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Manufacturer’s Website
Kia Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2013 Kia Sportage SX

Korean automaker Kia continues to ride a wave of unprecedented success in Canada that began with the introduction of its current line of redesigned vehicles in 2010–2011. Really, there isn’t a dud among them; such is the appeal of their smart exteriors and high-content packaging.

Test Drive: 2013 Kia Sportage SX car test drives reviews kia
Test Drive: 2013 Kia Sportage SX car test drives reviews kia
2013 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge.

Value pricing—the Korean coup de grace—often seals the deal.

The Kia Sportage is the compact SUV of the group, and along with the Optima sedan, it’s arguably the most dramatically styled vehicle in the Kia lineup. Aerodynamic and a bit aggressive in appearance, the Sportage looks fast and competent; its high waist, purposeful grille, and slim, dark-tinted windows adding notes of menace to the mix.

Starting at $21,995 for the front-wheel-drive LX model, the Sportage price rises steeply to $37,395 for the top-of-the-line all-wheel drive SX. It’s the only model in the Sportage line powered by the direct injected, turbocharged, 2.0L four-cylinder engine that makes 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Kia calls it the T-GDI (turbo gasoline direct injected) engine. This is a technology that’s becoming commonplace in cars and SUVs these days, offering an excellent combination of power and fuel economy.

Our tester, an SX, added $200 to the price for Black Cherry Pearl paint, and something to note is that any Sportage colour other than white similarly attracts a premium price.

You won’t want for much in the 2013 Kia Sportage SX, however; it’s pretty much loaded. A large-screen rear-view camera is standard, along with a premium level navigation system (with split-screen views) and satellite radio with seven-speaker audio. It has all-wheel drive, of course, 18-inch high style wheels, windshield wiper de-icer, dual automatic climate control, locking centre differential, heated front seats (and cooled for the driver), leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, the list goes on.

For 2013, the SX receives manual folding exterior mirrors, upgraded leather on the steering wheel, and removes the UVO trim (infotainment system), but otherwise is unchanged from 2012.

With the standard keyless entry system, the Sportage SX senses the keyfob on your person as you approach it, and unlocks with the touch of a button on the door handle. Likewise, another button next to the steering column is depressed to start the engine. This is the kind of feature that many people swear they don’t need, but when you have it, you don’t want to give it up.

I found the leather-upholstered seat comfortable, and that its two-stage heater warmed quickly. The steering wheel leather wrapping, a source of complaint in 2012, has been addressed. As mentioned above, the driver’s seat is also ventilated with cool air when required in the summer. Both front seats are power adjustable.

Test Drive: 2013 Kia Sportage SX car test drives reviews kia
2013 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge.

My rear seat passengers all commented on the comfortable accommodations back there (in one case, it was a couple; another was a single passenger). Despite the rakish profile, the roof still provides good headroom for front and rear occupants, all of whom can enjoy the benefits of the dual sunroof. Legroom is also generous.

Outward visibility to the front and sides is good, but the small rear window is a liability, especially when backing into a parking spot or out of a driveway. The rearview camera is a useful and required aid in the Sportage.

Starting the Sportage in cold weather generates a harsh sound from the GDI engine, which does become quieter as it warms up. The six-speed automatic transmission changes gears smoothly as you accelerate and I found the Sportage felt very solid and well planted on the road. Steering is sharp and the vehicle corners flat and predictably.

The suspension is firm in this sport model, however, and over broken and uneven pavement is not particularly compliant. Coming from a softly sprung sedan, it was an adjustment. On even pavement, however, the Sportage is a smooth-riding vehicle. We were riding on winter tires, it should be noted, which can compromise ride compared with a less aggressively sculpted summer or all-season tire. Eventually I became used to the firmer suspension, so it’s not something that detracts from the vehicle in the longer term. Downhill Assist Control (selectable) and Hill Ascent Control are additional standard driving aids.

Acceleration is spirited when required, the turbo kicking in with no perceptible lag and moving the Sportage along at a fast pace when passing or coming up to highway speed on a ramp. Otherwise, engine output is well matched for normal driving situations.

Test Drive: 2013 Kia Sportage SX car test drives reviews kia
2013 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge.

The distinctive wheels seem well chosen for the Sportage SX, their artistic design apparently resisting the ravages of brake dust better than more conventionally styled rims.

Fuel consumption has been something of a controversy at Kia/Hyundai recently, with both companies admitting their official numbers were more optimistic than realistic. My experience was about 14.0 L/100 km in the city and 9.0 L/100 km on the highway, and both these numbers are more than the 10.3/8.1 L/100 km suggested by Kia. There is a driver selectable “Eco” mode designed to maximize fuel economy, but I didn’t find much difference between it and normal mode. Useful range is a somewhat short-ish 500 km due to the small 58 L gas tank. Keep in mind that your consumption will vary depending on your driving style.

One very positive thing to mention regarding the turbo engine is that regular gasoline is recommended, so there’s a 10–15 percent savings realized at the pump compared to most turbo-powered vehicles that require premium fuel.

Cargo capacity is good. Behind the rear seat you’re looking at 740 L capacity, which, for comparison purposes, is much bigger than the trunk size of any sedan, and with the rear seat folded cargo capacity rises to 1,547 L. Those rear seats, by the way, can be lowered from the rear of the vehicle via handy pull-tabs. This saves you walking around, opening the rear door and dropping the seat from the side of the Sportage. Also standard are a rear cargo cover and cargo net.

Test Drive: 2013 Kia Sportage SX car test drives reviews kia
Test Drive: 2013 Kia Sportage SX car test drives reviews kia
2013 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge.

Towing capacity is only 454 kg (1,000 lb.) without a trailer-braking package, but rises to 907 (2,000 lbs) when so equipped. Ground clearance is 172 mm, which is lower than Ford Escape (200 mm) and Subaru Forester (an impressive 220 mm). It is comparable to Honda CR-V (170 mm).

A notable convenience is the cooled glovebox (cool air can be vented in to keep a bottle of water cool, for instance) but a block heater is optional at $57.60.

Regarding longevity and reliability, I can only offer anecdotal evidence in the form of my brother, who bought a previous-generation 2005 Kia Sportage and still drives it. With over 200,000 km on the odometer, he’s had no major issues and although wary at first, has become a booster of the brand. In my experience, Kia (and sister company Hyundai) build well-engineered vehicles that perform well and these days, look great.

This one could benefit with rain sensing windshield wipers and standard crossbars attached to its roof rails, but as far as less obvious amenities go, it does have a heated steering wheel and generous storage areas for small items. The heated steering wheel is certainly unusual in this segment.

Do you need the turbo engine? If you want all the standard equipment, but would like to save a few dollars, you could opt for the EX-L and its 176-hp, 2.4 L engine. According to the official numbers, fuel economy is not significantly better between them, but you’ll save about $2,000 on the purchase price after you’ve added the navigation system.

There are many competitors in the small SUV segment, including the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, soon-to-be-introduced all-new Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tuscon, Chevrolet Equinox, and Subaru Forester (due for a significant update for the 2014 model year). Interestingly, Sportage is not Kia’s top SUV seller… Look to their Sorento, the mid-size model, for their most popular truck.

Pricing: 2013 Kia Sportage
Base Price (SX):
$37,395
Options: $200 (Black Cherry Pearl paint)
Freight: $1,650
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $39,345

Competitors
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tuscon
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4

Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).