2021 Kia Sportage

2021 Kia Sportage Review: Good Looks And Party Tricks

by Michael Butler

Now in its fourth generation, the Kia Sportage is showing no signs of slowing down its crusade against mall parking lots and school pickup zones. With the new year comes minimal changes, except for the addition of the Nightfall packages, but that doesn't mean that the Sportage is falling behind in the race for best compact crossover SUV. In fact, there are still a ton of things to like about this plucky Korean, including what we consider to be one of the best exterior designs in the business, a comfortable and well-built interior, and most importantly, a wide range of active driver safety assistance systems. Powering the 2021 model is one of two engines, either a 181-horsepower 2.4-liter motor or a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 240 hp, making the whole package hard to fault. The Sportage goes up against vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4 and its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Tucson.

2021 Kia Sportage Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Sportage?

The 2021 year model sees the addition of the Nightfall Edition and Nightfall Edition Premium packages on the S trim. The Nightfall packages replace last year's S Sunroof and Premium Package variants and add piano black trim pieces on the front bumper, side skirts, front, and rear skid plates, and fog light surrounds. The packages also include unique 18-inch alloy wheels with blacked-out center caps, as well as black 'Sportage' badging on the rear liftgate. All other models remain unchanged.

Pros and Cons

  • Handsome styling
  • Good value in lower trims
  • Impressive standard safety tech
  • Faultless build quality
  • Awesome warranty
  • Punchy turbocharged engine
  • Unimpressive fuel economy
  • Sluggish performance in lower trims
  • Outward visibility is limited
  • Not a spacious as some competitors

2021 Kia Sportage Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$23,990
S
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$26,490
EX
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$27,290
SX Turbo
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$33,650

2021 Kia Sportage Exterior

Kia has been designing some pretty good-looking cars in recent years - just take a look at the Stinger. The 2021 Kia Sportage looks the same as the previous year model, but that's not a bad thing. We love its sharp front nose, and the side profile is a clean sweep that ends off in a neatly packaged rear end, wrapping up the whole package in a concise way. However, the look of the Sportage does vary quite significantly depending on the trim level. The base model features 17-inch alloy wheels, projector headlights with LED daytime running lights, and a tinted windshield and rear spoiler. The S trim adds 18-inch wheels and a dark chrome front bumper garnish, amongst others. The EX brings 18-inch machine-finished wheels to the table and gloss black trim with chrome garnish for the foglight surrounds. The SX Turbo gets larger 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, dual-exit exhausts in chrome, and a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade. The Nightfall Edition packages available on the S add piano black trim pieces to the body in place of chrome, while also fitting a set of 18-inch Dark Gray alloy wheels.

2021 Kia Sportage Front Angle View Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Side View Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Rear Angle View Kia
See All 2021 Kia Sportage Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The 2021 Kia Sportage is classified as a compact crossover SUV and measures in with a total length of 176.4 inches on a 105.1-inch wheelbase. The width is 73 inches. Height without the roof rails is 64.4 inches for front-wheel-drive models and 64.8 inches for AWD iterations while roof rails add 0.4 inches to the total. Ground clearance for the FWD models is 6.4, and AWD cars get a handy 6.8 inches of clearance. That's enough to clear most suburban obstacles. Not that it's meant to be taken off-road, but AWD models plate up the best approach and departure angles at 28 and 24.6 degrees, respectively. The lightest Sportage models are the lower three trims in FWD guise, which weigh in at 3,305 lbs each. The AWD version weighs 3,448 lbs for the lower three trims, while the most substantial variation is the Turbo, which weighs in at 3,765 pounds.

  • Length 176.4 in
  • Wheelbase 105.1 in
  • Height 64.4 in
  • Max Width 73.0 in
  • Front Width 63.5 in
  • Rear Width 64.0 in

Exterior Colors

The 2021 Kia Sportage is a good looking car from any angle, and it is one of the reasons we like it, so it would make sense to offer the vehicle with a range of tasty exterior paint colors, right? Well, Kia has done a pretty good job of supplying the Sportage with colors that will highlight its bold exterior styling. The base model is offered with seven distinct colors, all bringing their shine to the Sportage. You can expect to find colors such as the crisp Clear White, Sparkling Silver, and Steel Gray on the LX. Attractive color options include Pacific Blue, Burnished Copper, and Hyper Red ($295). Black Cherry ($395) finishes up the selection. Going up to the S trim level adds the Snow White Pearl option ($395).

  • Black Cherry
  • Hyper Red
  • Snow White Pearl, Available: 10/01/2020
  • Snow White Pearl
  • Pacific Blue
  • Steel Gray
  • Burnished Copper
  • Sparkling Silver
  • Clear White, Build Out: 09/30/2020

Sportage Performance

The Kia Sportage won't be featuring on top ten lists for performance cars, and that's completely fine. This car was designed to carry a small family in comfort, and not to carve up canyon roads with BMW M4s and the like. So, what type of performance can you expect from the 2021 Kia Sportage? Well, in the base form, you can expect a humble driving experience. The naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine is happy to buzz around town. Thanks to its large capacity (for a four-pot), there's enough low down torque for spirited pull-offs, but after that, performance wanes dramatically. In-gear acceleration is reduced and forces the engine to strain itself in the rev range's upper echelons. It will happily sit at cruising speeds out on the highway, but don't expect massive overtaking power. The Turbo model, on the other hand, is a feisty little number. With lots of low-down torque on tap, the Turbo car doesn't feel as rushed as base engined cars. In-gear acceleration is strong, and overtaking power is there. Independent tests claim a zero to sixty sprint time of 7.1 seconds. We would suggest going with the turbo engine despite its heavier fuel consumption. The Sportage can tow a maximum of 2,000 lbs and its automatic transmission sends its power to either the front, or all four corners.

2021 Kia Sportage Side View 1 Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Rear View Driving Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Engine Kia

Engine and Transmission

The 2021 Kia Sportage is available with two engine options. The first is a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder producing 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque equipped as standard to all but the SX Turbo. Performance from this engine can be described as adequate. Due to its large capacity, there is some low-down torque on offer, but it's not a lot, and this is most obvious when trying to accelerate between gears. The six-speed automatic gearbox equipped as standard will hunt for a lower gear and send the revs shooting up to appease the driver's demand for more speed. It performs well around town well, but out on the open road, it isn't that great. On the SX Turbo, a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine produces a healthy 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, dropping down to 237 hp on AWD models, with peak torque available between 1,450 rpm and 3,500 rpm. This engine loves to shove torque down your throat and feels almost too fast for the task. We're not complaining, however. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that offers clean and relaxed shifts but can get a bit busy when paired with the less powerful engine.

  • Engines
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    FWD, Other

Handling and Driving Impressions

The last thing you want from a crossover like this is a harsh and bumpy ride, and the 2021 Kia Sportage manages to cradle the driver and passengers in competent comfort. Driving around town at lower speeds reveals a compliant chassis and suspension damping that treads a fine line between being stiff and being supportive. Out on the highway, the ride is smooth and comfortable: perfect for long road trips. SX Turbo models are fitted with a more sports-oriented suspension setup, and that translates into a slightly stiffer ride than the rest of the range, but this characteristic pays off when pushing the Sportage through the corners. In base form, the Sportage feels composed during hard cornering, but there are definite signs of body roll and understeer, but we expect this type of behavior from a vehicle in this class. The S and SX derivatives show more composure, but we don't know if the tradeoff is genuinely warranted; after all, this is no sports car.

Sportage Gas Mileage

Fuel economy is the name of the game if you want your car to be a sales success. Manufacturers know this, but it seems to fall on deaf ears sometimes. That's the case with the Kia Sportage. For a product that gets so many things right, its lousy fuel economy figures come as a significant disappointment. According to the EPA, the 2.4-liter in FWD guise is the lightest of the bunch, but still only manages fuel consumption figures of 23/30/26 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Switch to AWD configuration and those numbers drop to 21/25/23 mpg. Things get worse when you drive the turbo model: in FWD guise, it will use 20/28/23 mpg, and a weak 19/24/21 mpg in AWD guise. So, if fuel consumption is a major sticking point for you, we suggest looking at the Nissan Rogue, which at its most efficient will consume 29 mpg combined, while even a turbocharged AWD Mazda CX-5 will manage 24 mpg. With a 16.4-gallon fuel tank onboard, you can expect to see a range of between 344 miles and 426 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    16.4 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 23/30 mpg
* 2021 Kia Sportage LX FWD

2021 Kia Sportage Interior

The Sportage scores well when it comes to the interior design and overall quality of the cabin. Kia has done more by doing less: there's no gimmicky plastic adornments or hard plastic surfaces. Instead, you get a logical interior that feels continental and offers plenty of soft-touch materials. The driver will find that all major controls are easily accessible. Once seated, the driver enjoys a commanding view of the road; however, we did notice that the raised center cowl of the dashboard can impede forward visibility, especially for shorter drivers. For an entry-level compact SUV, the Sportage impresses with a vast number of standard interior features, and the SX starts to creep into premium territory.

2021 Kia Sportage Dashboard Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Driver Seat Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Steering Wheel Kia
See All 2021 Kia Sportage Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Sportage is a five-seater crossover SUV, which means you get a relatively decent amount of space for the driver and passengers. Both the driver and front passenger get comfortable seats that are perfect for relaxed cruising but could offer a tad more side bolstering. LX and S models get a six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, while the EX and SX Turbo get 10-way power-adjustable units with two-way lumbar support. The headroom in the front is a generous 39.3 inches without the sunroof fitted, dropping to 39.1 inches in the rear. Legroom is a solid 41.5 inches in the front, perfect for six-footers, and those in the back get 38.2 inches to play with. From these dimensions, it is clear to see that the Sportage favors passenger comfort over cargo capacity.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.5 in
  • Front Head Room 39.3 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.2 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.1 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The interior of the Sportage feels remarkably upscale and refined for its price bracket, and we're impressed with the lack of hard plastics and the use of soft surfaces. The base model features woven cloth seats in black or gray, a smooth PVC shift knob, a soft-touch dashboard, armrests, and door trim, and metal surround for the dashboard. Tricot cloth seat trim with anti-soil fabric technology is also available. S and EX models get Sofino leatherette seat trim in black and gray, as well as a leather steering wheel. Leather-upholstered seats are reserved for the SX Turbo. All versions have dashboard stitching, while EX and SX Turbo derivatives get Gloss Black interior fascia inlays. Leather seats are offered in beige, black and gray.

Kia Sportage Trunk and Cargo Space

The Kia Sportage is all about interior space and making its occupants as comfortable as possible. However, this comes at a cost: the Sportage loses out in the trunk and cargo area, with some of its competitors offering more space. The Sportage offers 30.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, which is easily accessible despite the crossover's higher ride height. This space fails to impress when you consider that the Honda CR-V offers 39.2 cubic feet. The space is still enough for a decent run to the grocery store, or a weekend away for a small family. If you need more space, the Sportage's 60/40 split-folding rear seats fold down to offer an impressive 60.1 cubic feet, and the good news is that the back seats create a flat surface when folded.

Small items can be stored in the center armrest console, front glovebox, passenger seatback map pockets, rear center armrest console, front cupholders, as well as two cupholders in the rear center armrest. There's an additional overhead sunglasses console up front and small storage compartments in each door.

2021 Kia Sportage Armrest Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Rear Passenger Seats Kia
2021 Kia Sportage Rear Angle View 1 Kia

Sportage Infotainment and Features

Features

For such a budget-friendly crossover, the Sportage comes with some useful standard features. The base model LX features a backup camera, air conditioning, a six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, and remote keyless entry. Under the Kia DriveWise banner, driver assistance features such as forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning, a lane keep assist system with active steering, and a lane departure warning system are also included. Moving up to the S adds blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning. The EX model adds comfort features such as a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way power lumbar support, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, and a power tailgate. If you're looking for the most refined experience, go with the SX Turbo: you get an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, LED interior lighting, an eight-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, a heated flat-bottom steering wheel, as well as wireless phone charging, a panoramic roof, smart cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors.

Infotainment

Kia offers one of the better infotainment systems in its class. The standard eight-inch display is mounted nice and high and is intuitive enough for even the most technologically deprived to understand. Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Bluetooth streaming, aux and USB connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system. The S trim is available with an upgraded package that includes SiriusXM radio and UVO telematics. EX derivatives are offered with navigation, which comes standard on SX Turbo models. SX Turbo models also come standard with wireless device charging and a Harman Kardon 320-watt sound system, which features eight speakers with an integrated subwoofer.

2021 Kia Sportage Common Problems and Reliability

The Sportage is a reliable little number, and the 2021 model has not been recalled as of yet. Owners of fourth-generation cars (2017-present) have not filed any major complaints, and only two recalls have been issued in the four years since its debut. One of the Sportage's big drawcards is its excellent warranty: Kia will cover it with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a five-year/100,000-mile corrosion warranty, as well as a ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Sportage Safety

The 2021 Sportage has not been reviewed by either the NHTSA or IIHS, but the good news is that the identical 2020 car has been put through its paces, returning excellent results. The NHTSA gave it a full five out of five stars on its rating scale, and the IIHS awarded it with a Top Safety Pick award, which automatically places it near the top of its class in terms of overall safety.

2021 Kia Sportage Key Safety features

The Kia Sportage is one of the safest vehicles in its class thanks to a wide range of traditional and modern safety assistance systems and should keep its occupants alive and well in case of a severe crash. There's a complement of six airbags, including dual front and side airbags, as well as ABS, rollover sensors, and electronic stability control. Standard driver assistance features include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning, lane keep assist, and automatic headlights. Higher up in the range, you get more advanced features such as blind-spot assistance and rear cross-traffic warning, both optional right from the base level.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Kia Sportage a good car?

The Kia Sportage offers something for everyone, whether it be good looks, practicality or comfort. What it does particularly well is to provide a balanced approach to the suburban SUV class of vehicles; its exterior looks are arguably the most attractive in its group, it has a well-built and comfortable interior, and it is offered with both front or all-wheel drive. The engine choices on offer are two sides to a coin, with the one being slightly sluggish, while the other might just be too powerful for the application. The downside to both is a disappointing fuel consumption figure. The Sportage partially makes up for that with a decent amount of passenger space and excellent safety and reliability records, thanks to the inclusion of a plethora of advanced driver assistance systems. Now in its fourth generation, the Sportage has proven itself to be a reliable daily commuter, and we would happily recommend one.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Kia Sportage?

The price of the 2021 Kia Sportage spans over a broad spectrum when you consider that each trim level can be selected in FWD or AWD configuration. Starting with the base model, the LX can be yours for $23,990, excluding tax, registration, and a destination fee of $1,120. The sporty S trim will set you back $26,490, the FWD EX a price of $27,290, and the top of the range SX Turbo will ask $33,650. Adding AWD to any of these models adds a further $1,500 to all trims, except the S which asks $1,700 for the privilege.

2021 Kia Sportage Models

For 2021, Kia offers the Sportage in four different trim levels: LX, S, EX, and SX Turbo. The LX, S, and EX are powered by a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. The SX Turbo is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot that delivers 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This power figure drops to 237 hp on AWD models. All four models are available in FWD or AWD configurations and use a six-speed automatic transmission.

LX models come standard with exterior features such as projector-beam headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, and LED DRLs. The interior features standard air conditioning, manually-adjustable seats, and keyless entry. The infotainment system consists of an eight-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth streaming aux/USB input, as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a six-speaker sound system. Standard safety features include cruise control, driver attention assistance, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and automatic headlights.

The S trim adds safety features such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. On the appearance side of things, the S gets leatherette seats, as well as a gloss black front grille, roof rails, and unique 18-inch wheels with a dark gray finish. A sportier suspension tune is included as standard.

EX models add a bunch of goodies, starting with dual-zone climate control, push-button start, a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, a rear-seat USB charging port, a power liftgate, and 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels.

As the name suggests, the range-topping SX Turbo gets a turbocharged power plant and adds a number of premium features such as a panoramic sunroof, SiriusXM radio, navigation, a Harman Kardon sound system, and front and rear parking sensors. The SX Turbo rides on 19-inch alloy wheels and the same sports suspension as the S.

See All 2021 Kia Sportage Trims and Specs

2021 Kia Sportage Additional Options

The Kia Sportage is offered with several handy optional packages, starting with the Popular Package, which is only available on the base model with FWD. For $1,700, this package adds a power driver seat, dual-zone climate control, power-folding and heated mirrors, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and more. The same package for AWD models adds a unique front fascia with an improved 28-degree approach angle, fog lights with gloss black trims, as well as heated front seats for $1,900.

The new Nightfall Edition Package is available on S derivatives and adds numerous features such as a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, a black piano front, rear skid plates, a gloss dark gray grille with piano-black grille frame, piano black fog lamps, as well as black roof rails, paddle shifters, and metal sports pedals. The Nightfall Edition Premium package includes features such as SiriusXM satellite radio, adaptive cruise control with stop & go, wireless phone charging, and push-button start. These packages are priced at $1,500 and $1,800, respectively, although the latter package costs only $1,500 on AWD models.

The Technology package, exclusively available on EX models adds features such as navigation, a Harman Kardon sound system, ventilated front seats, and leather seats for an additional $4,560. For the premium, you also get a standard panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control, and wireless device charging.

🚗Which 2021 Kia Sportage should I buy?

With so many options on the table, Kia makes it easy to find the perfect fit for every customer, and we think there are many valid choices. It boils down to features, seeing as three out of the four cars are offered with the 2.4-liter engine. The LX is a good choice for families on a budget that are looking for a safe and reliable compact SUV. The fact that it comes standard with features such as forward collision warning with pedestrian detection is a big bonus. But the interior feature list is rather short. On the other extreme lies the SX Turbo which offers all the bells and whistles, but costs a pretty penny, and delivers disappointing fuel consumption figures. It is for that reason that we would recommend the EX, which offers a good compromise between price, fuel consumption, and features. The EX offers dual-zone climate control, a power liftgate, push-button start, a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat and 18-inch alloy wheels.

2021 Kia Sportage Comparisons

Hyundai Tucson Hyundai
Kia Sorento Kia
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Sportage181 hp23/30 mpg$23,990
Hyundai Tucson 161 hp23/28 mpg$23,550
Kia Sorento 185 hp22/29 mpg$26,990

2021 Kia Sportage vs Hyundai Tucson

The Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson are based on the same platform and have much in common. From the outside, the Tucson looks more grown-up and is ready to park in that junior corporate parking space, whereas the Sportage looks, well, more sporty. The Tucson does, however, offer slightly more trunk and overall cargo space. The interior of the Tucson also feels more grown-up and somewhat clinical when compared to the Sportage. Performance from the base 2.0-liter engine is disappointing when compared to the Sportage, and even the larger 2.4-liter four-pot doesn't come close to the 2.0-liter turbo on offer in the Sportage. Both cars also offer an excellent, comparable warranty. Choosing between these crossovers will be difficult seeing as they both offer more or less the same value, but at the end of the day, we would go with the Sportage as it looks better in our minds, and has better-performing engines right from the get-go.

See Hyundai Tucson Review

2021 Kia Sportage vs Kia Sorento

While the all-new 2021 Kia Sorento has made an appearance in official photos, we don't know too much about it yet. What we do know is that the 2020 Sorento is a cracker. With enough space for seven passengers and a small enough footprint to allow for nimble inner city driving, the Sorento offers a practical package which, just as with the Sportage, comes in a very handsome package. Power comes in the form of a 185 hp four-cylinder engine or more powerful 290 hp V6 engine. The base engine is comparable to the Sportage power wise, but the V6 can't come close to the turbo Sportage. Thankfully, the 2021 Sportage which is due for release will offer a powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter engine producing 277 hp. Fuel consumption for the Sorento sits at 22/29/25 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles which is slightly off the Sportage's figure. On the road, the Sorento won't instill a massive amount of confidence, but you get light steering, and well-mannered handling in general. The interior has a similar look and feel seeing as they share a brand name, and you should feel comfortable in either. The Sorento is the larger car, so you get more passenger and cargo space. Go for the Sorento if you need the extra space, otherwise, we would go with the Sportage.

See Kia Sorento Review

Kia Sportage Popular Comparisons

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$23,990 - $35,150
Price Range (MSRP)
Kia Sportage