GLK’s fuel costs are much higher. It only gets 16/21 mpg, and thanks to the GLK’s premium fuel requirements, it costs about $2,900 to fuel the GLK year-round.

For me, the Sportage lacked just one thing: a power liftgate. The GLK has one, and that feature is pretty handy if your hands are full. But even without a power liftgate, the 2012 Kia Sportage SX is perfect for shoppers who want all the niceties of a luxury crossover, but don’t want to pay nearly $46,000 for it.