by Roger Biermann
The 2019 Kia Sportage is a stylish, refined, and modern compact crossover SUV, without the exorbitant price tag. Available with either its tried and trusted 2.4-liter motor or a 2.0-liter turbocharged option, both inline four-cylinders deliver reliable performance at 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque; and 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque respectively. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, power is sent to the front wheels or all four with the optional Dynamax All-Wheel Drive. Competing against the likes of the Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5, the Sportage finds itself lacking in both cargo space and safety features but still manages to stay a strong competitor in the segment, packing high levels of specification, an upscale interior, and an athletic drive into a compact package with Porsche Macan-inspired looks.
With no exterior design changes present between 2018 and 2019, you'd need to look at features to spot the difference. We see Kia's restructure of trim levels coming into effect here, with the Technology Package exclusive to the EX trim, and no longer available on the LX, meaning the base model no longer has access to any active safety features. Heated rear seats have also been discontinued for 2019, while Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are now standard on the EX.
The 2019 Kia Sportage has an elegant exterior, with smooth curves keeping it in check. Sporting 17-inch alloy wheels at base trim, and 18-inch wheels on the two upper trim levels, other differences include a matte black grille finish on the base LX, while the EX gets a gloss black item, as does the SX Turbo, albeit with satin surrounds. Standard on the SX Turbo, and optional on lesser trims, you'll find metal-look skid plates, while the SX Turbo also boasts satin exterior finishes and a standard panoramic sunroof, optional on the EX. LED daytime running lights are found on all models, while the SX Turbo trim is the only model to receive bi-xenon HID projector headlights as well as chrome dual exhaust tips. While it has a striking design, the Sportage's polarizing looks take more than just a hint of influence from the Porsche Macan.
Dependant on your choice of drivetrain, we see the Sportage take a varying stance on the road. In FWD configuration, ground clearance is at a generous 6.4 inches with a total height of 64.4 inches. Opting for AWD, both figures see an increase of 0.4 inches, and another 0.4 inches in height if you decide on roof rails. Total length sits at 176.4 inches stretched over a 105.1-inch wheelbase, with a front/rear track width of 63.5/64.0 inches affording the Sportage its size without compromising on stability. The Sportage's curb weight, depending on the trim and drivetrain you go for, ranges from 3,305 lbs in its lightest iteration to 3,997 lbs in its heaviest incarnation.
The Sportage retains an eight-strong color palette for 2019, carrying over all hues from the 2018 edition. Starting at the lighter end of the gradient, the Sportage gets Clear White in LX trim as opposed to the two upper trims' Snow White Pearl, though only available at an additional $395. Heading further down the spectrum is Sparkling Silver, Steel Gray, Mineral Silver, and ultimately Black Cherry, also at an additional cost of $395, but available on all trims. For the more colorful options, you get to pick from Pacific Blue, Burnished Copper, and Hyper Red at an additional fee of $295.
If going fast is your game, then the Sportage has you covered, albeit at the more expensive end of the line-up. Exclusive to the SX Turbo is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering an impressive 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. When paired with its Dynamax AWD system, output drops to 237 hp. The increase in torque over its 2.4-liter naturally aspirated motor (181 hp / 175 lb-ft of torque) helps it achieve a 2,000 lbs towing capacity, while in an outright sprint the SX Turbo accomplishes the feat of 0-60 mph in under seven seconds, making it one of the quicker crossovers in the class, alongside the sprightly Mazda CX-5. All trim levels of the Sportage come as standard in FWD configuration, with its AWD system an optional extra at $1,500.
The 2019 Kia Sportage offers two motors pairable with a single transmission. Both the base model LX and mid-level EX share a 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor capable of producing 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. The motor sees itself paired with Kia's electronically controlled six-speed Sportronic automatic transmission, delivering smooth and concise acceleration. The top-level trim SX Turbo, reveals its secrets in its name, sporting a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor. Power figures see a considerable jump to 240 hp and 260 lb-ft, too, although AWD-equipped SX Turbos receive three fewer ponies. Despite the added punch, power delivery is progressive and dulls a lot of the excitement a turbocharged motor usually provides.
That doesn't mean it's sluggish though, as getting up to highway speeds is done with ease and without any noticeable strain on the motor. The extra horses are appreciated when overtaking and the six-speed automatic does a great job of deciding which gear you need without much hesitation, even if the shifts themselves are slower than the best automatics available. The 2.4-liter motor changes the pace a bit, with a noticeably heavier foot needed to get you ahead of the pack from a standstill. It doesn't leave you feeling disappointed, however, and if speed isn't your primary concern, the 2.4-liter motor is more than adequate to get you going.
2019 hands us a surprising compact SUV in the sense that, despite its obvious size, it handles like a much smaller vehicle as it always has. Comfort and versatility are the key weapons in the Sportage's arsenal, and it shows. The cabin is well insulated from road noise, acceleration and braking are largely forgiving, and body roll around tighter turns is kept to a minimum, without the suspension robbing you of comfort. Kia's refinements to the electronic steering certainly show improvement over the previous generations too, with steering feedback feeling well balanced. With the Sportage's Drive Mode Select (DMS for short) you have your pick of Eco, Normal and Sport modes. Sport mode sharpens the throttle response, stiffens up the steering by quite some margin, and has gear shifts happening much later, breathing a new life into the Sportage.
Bumps and dips in the road are absorbed remarkably well too as you make your way across town, giving a very refined driving experience as a whole. Paired with it's all-wheel drive, gravel and snow don't pose much of a challenge either, keeping its composure and making it a rather capable SUV when and where it's needed. Whether it's stacking the roof or hitching a caravan, it feels like the Sportage has you covered, without compromising on the driving experience to get you where you want to go.
Unfortunately for the Sportage, gas mileage is below average for the segment, as EPA estimates place the 2.4-liter EX and LX variants at 23/30/26 mpg for the city/highway/combined cycles. Those figures take a considerable knock if you're thinking about all-wheel drive as part of your kit, dropping down to 21/25/22 mpg respectively. For the SX Turbo model, figures are a bit worse at 21/26/23 mpg in front-wheel-drive configuration, and 20/23/21 mpg when paired with all-wheel drive. Compared to the Hyundai Tucson, they stack up nearly identical, but both are bested by Mazda's CX-5. The Sportage has a fuel tank capacity of 16.4-gallons, giving it an estimated 426.4 miles on a full tank in mixed conditions, with the SX Turbo managing 377.2 miles.
The 2019 Kia Sportage is basked with natural sunlight through its large windows, as well as an optional sunroof, standard on the SX Turbo, affording it good visibility all-around. As a driver, vehicle controls are angled towards you with a layout that's intuitive and well thought out. Keeping in line with its pronounced but executively styled exterior, the dashboard is set in a straight motion with swept recesses, without any thrills or frills. The dash is backlit by a soft white glow, with a more sporty hint in the form of vibrant red dials on the instrument cluster. The interior certainly suits the Sportage's price point as well, with build quality toe-to-toe with the best in its segment and comfortable, roomy accommodation for five occupants in a high-end environment.
Seating five full adults comfortably, interior space is perfectly habitable for short or long distance trips, something which can't be said of all in this class of vehicle. Passengers benefit from plenty of room in the rear of the cabin, with 39.1 inches of headroom and 38.2 inches of legroom, as well as a rather generous shoulder room of 55.1 inches, catering to even larger adults. Both driver and front seated passenger get 39.3 inches of headroom and 41.5 inches of legroom too, so six-foot-tall drivers can breathe a sigh of relief and stretch out a little. With the inclusion of an optional panoramic sunroof ($1,700 EX Premium Package), front and rear headroom drops by 1.7 and 2.2 inches respectively, which still leaves enough room inside for taller occupants. Seating is comfortable, and the Sportage gives rear passengers genuine room to stretch out, making it an ideal family crossover.
The Sportage interior uses a blend of high-quality hard plastics, with leatherette inlays in areas most frequently touched or rested on. In its base LX trim, the seats are covered in either gray or black woven cloth, with the dashboard following suit, color-wise. On the EX trim, leather seats are standard and available in black or gray. However, if you want a Sportage in Burnished Copper color, gray leather isn't available. A special 'cool gray' leather is exclusive to the EX Sport Appearance Package (+$990) and sees a combination of gray and black cover the seats and center console.
Aimed at the urban and traveling markets, Kia did well to make the Sportage quite practical for day to day life on the go. With 30.7 cubic feet of trunk space, you could fit at least four golf bags, a few large suitcases, or even help the neighbors move a few boxes with ease. With the rear seats down, a 60/40 split folding rear seat sees trunk space increase vastly to 60.1 cubic feet. This allows for a full set of camera gear and tripods, and even some lighting should you ever feel so inclined, or for the more adventure focused, a pair of bicycles.
Storage space in the cabin is ample as well, where we see driver and passenger seatback pockets, a center console with a storage tray and cupholders, a rear center armrest with cupholders dedicated to rear passengers, front and rear door bottle holders, and a rather deep set glove box. It's no Honda CR-V in here, but it's still impressively accommodating of personal items.
Even in base trim, there's a host of features packed in as standard. You get a rearview camera, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls, Drive Mode Select, 12-volt power outlets, power windows, remote keyless entry, and air conditioning. Upgrade to the EX, and the list grows with an optional panoramic sunroof, parking assist sensors, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, dual zone climate control, heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. At the top of the range, we see the addition of an electronic parking brake and a supervision meter cluster with all the previous features packed as standard. Available options include ten-way power driver's seat adjustment, as well as an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while driver assistance systems include available lane departure warning, high beam assist, park distance warning, and forward collision avoidance.
The infotainment system is undeniably Kia, with its responsive and intuitive interface available in either a five-, seven- or eight-inch touchscreen display. Audio is passed through six speakers, with an optional upgrade to Harmon Kardon premium surround sound system, bolstering the speaker count to an impressive eight. Transmitting your favorite tunes to those speakers is Bluetooth connectivity and USB/Auxiliary inputs, which are standard for the base trim. The LX and SX trims see the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard in either the seven or eight-inch displays. Built-in navigation and SiriusXM are exclusive to the eight-inch display, and available with either the EX Technology Package for an additional $2,900 or as standard on the SX Turbo trim.
With the majority of owners not having reported any major issues, and no recalls issued by Kia for the fourth generation Sportage (2017 - present), problems are at a minimum. Backed by Kia's ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, and matching 24-hour roadside assistance, the Sportage is among the more reliable and dependable vehicles available today and is ranked by J.D. Power as having a predicted reliability score of four out of five - better than almost all rivals.
Safety is paramount for the Sportage and carries a strong history for receiving good ratings. Unfortunately, due to autonomous emergency braking not coming as standard on all trim levels, it's lost its Top Safety Pick honors from the IIHS. It does however still boast a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA.
The Sportage does well to provide safety and peace of mind to its occupants, with Kia trying ever harder to incorporate newer technologies into its vehicles. Equipped with a lot of safety features as standard, we see the inclusion of brake assist, electronic stability control, and traction control, while blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, and autonomous emergency braking are available as part of the EX Technology Package or standard on the SX Turbo trim. Unfortunately, with the LX Technology package removed from the 2019 offering, the base LX makes do without any of these driver assistance systems. Also included are dual front airbags, full-length curtain airbags, and front seat-mounted side airbags.
The 2019 Kia Sportage is undeniably a strong competitor in the segment, with low entry-level cost, a good range of optional features and extras, and essential driver comforts as standard. It doesn't excel in terms of fuel economy or practicality, but it does provide a good balance between versatility, capability, comfort and distinct styling that makes it appealing and relevant to a youthful audience. Compared to its more frugal CX-5 counterpart, it outshines with its excellent warranty but lacks in technology, albeit at a cheaper price. There isn't a lot left to be desired, and the interior cabin is as comfortable and welcoming as the exterior is definitive and strong. In short, yes it's a good car. Should you buy one? If you like Kia and its recent updates to styling and features, and want a compact SUV for family vacations, camping trips, and still have an all-weather run-around, then the Sportage is a great choice for you and one of the best compact crossovers on the market.
In its entry-level base configuration, the 2019 Kia Sportage LX starts at an MSRP of $23,750, excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a $1,045 destination charge. A slight bump up in cost nets you the EX trim, with a starting MSRP of $26,600. If a full-featured powerhouse of the Sportage is more to your liking, the SX Turbo trim tops the range and price point at $33,100. Incentives are frequent amongst Kia dealerships however, so a bit of browsing before you buy is highly recommended.
The Sportage range for 2019 consists of three trim levels, all with optional all-wheel-drive: LX, EX, and SX Turbo.
The base model LX packs 17-inch alloy wheels, woven cloth seats, projection headlights, LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, USB/auxiliary inputs, a five-inch infotainment system, and Drive Mode Select. Powered by a 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder motor mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, it gets the Sportage moving with 181 hp and 175 lb-ft.
At the middle of the Sportage line-up, the EX offers the most additional packages as well as a sporty appearance package. Sharing the LX's powertrain, the EX offers 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a seven-inch infotainment system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, blind spot collision warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic collision warning, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats.
The SX Turbo completes the range by offering all of the above as standard and replaces the motor with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four producing 240 hp and 260 lb-ft. It also boasts the most features, with an eight-inch infotainment system including navigation and SiriusXM, Harmon Kardon audio,19-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, a panoramic sunroof, and autonomous emergency braking.
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
In addition to the impressive standard specification, the Sportage can be had with a range of package upgrades.
The entry-level LX model can be optioned with the LX Popular Package (+$1,300), adding a seven-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, roof rails, and spill resistant treated cloth seats.
For the EX model, there are three available packages. The EX Sport Appearance Package (+$990) adds unique Cool Gray leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front fog lights and rear combination lights, and exterior gloss- and chrome-finish trim pieces, as well as a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters.
The EX Premium Package (+$1,700) adds a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, a heated steering wheel, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Lastly is the Technology Package (+2,900), adding autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, parking assist, an eight-inch infotainment system with navigation and SiriusXM, Harmon Kardon speakers, a power liftgate, and ventilated front seats.
With the vast jump in price point from the EX to the SX Turbo trim levels, and the feature-deprived nature of the LX in comparison, the EX is the recommended buy here. Adding available safety features as well as the highly recommended Technology Package puts the Sportage in line with the top of the range SX Turbo trim for specification, without the turbocharged motor, but at a discounted price. The 2.4-liter may be down on power when compared to its turbo counterpart, but it's certainly still a capable motor for the Sportage as a daily driver, and if value-for-money is what you're after, the base engine and EX equipment is definitely the best bang-for-buck combination.
Sharing a great deal of hardware between each other, including the motor and gearbox, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are different takes on the same platform. Both manufacturers offer exceptional warranties, both have similar fuel consumption and dimensions, with cargo capacity ever so slightly in favor of the Tucson. The powertrain is a similar story, but it leans in favor of the Sportage here as the Tucson has a lesser base engine, and the Sportage offers the optional higher powered motor as its standard. The Tucson offers superior technology as standard when compared to the Sportage's base model, too. The most notable difference between the vehicles comes in terms of styling, where the Tucson expresses more mature and conventional looks. The Sportage may be the older design between the two, but it certainly has the more modern and expressive style. Either way, both are impressive crossovers and buyers would be happy with either.
First things first, powertrain. The CX-5 offers a more powerful base motor with 187 hp to the Sportage's 181 hp, and it does this whilst still offering better fuel economy. The CX-5's party trick is its own turbo engine that simply decimates the Sportage performance-wise, aided by a more involving chassis that leans towards the needs of driving enthusiasts more than the Sportage does. The Sportage inches ahead in terms of interior space and cargo capacity, being the smaller of the two vehicles but utilizing the available space better. However, the CX-5's cabin is a nicer place to be, feeling more premium and with higher levels of available technology on the pricier trims. The Mazda also draws on a long line of excellent build quality both for the interior and exterior, although the Sportage receives more optimistic predicted reliability ratings. In terms of the warranty, the Sportage dominates, and the base model is $2,000 cheaper. If it's value for money that matters most, the Sportage is great, but if a premium feel and endearing driving experience are what makes your heart beat faster, the CX-5 can't be beaten.