(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell, Women With Wheels.com)
When you’re hot, you’re hot.
Korean brand Kia is currently sizzling. Last year it sold 600,000 vehicles in the U.S. alone. That represented a nearly 8% increase over previous year sales.
As a carmaker which ditched lot of its econobox product in the past decade, it’s no surprise that not a single Kia product is a dominant seller in any single market segment.
Despite having double duties at sister carmaker Hyundai, Design Chief Peter Schreyer has a cleaner slate with the younger Kia brand, successfully infusing cutting edge trends with classic lines.
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WHAT: 2017 Kia Sportage SX-T AWD 2-Row compact Crossover Utility Vehicle. It’s the wilder cousin to Hyundai’s Tuscon.
Standard Power: transverse 2.4L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 181 hp/ 175 lb-ft + 6-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle.
OPTIONAL: 2.0L DOHC 16V DI intercooled turbocharged gas I-4 = 240 hp/ 260 lb-ft + upgraded 6-speed automatic.
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Mimicking toned human muscles Sportage sports bulges; Exaggerated fender arching emphasized by long HID lighting housings ; Hood = deep valley; Front fascia corner quad LED fog lights; Front & rear lower matte aluminum pseudo skid plates;
Concave door panels feed rising cheat line contrasting with sharp raked roof line finished with spoiler; Stunted D-pillar = near “Floating Roof”; Belt line taps liftgate mid-section, Thin taillamp housing connected by metallic wisp conveys width; Twin chrome exhaust tips;
WHY: A gutsy compact CUV value intentionally bearing more than a passing resemblance to something from Zuffenhausen.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Spring 2016
WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Ulsan , South Korea
WHERE TO: Optional Magna multi-plate wet clutch, open differential all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 100/0% – lockable at maximum 50/50%, with ABS descent control. < 7″ clearance = dirt road but not gully capable;
HOW ROADWORTHY: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC DI gas 4-cylinder has get up and go; 6-speed planetary automatic carries over, at times hiccuping over boost lag; Quicker rebound dampers quell pitch; Sprung soft allows lean & plow; Electric steering exhibits meaningful heft, yet intervals of response vagueness persist; Brake bite arrives late with abrupt pedal travel; Gas Engine clatter?; Cabin is muted to road noise; wing mirror wind whistle begins near triple digits.
HOW FAR: 22 combined miles per gallon = slightly > larger mid-size Sorento.
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ fits 5 adult occupants; Rear knees aren’t likely to abut front seat backs, though rear hats might graze the panoramic moonroof; Sharp raked roof cuts into cargo capacity;
HOW USEFUL: √ Chrome metal load floor skid plate; √ near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; -1 Forward visibility from bulging fenders / -1 Outward rear visibility from small backlight; Tow Rating: 2,000 lbs.
HOW SAFE: √ 8 airbags; √ IIHS Safety Pick +; √ Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist, Roll Mitigation, √ Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning & lane departure warning.
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Heated & cooled driver/ front passenger seats; √ 6-way power driver’s ; √ Heated steering; D-shape heated leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls;√ Semi toggle-style center stack switches and metallic tipped door switchgear; √ Contrast stitching;
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Key-fob proximity hands-free power liftgate & power folding wing mirrors; Panoramic roof.
Nearly Non-Descript: Short seat cushions; Leather wears premature, Faux embossed dashtop stitching; Hard plastic front seat backs advertise scuffs.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 8″ matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation ; √ Subscription based Sirius TravelLink Sports, Weather, Traffic; Fueling; Cinema; √ ; subscription fee based UVO telematics; √; Harman Kardon sound system more Clarify-ed than outgoing Infinity audio; UVO Apps: Pandora, SoundHound √ USB x 2, 12V x 3.
HOW MUCH: $34, 895 = fully loaded 2017 Kia Sportage SX-T AWD ; base front-drive Sportage LX = $22,900.
WHAT’S MISSING: More engaging transmission; Driver seat/ mirror position memory; Quieter & less sensitive LDW alarm; Android Auto/ Apple Car Play, 115V outlet, +1 Cargo management; > Cabin color contrast; SMS messaging app.
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Escape 2.0T: +1 lustier powertrain & semi-autonomous driving; Jeep Cherokee 2.7 V6, Subaru Forester 2.0T: +1 off-road creds; Volkswagen Tiguan: Teutonic build.