$17,703 - $25,004

2018 Kia Sportage Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.0

The 2018 Kia Sportage delivers a cushioned ride and is one of the more agile vehicles in the class. However, both engine options are underwhelming, and fuel economy lags many competitors.

  • "With the caveat that it's still a crossover, the Sportage SX is enjoyable to drive." -- Automobile Magazine (2017)
  • "I found the overall driving experience to be enjoyable, and I'd put the turbo version of the Sportage near the very top of the segment in that regard." -- Cars.com (2017)
  • "While the previous Sportage suffered from a loud cabin and a suspension that crashed over bumps, the 2017 model is quiet and comfortable rolling down the highway, yet it also does well tackling winding California roads." -- CNET (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The Sportage comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 181 horsepower. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine has enough power for driving around town, but it lacks the requisite muscle for confident highway driving.

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is available. It produces 240 horsepower (237 in all-wheel-drive models), which is more than almost any engine offered by class rivals. But despite being one of the strongest engines in the class, the turbo-four still feels sluggish.

Lackluster engines might be forgiven if you’re trading power for fuel economy, but that’s not the case here. The Sportage gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway – below-average ratings for the class. The turbocharged engine’s ratings are a few ticks worse, earning just 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

  • "It'd be easy to just point to the 240-horsepower turbocharged Sportage SX as the model to get, thanks to its additional power, but the reality is that few will complain about the standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and its 181 horsepower. It's a surprisingly eager combination, with the standard 6-speed automatic transmission unobtrusive in its operation, just as it should be. The bonus is that it also gets notably better fuel economy than the turbo. That's not to say that the turbo's additional power isn't without its charms of course, and if you're looking for maximum acceleration, then the SX and its turbo engine are the way to go." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • Given how accomplished the Sportage is otherwise, the engines are something of a letdown. The base 2.4-liter engine operates smoothly, but while it keeps you moving with traffic well enough, there's not much surplus power for passing. We like that Kia provides a higher-performance engine in the SX Turbo, but it doesn't give you the punch you'd expect based on its extra 59 hp, and its fuel economy penalty may be hard to swallow. In any event, we're fans of the six-speed automatic, which is one of the best-mannered transmissions you'll find in this segment." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • While the 2.0T swiftly propels the Sportage out of corners, it's still not jaw-dropping quick. The very warm temperatures could have been playing a part in sapping some power, but I believe most of it has to do with a fully-loaded SX AWD having a curb weight of nearly 4,000 pounds." -- CNET (2017)

Handling and Braking

This Kia comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is available. Ride quality is good, and road imperfections are absorbed with ease. The Sportage has sharp steering and sturdy brakes, and there isn’t much body roll when you take turns. This is one of the more agile compact SUVs, though it’s still a step behind the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape.

  • "The Sportage has evolved noticeably from the firm-riding crossover it used to be. Kia seems to have realized that crossover buyers appreciate comfort, too, because the 2017 Sportage strikes a rewarding balance between ride compliance and handling control. There's still a certain athleticism to the way this crossover steers and takes a corner, but impacts now tend to be absorbed or shrugged off rather than transmitted vividly to the cabin." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "On challenging roads a couple of hours outside of San Diego, my SX tester tracks confidently through quick bends, with its body motions staying in check without much roll or dive when braking. The brakes themselves are strong, with pleasingly firm pedal feedback. It's certainly a sporty ride for the segment, but the higher handling abilities thankfully don't necessarily come at the expense of ride comfort. Even on the SX's 19-inch wheel and tire package, the Sportage rides smoothly enough, with the suspension still taking the edge off of most road impacts I come across." -- CNET (2017)
  • "The good news is that the steering is finally coming around. The new Sportage is more responsive to wheel inputs and there's significantly more feedback. It still won't touch a CX-5 in that department, but it's on the right track." -- Left Lane News (2017)

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