2013 Kia Sportage SX

2013 Kia Sportage SX side viewBy Barbara & Bill Schaffer

Did you know that the Kia Sportage was one of the original compact sport utility vehicles and it is the company?s oldest nameplate? First introduced in 1993, it preceded the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V by three years. The original wasn?t anything to write home about, except that it was an outstanding value, priced thousands of dollars less than similar vehicles.

However, if you have followed the progress of Kia products in the 20 years since the first Sportage, you?d know that across the board, Kia vehicles have made geometric improvements in quality, styling and performance. Take for example the 2013 Sportage SX we drove recently. All new in 2011, the Sportage is the third generation, and we think it rivals anything in this compact SUV class.

2013 Kia Sportage SX side viewA product of Kia?s U.S.-based design center in Irvine, Calif., the Sportage starts with the Kia family grille and moves to the rear with lines that remind us of Samurai art. The bodylines have strong dimensions, especially seen in the sculpted hood and pronounced wheel arches. A wide C-pillar creates a unique side silhouette and anchors the sweeping roofline but it also hampers rear visibility a little.

Sliding into the well-appointed interior of our SX test vehicle we found upscale features like leather seating, a large screen at center dash displaying an easy-to-use navigation system (and backup camera) and Kia?s UVO Infotainment System. The controls are close at hand and have a quality feel. The top-level model with a couple of option packages added features like navigation with backup camera, heated front seats, an air conditioned seat for the driver and a panoramic sunroof. Like all the Kia products, the Sportage has Bluetooth and USB outlets at an easy to use position at the bottom of the center stack.

The seats are supportive and comfortable and have a feeling of substance. The rear seat will hold three adults, but two would be more comfortable. At 26.1 cubic feet of cargo space, there?s room for lots of luggage or shopping treasures. With the split rear seat totally folded, the space grows to 54.6 cubic feet.

Sportage comes in four trim levels: base, LX, EX and SX. All models are front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive as a $1,500 option on all but the base models, which only comes in the front-wheel drive configuration. The Dynamax? AWD system, co-developed by Kia Motors Corporation and Magna International, Inc., uses vehicle speed, traction control sensors and driver input to continuously monitor driving conditions. When the system anticipates slippage, it instantly applies power to the axle with the best traction. We didn?t have any snow while we were testing the Sportage, but did have icy spots on our extremely steep driveway. With the left wheels on the ice and the right wheels on dry pavement, the system did its magic. We could feel a tire hesitate but instantaneously another one grabbed the dry pavement. The AWD also helps improve lateral stability in corners.2013 Kia Sportage SX rear seat

The Base, LX and EX models are powered by an efficient 176-horsepower 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine that gets an EPA rating of 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Our test vehicle was the top level SX with 260-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. What a difference 84 horsepower makes. The SX makes a 0 to 60 mph run in 7.3 seconds, according to one of the buff magazines, but we think it feels faster. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg/25 mpg. We averaged 23.2 mpg during our test time.

2013 Kia Sportage SX center stackExcept for the base model, which is only available with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive, all the models have a positive shifting six-speed automatic transmission equipped with their Sportmatic manual shift system. It gives the Sportage a sportier feel and provides much better controls for the driver. For those who want to take their adult toys along, the Sportage has a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds, which translates to a couple of personal watercraft, motorcycles or snowmobiles.

Sportage pricing starts at $19,800 for the base model and goes up to $29,200 for the AWD turbocharged SX. With the optional Navigation Package ($1,200) and SX Premium trim package ($2,000) the SX pricing peaks at $32,400. There are a few standalone options like mats, interior lighting and tow hitch, that could take the price as high as $34,200, but what a total package.

The Sportage rides comfortably on a four-wheel independent suspension system. There is some body sway on tighter corners, but it maintains a solid planted feel. This vehicle is designed more for ride comfort than sports car-like for handling. The rack and pinion steering is powered by an electric motor to help save drag on the engine. The system gives good feedback and doesn?t feel too light like some electric systems.

Kia?s UVO infotainment system, powered by Mircosoft, helps you stay connected by enabling drivers and passengers to speak via hands-free phone, access music from a variety of media sources and create custom music experiences all with voice-activation. UVO is standard on Sportage EX and SX models, or as part of the Convenience Package on other models. Sirius? Satellite Radio and HD Radio? are included on EX and SX models, and are an option on the LX.

We both give the Sportage high marks for performance, drivability and attention to detail. It is a ?must drive? for small SUV or crossover shoppers.2013 Kia Sportage SX rear view

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How to pair your bluetooth phone to the 2013 Kia Sportage

Quick demonstration of the Kia Sportage navigation


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