3rd Place: 2013 Kia Sportage, by Steven Bochenek

This is the first time I’ve predicted winners in car comparisons! I called the XV (which sounds cooler when read as the Fifteen) to come in first overall, but the Kia Sportage to win the beauty contest, then place exactly in the middle overall.

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2013 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge

First time I read “Sportage” I rhymed it with ‘shortage’. My first Sportage experience compounded that. A film/communications crew of three men, we chased the Kia Forte Koup across rural Newfoundland during the 2010 Targa Rally, covering 1,200 km over eight ten-hour workdays. We became intimate with space in the 2011 model.

It got funky.

But in this category, that space is no shortage. At 4,440 mm long, 1,855 high and 1,635 mm wide, this was the second-longest, second-widest and second-tallest vehicle being compared. It even placed first for Cabin Storage.

Instead, Sportage charmingly rhymes with portage (unless you’re from Manitoba), harkening to the outdoorsy romance this category sells its buyers instead of actual space.

Sporting aside, you’d probably use yours for dropping off kids and picking up bread. If so, the Sportage’s high, spacious rear seats and wide door opening make it the easiest of these five for installing baby seats or boosters. However, when tested, the baby seat still had some wiggle room, even when thoroughly secured. On the plus side, the seat’s recline feature still worked.

This Sportage was as pretty as its name — that fire engine red seemed almost wanton on this frigid winter day — but just like most pretty people we know, it’s a bit of letdown when you see what’s inside. (Though I called the Sportage to win for beauty, I thought the Juke prettier, but am utterly alone in that.)

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2013 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge

The Sportage heated up fast, thanks to its highly efficient dual climate controls, standard with base price. But I cooled quickly, while chasing the chain of four competitors during its test, our first run of the day. In last place, I had to summon much of the available 176 hp from the 2.4L four-cylinder engine several times simply to keep from getting lost. Between gunning it so much and keeping the heat on high well before the day’s events began, I may have contributed to its worst standing for observed fuel economy of 12.5 L/100 km. Its official ratings are 10.2/7.4 L/100 km city/highway.

It didn’t love corners. The steering and braking were so-so, feeling more truck-like than car, but that steering-wheel leather trumps last year’s strange material.

The Sportage placed last for stereo quality (sound and ease of use) and front seat position. However in both cases, it wasn’t for lack of effort on Kia’s part. You can control the stereo easily from the steering wheel and three months of satellite stereo are baked into the base price, and it was the front seat’s long seat bottom that frustrated some drivers, while taller folk found it supportive.

But the range of front seat motion? Heroic! Stretching up to scrape my head against the ceiling and flattening almost horizontal, it was less of a pilot seat than a dentist’s chair.

Overall, it was a middling sort of ride. Hence its position. Some excellent news if this review concerns you: the Sportage placed second for warranty with a 5 year/100,000 km for both powertrain and vehicle.

Pricing: 2013 Kia Sportage 2.4L EX AT AWD
Base price: $30,095
Options: $150 (Metallic Paint)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,650
Price as tested: $31,995

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