By Larry Lark, Herald Special Sections Writer
The compact sports utility vehicle market is on a steep upward trajectory when it comes to sales. Plus, it’s a crowded, competitive category with manufacturer’s clamoring for market share.
Which means, if your product is not getting better, it’s falling behind. For the consumer, it’s a win-win. Competition always spawns a better product, with more features, at a lower price.
Case in point is the 2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD crossover.
Now in its fourth-generation, the South Korean company has upped its ante, providing a stunning new design, advanced driver-assistance technologies, significant suspension and steering improvements and available intelligent AWD.
The result is a better, more refined driving experience with a luxurious interior cabin, impressive level of craftsmanship and more creature comforts. The Sportage SX seats five adults with a generous cargo area accessed via a power liftgate.
Powered by a hard-charging 2.0-liter inline-four turbo, the Sportage generates 237 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque when paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The combination is rated at a combined 21 miles per gallon by the EPA in city/highway driving.
Aside from the burnished copper color of my tester — which friends and acquaintances derided as diaper-pail brown — the Sportage exterior looked sharp with a skillful juxtaposition of smooth curves and sharp creases.
Despite its increased dimensions, the all-new Sportage remains instantly recognizable thanks to its sloping roofline and sharply raked rear window. Short overhangs and wheels pushed to the corners continue to be signature Sportage design elements, while a longer, more aerodynamic spoiler and bolder wheel arches create a more dynamic appearance.
The Sportage interior achieves a premium feel thanks to sumptuous leather upholstery, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, piano-black trim along the center console, aluminum alloy pedals and authentic stitching on the dashboard.
Of course it’s loaded with all the latest gadgets and gizmos including a navigation system with rearview camera, three-level heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way power control with lumbar support for the driver’s seat, 160-watt, six-speaker audio system and a state-of-the-art telematics and infotainment package complete with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and UVO eServices with 14 telematics services. The enhanced system features up to 8 GB of music storage and access to Pandora. SoundHound is accessible through a portable wi-fi hotspot.
Last, but certainly not least, is a treasure trove of safety and driver assistance features highlighted by:
• Forward-collision warning system with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection, which can detect a potential collision with another vehicle or pedestrian and help bring the Sportage to a halt.
• Lane-departure warning system which emits an audible alert when it detects the driver straying from the current lane without using a turn signal.
• Blind-spot detection with lane-change assist monitors cars up to 230 feet behind the Sportage and provides the driver with a visual warning in the door mirror when another car enters the blind spot.
• Rear cross-traffic alert warns the driver if other cars pass behind the Sportage while in reverse.
• Front- and rear-parking assist, uses sonar sensors integrated in the bumpers to warn the driver when nearing other vehicles or object.
2017 KIA SPORTAGE SX AWD
BASE PRICE: $34,000
AS TESTED: $34,895
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.