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2021 Kia Sportage Performance

#3 out of 16 in Compact SUVs

U.S. News Best Price Program

2021 Kia Sportage Performance Review


Performance: 7.5

The 2021 Kia Sportage is both comfortable and engaging to drive. Its base engine has adequate power, and a more potent turbocharged engine is available in its top trim. Still, this Kia's fuel economy numbers are subpar for a compact SUV.

  • "Although the 240-horsepower turbocharged SX may seem like the most attractive model because of its superior muscle, the standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 181 horsepower works just fine in the 2021 Kia Sportage. It has more than ample power, and the standard 6-speed automatic transmission operates unobtrusively. The 2.4 also achieves better fuel economy than the 2.0-liter turbo. For outright acceleration, though, the turbocharged Sportage SX is the way to go." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Sportage performs best around town, where its ample low-end torque, smooth braking and nicely weighted steering can shine. But when taken out of its comfort zone, the Kia falls apart. Our tester with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine managed 0-60 mph in 9 seconds, a poor showing for an upgraded motor in the class." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "There's a reason compact crossover vehicles like the Sportage have gained a big chunk of market share recently: They're great to drive. With just a slightly taller stance than a comparably sized sedan, the compact crossover is more comfortable, offers greater visibility and nearly matches the performance and fuel economy of its trunk-laden cousins. Add in greater utility and available AWD like the Sportage has, and you've got a winning combination." -- Autotrader (2020)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque
  • Available engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic

The base engine has enough power for most shoppers, but it could use some additional juice for driving at higher speeds. For a more robust experience, consider stepping up to the SX Turbo trim for its stronger engine. However, some reviewers find that the turbocharged engine doesn't provide enough extra punch given its higher power figures.

  • "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 … 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." -- Autotrader
  • "In every 2021 Sportage except the SX Turbo is a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 181 horsepower. This output is pretty much average for the compact SUV/crossover class." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "We like the six-speed automatic transmission. It shifts smoothly and predictably, although the lack of torque in the EX requires more downshifting compared to the more powerful SX." -- Edmunds (2019)

MPG Estimates

The Sportage's gas mileage figures are slightly below the class average.

  • 2.4-liter, FWD: 23/30 mpg city/highway
  • 2.4-liter, AWD: 21/25 mpg
  • Turbo-four, FWD: 20/28 mpg
  • Turbo-four, AWD: 19/24 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Sportage is tuned more toward comfort than sportiness, but it maintains its composure around bends, and its steering is responsive. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.

  • "The Sportage has a quiet and composed ride quality, with well-judged handling." -- Autotrader
  • "The electrically assisted steering feels natural (which is not always the case with this kind of assistance), and the suspension has a ride quality that’s comfortable and compliant without being vague and floaty." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Kia's goal is to add a splash of driving excitement to all of its vehicles, and that's roughly what the Sportage delivers. Although the Mazda CX-5 is even better in this respect, the Sportage does feel composed and nimble around corners." -- Edmunds (2019)
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2021 Kia Sportage

MSRP: $23,990 - $35,150

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