You know the meme that surfaced on the internet a while ago that says, “if you don’t deserve me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”? Well, the journey of growth of the Kia Sportage can be explained perfectly by that single meme because the first gen car that was released in 1993 was quite an unfortunate little crossover. It had more in common with a station wagon than an SUV since it was developed along with Mazda’s Bongo (not a great idea) and suffered from poor build quality and poorer NCAP ratings. It wasn’t very easy on the eyes either.
2004’s second-gen car was the one that proved to the world that Kia could make a brilliant crossover capable of going head to head with the best from Japan and Europe. Thanks to that car, sales went up and so did the build quality and design. The progress of this vehicle has brought us the much awaited 2018 Kia Sportage with a facelifted design and many noteworthy new features. Let’s see exactly why this car is supposed to be taken seriously in this segment unlike some its predecessors.
Driving and Performance
The Sportage is available with two different engine choices in the US; namely a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four banger making 181 hp and 240 hp respectively so neither of them exactly slouches. This car comes with both AWD and FWD so performance figures might vary with your personal combination of engine and powertrain but general specifications are almost similar to most Japanese cars.
The net torque from the less powerful 2.4-liter unit is 175 lb.-ft while the turbocharged motor puts out a neat 260 lb.-ft and acceleration varies from 9.5 seconds for the 2 liters and 10.4 seconds for the 2.4 liters.
When it comes to the driving feel, it is miles apart from the third-generation model but that doesn’t mean that it is on par with most Japanese or European rivals. Granted that performance is almost never a big priority for crossover buyers but there’s no denying the fact that its rivals can put up a better show on an empty stretch of road so soccer moms with a new Sportage might reach school later leading to more complaints from the kids sitting in the backseat. Handling, however, sweetens the performance aspect just a little bit as the car feels much more composed and eager to get into corners with the revised chassis and better dynamics from the AWD model.
Once you get into the car, 2018 Kia Sportage interior definitely has its own vibe to it as it combines the best of German subtlety to Korean cost-saving and ergonomics. The dashboard is designed beautifully and has a way of showing how much Kia has matured up in the last few years. The center console is slightly angled towards the driver for better approachability to the buttons, yes buttons, this car takes a simpler approach towards infotainment management and honestly, it works rather well.
As the car has been increased in length, there is more room on the inside and it definitely helps the rear passengers as they now have the option to recline their seats and adjust it to their physical characteristics. Even the button to fold the seats can be found on the sides of the rear seat so you don’t have to go search elsewhere for this option. As expected, the Sportage comes with USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation and a 7-inch infotainment screen that fits perfectly into the center console. Apart from those, it also comes with optional wireless charging, WIFI hotspot, rear air vents, and a 12-volt charging point.
When it comes to the exterior design of the Sportage, polarizing is the word that comes to the mind of the average car enthusiast. We guarantee you that you’ll love the way the rear has been designed with its lean and horizontal tail light and side proportions are tasty to look at as well but…now this is a big but…the front fascia is very much an acquired taste. It’s not exactly ugly but isn’t pretty either as there is a sense of disagreement between the shape of the headlights and the new grille so they never seem to get along in front of your eyes.
The upside is that the new GT version has revised headlights which are leaner and meaner which translates to a better look in the front. There will surely be a lot of folks who would think that the 3rd gen car was more of a looker than this car but overall, it can be said that the new front fascia can be excused as the rest of the car is very pretty to look at.
There is a good amount of tech features available on this car which will surely amaze ex-owners of Kia cars from the early 2000s as most of us have low expectations from the brand in this arena. Kia, however, realized a long time ago just how important safety and tech features are to the car-game and have done everything possible to give you a better class of safety options in their new Sportage.
Apart from the most basic features like Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), you also get something called Downhill Brake Control system which automatically senses a steep slope and slows down the descent of the car accordingly much like a Range Rover Evoque.
There’s also an option to equip the Sportage with autonomous emergency braking which is also capable of sensing pedestrians who fancy jumping in front of your car as a hobby. The care for safety has gone up right from the chassis building stage as the new Sportage has a skeleton built according to Kia’s new iso-structure with better structural rigidity and strength. Overall, the emphasis on safety and tech that Kia now offers have played a very important role in making the Sportage one for the safest crossovers out there.
The way the Sportage has grown from obscurity to king-like status and sales in the crossover segment is simply amazing. It’s a shining beacon of achievement for the amount of sheer effort Kia has put in in the R&D department and the amount of kit this car comes with is enough to make some very relaxed Japs out there to up their game in the tech department.
Take away a few cheap plastics, toned down performance and that front fascia and what you get is an SUV that is barely a Kia. Don’t get us wrong, that wasn’t an insult, rather it’s a compliment that shows just how much Kia has transformed in the last few years and how most buyers have come to take the Korean brand just as seriously as Honda or Toyota. At the end of the day, this is a crossover you wouldn’t regret buying and wouldn’t be ashamed of owning in the long run either. Good job, Kia.