I’ve never been able to figure out this vehicle’s name. Obviously it starts with “sport” and I’m fine with that. But why Kia chose to name its crossover with a portmanteau of “sport” and “portage”, a word that means to carry a boat or its cargo between navigable waters, eludes me to this day. Strange name aside, it’s actually a pretty cool ride.
We first saw Kia’s third-generation Sportage in 2010 – it’s the Hyundai Tucson’s platform twin, but the Sportage comes with some exclusive muscularity that I’ll tell you about shortly. Penned by the former Audi design guy, Peter Schreyer, the current Sportage broke through a number of design barriers at the time, and in my opinion, it still looks good. It sports clean lines that aren’t quite as avant garde five years later, but still set the vehicle apart in a crowd and that’s more than I can say for some of its more modern competition. It has gained bright LED driving lights, giving it a new signature as it comes toward you, and it sits on very nice 18-inch rims shod with fat 235/55-sized rubber.
The first thing I noticed after the slight step up into the Sportage’s cabin is how spacious it is. There’s an open feeling and at 5’10”, I had plenty of head room. The next thing I noticed was the driving position – it is definitely high and affords you a commanding view of the road ahead. Is it nice inside? Yeah, in a this-would-have-been-sweet-five-years-ago kind of way. It has aged by now, but gracefully. Things still feel pretty refined, and the materials rate as decent – the dash falls somewhere between soft-touch and hard plastics. The instrumentation and dash are backlit in red – Kia has been doing this for a while now, but I think it still looks great at night.
What else do you get here? Good fabric seats, heated, power adjustable for the driver and comfortable. A nice thick steering wheel with the typical controls on it. And a relatively tiny touchscreen smack dab in the middle of the dash. It’s driven by Kia’s UVO system and I find that it works pretty well. In this trim, it handles your audio sources and the phone functions, as well as your back-up camera feed. Parking is further assisted by rear parking sensors. Nice touches like the dual-zone automatic climate control, a push-start ignition and power folding mirrors make life a little more pleasant as well.
The Competition: Comparison Test: Compact Crossover SUVs
As one tends to find in smaller crossovers and SUVs, the Sportage doesn’t rip you off when it comes to interior storage options. Between the small drop-in bin at the front of the console (just big enough for an iPhone 6 or any other same-size smartphone, complete with USB and 12V plugs), a very deep well with two cupholders in the console and respectable amount of space under the armrest lid, I had plenty of places to drop my things.