Reviews

2017 Kia Sportage Walk Around


Compact is a word that keeps embracing bigger vehicles in the world of crossover SUVs, and the latest Sportage is in step with the trend. The wheelbase has been extended 1.2 inches, to 105.1; overall length stretches from 174.8 to 176.4; width expands by almost a half-inch, to 73.4.

Predictably, this adds up to a little more room inside, particularly welcome for passengers in the outboard rear seats, who can ride comfortably with only minimal cooperation from those up front. (Like all compact CUVs, the rear center seat is suitable only for child seats, very small adults, or passengers who would be more welcome somewhere else.)

The cargo hold behind the rear seats is also bigger, to 31 cubic feet, five more than the previous generation. However, the Sportage still trails key rivals, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, in this stat.

However, the cargo volume can be increased slightly with a new provision that allows users to drop and move the rear load floor down about three inches. Also, the rear seats have been redesigned to fold flatter, making it a little easier to stow big stuff. A new auto-opening power rear hatch helps, too; it responds to the keyfob after a short interval when the owner stands nearby.

Styling: The going away view might be better without the red reflective strip that spans the rear hatch, connecting the taillights. But the head-turning details are on the new front end, with its array of seemingly random styling elements, particularly the running lights set low in the fenders.

Kia calls them ice cubes, and they’re certainly distinctive. We should note that the ice cube LED lights are limited to the SX Turbo.

The overall design treatment, developed in Germany, hasn’t won the hearts of many critics, but of course they’re not the market. Kia product planners note that it’s increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowded compact CUV field, which essentially liberated the designers from a me-too approach.

Whatever else one may say about the face of the new Sportage, me-too does not apply.

Interior

Naturally, interior appointments contribute to the comfort quotient, and the Sportage gets very good marks on this portion of the scorecard. Materials wouldn’t be out of place in a vehicle costing half again as much, there’s hardly a hard surface anywhere, and sporty perforated leather seats, with heating and cooling, make the going more pleasant (although these are limited to the SX Turbo).

The leather-wrapped heated steering wheel (also limited to the SX Turbo) and shifter add lux to the interior. Asterisk: the wheel’s flat bottom, suggesting sportiness, is a little over the top. Flat-bottom wheels are necessary in sports and racing cars, allowing driver thigh clearance. That’s not an issue here, and the wheel’s D shape is strictly cosmetic.

Control functions are easy to identify, and for those who find total touch screen secondary controls irritating the display is augmented by a collection of switches, buttons, and knobs. No mysteries. The 8-inch screen, for its part, is home for a nav system that’s more cooperative than many, and is angled slightly toward the driver.

A low dash and thinner A-pillars (between windshield and side windows) improve forward sightlines. The C-pillars (between rear windscreen and rear side windows) have also been slimmed slightly, reducing rear quarter blind spots, but the available blind spot monitor is still a better bet for keeping track of surrounding traffic.

For sun worshippers, a vast new sunroof is available, opening most of the top to fresh air and solar rays, and it’s a tribute to the design staff that the body shell has actually been stiffened with so much structure missing up top.

The new Sportage features updated telematics, infotainment, and connectivity. Tops on that list is the availability of Apple Car Play and/or Android Auto. Kia also offers the third generation of its UVO system, and a Harman/Kardon 320-watt 8-speaker audio system with 8 gigs of storage.

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