After years of acceptance as an unheralded compact sport utility vehicle against the monoliths in the segment, the 2017 Kia Sportage has emerged as a worthy competitor. It’s been boldly redesigned inside and outside for the debut of its fourth generation.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

In addition to a new exterior design Kia says was inspired by modern fighter jets (Doesn’t Saab say the same thing?), the 2017 Kia Sportage is offered in new trims. My test vehicle was SX Turbo model with front-wheel drive.

Like the base model LX and EX modeles, the SX model has a long list of standard features: Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming audio, while the EX model brings leather upholstery, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, WiFi hotspot capability and the latest version of Kia’s Uvo 3 package of connected apps and services.

The 2017 Kia Sportage has been redesigned inside and outisde.
The 2017 Kia Sportage  has been redesigned inside and outside. All images © Bruce Aldrich/2016

The top-line SX gets numerous upgrades, including an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation system and 19-inch wheels. My vehicle also included the optional automatic opening liftgate and a premium eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

But most notable is the new exterior, particularly the extreme-looking front grille. Foglights are featured in a four LED square panel and the headlights are positioned on angles on the hood. The angry-looking grille further adds to the mix. It’s either distinctive or alarmingly, depending on your point of view.

The interior design is modern and functional. Sizable white block letter and numbers designation functions on the solidly built dash. It’s all handsomely presented in a slightly longer and an expanded interior with cargo space approaching 31 cubic feet.

Although the Sportage is classified as a compact SUV, it feels larger when the panoramic sunroof is open. It’s wider than in previous models.

Another change for the new Sportage is a more rigid chassis and a new suspension. Combined with the 240-horsepower turbo-charge engine, the Sportage is appropriately named. There’s turbo lag, but the Sportage is appropriately names. It’s sporty, peppy and maneuvers well in city and freeway situations.

Likes:

Confident driving style
Comfortable, quiet ride.
Efficient, intuitive navigation.

Dislikes:

Mediocre gas mileage.
Expensive for segment.
Turbo lag.

Facts & Figures: 2017 Kia Sportage

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.1 seconds.
Airbags: 6
Fuel economy: 21 mpg (city), 26 mpg (highway), 23 mpg (combined), six-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 240.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $32,500.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.kia.com.
Price As Tested: $33,395.00.
Warranty: Bumper-to-Bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/ 100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“The Sportage is successful in a pretty small niche: fully loaded small crossovers that prioritize acceleration and handling over fuel economy and interior space. If your interests don’t align pretty closely with those strengths, though, you’ll likely be happier in a competitor.” — Examiner.com.

“The Sportage debuted in 1994 as a cheap-and-cheerful throwaway, but it’s not so anymore. The larger dimensions are a right-sized package for more widespread usability for families to millennials.” — San Diego Union Tribune.

“Kia has traditionally undercut its competition on price, but while the Sportage is priced competitively against similar Asian and American models, Kia no longer has to attract buyers on price alone. They’re delivering a good product and the company’s reputation now speaks volumes. — Digitaltrends.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“The Kia Sportage may be an underdog in the compact SUV segment. But it shouldn’t be. The fourth generation is a hit inside and outside. It’s a strong alternative against top contenders from Honda, Hyundai and Ford, among others.”

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