NEW FOR 2008:

– Enhanced anti-theft immobilizer
– Courtesy and cargo lamps deleted
– Front passenger and rear seat hooks deleted

For 2008, the Kia Sportage receives only minor trim changes. Prices are unchanged from the 2007 models.

Similar to the Hyundai Tucson, the Sportage comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder with five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission, and a 2.7-litre V6 with four-speed automatic only. All-wheel drive can be optioned on the four-cylinder LX-Convenience trim line, but only when combined with a manual transmission; it can be added to the base V6 model, and is the sole choice on the LX-V6 Luxury trim line. The system runs exclusively in front-wheel drive until it detects slippage, whereupon it sends up to 50 percent torque to the rear wheels. The driver can also use a button on the dash to lock the system into 50/50, at speeds up to 40 km/h.

Features on the 2.0-litre LX include 16-inch alloy wheels, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack and USB port, power mirrors, tilt wheel, power locks, 60/40 split folding rear seats, fold-flat front passenger seat, floor mats, power windows, flip-up liftgate glass, variable intermittent wipers, and intermittent rear washer/wiper.

The LX-Convenience adds air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, heated mirrors, deep-tint privacy glass, fog lamps, roof rails, and metal-grain interior accents.

The LX-V6 has the features of the 2.0-litre LX-Convenience, and adds side and wheel arch moldings.

The Luxury Package adds power sunroof, heated leather seats, and leather-wrapped wheel.

Handling more like a car than an SUV, the Sportage is nimble, tracks well, and offers a comfortable and roomy interior. The four-cylinder can be underpowered, especially for passing, and the V6 is the better choice of the two. Stick shift drivers may find the five-speed manual to be rubbery. The rear seats are roomy enough for adult passengers, and fold to a flat floor just by tugging a handle, without the need to flip seat cushions or remove head restraints. Fully loaded, the Sportage starts under $31,000 with the conveniences of many compact SUVs that cost more.

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