Kia’s Compact Crossover: A Lot to Like
Clean Fleet Report spent a week in the 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD and came away impressed with its exterior design, interior comfort and convenience. What we were not so impressed with was the EPA fuel economy rating. But if you read reviews on Clean Fleet Report, you already know that the EPA rating is only a challenge for us to see what numbers we can get. We took the challenge and the Sportage came out just fine.
The 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, producing 237 horsepower (hp) and 260 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. The six-speed automatic transmission has a Sportmatic feature where you can manually go up through the gears (+) or down (-) using the console-mounted shift lever. Otherwise, leave it in drive and the engine, running on regular 87 octane unleaded, is smooth and the transmission seamless, both in town and freeway driving. The base Sportage engine is a 2.0L non-turbo putting out 181 hp and 175 lb.-ft. of torque.
EPA rates the fuel economy at 20 city/23 highway/21 combined miles per gallon. In 303 miles of freeway and city driving, we averaged 24.6 mpg, but on a 200-mile open freeway run, using cruise control set to 65 mph, we averaged a much better 30.8 mpg. The EPA fuel economy numbers for the Sportage 2.0L turbo are low, which is surprising for Kia as they have stellar fuel economy numbers across much of their line-up.
It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The 2018 Kia Sportage AWD, weighing in at 3,765 pounds, uses Kia’s Dynamax Intelligent AWD, where the fully automatic torque distribution provides improved traction during acceleration, cornering and low traction conditions. Clean Fleet Report felt the well-distributed weight, along with the front MacPherson struts with gas shocks plus the rear multi-link suspension with gas shocks, delivered a smooth and stable ride.
With the 19-inch alloy wheels and 245/45R Kumho Crugen tires, handling was direct with little body roll. Cornering was confident as the SX Turbo offers firmer springs, tuned dampers and tweaked steering settings that gave the Sportage AWD a planted, if not full-on sporty feel. Remember, this is a compact crossover, so even Kia’s small upgrades to the suspension make a noticeable difference to the ride and handling.
The stops were straight and true, with no brake fade. Aiding the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), was electronic stability and traction control.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD looks different from its compact crossover competitors. The combination of the short overhangs, curves and its smooth body panels give it a more European look than others in the group. Coming out of the same design studio that brought us the 2018 Kia Stinger, Peter Schreyer, Kia’s chief design officer, has delivered a stylish, compelling crossover.
The Sportage was completely redesigned for the 2017 model year and carries the look into 2018. Kia’s signature “tiger nose” grill, in gloss black with chrome trim, runs edge-to-edge on the front end, leading to the swept back projector beam headlights. LED daytime running lights and the quad LED fog lights, located in the bottom fascia, complete the front end design and look very appealing. The SX trim level gets Bi-xenon headlights with Dynamic Bending Light, which rotates the headlights in the direction you are turning.
The side profile, especially with the 19-inch wheels, is sharp. The swept back line from the A-pillar leads to a near flat roofline with rack rails, a shark fin antenna and an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window. Our SX also had a panoramic sunroof. The horizontal LED taillights wrap the fenders and are connected by a slim reflector across the sculpted surfaced hatch. The rear, with a hands-free power lift gate, is finished off by twin chrome exhaust tips. The badging on the Sportage AWD SX is subtle and minimal.
Driving Experience: Interior
The 2018 Kia Sportage, even in the entry model, offers many basic amenities. Clean Fleet Report tested the Sportage SX AWD trim level and were comfortable the first moment we climbed aboard. The standard high quality, 10-way power adjustable (with lumbar) for the driver and eight-way for the front passenger leather seats were heated and ventilated. The two-toned tan and black seats were comfortable and never allowed any back or thigh fatigue to set in. The leather-covered, heated tilt and telescoping steering wheel was squared-off at the bottom–a feature we are seeing more frequently on crossovers.
We were impressed with its roomy cabin as well as the fit and finish, which included an attractive gloss black center fascia. The 6.8-inch ground clearance is not as high as an SUV, but provides excellent road vision and is a nice height for ingress and egress. The rear 60/40 split-folding rear seat can fit three adults, but it is best suited for two. The seat has a center armrest with cup holders and a 17-step recline. This means those sitting out back can relax just a bit better than if they were sitting upright. Rear storage is average for crossovers, but increases considerably when the seat is folded flat. The Sportage also has a nifty dual-level
cargo floor for stashing away the more valuable items you’re hauling around.
The stitching on the soft-touch dash was the real thing. The great sounding Harman Kardon 320-watt sound system with eight speakers and 8.0-inch touchscreen resided there. The command center for Kia’s UVO eServices telematics and the infotainment system included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system comes with AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX and Sirius/XM, with a 90-day introductory subscription. The Bluetooth worked very well for voice recognition, with most of the entertainment controlled by the steering wheel-mounted switches. Big thanks to Kia designers for the knobs and wheels to control the radio and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The Sportage comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features. Since some of the features are available on higher trim levels and through packages, we advise getting your car with as many advanced driver technology and safety features as possible.
Features available on the 2018 Kia Sportage include eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, cruise control, blind spot monitoring, park assist, traction control, hill launch assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert.
In testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2018 Sportage received five stars (five stars is their highest rating), while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Sportage its top safety pick, for overall crash protection.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2018 Kia Sportage ranges in base price from $23,600 to $34,400. Clean Fleet Report’s Sportage SX AWD with the 2.0L Turbo had an MSRP of $35,195, which included $735 in options. All prices are before the $990 freight and handling fee.
The 2018 Sportage comes with these warranties:
- Powertrain 10 years/100,000 miles
- Basic Five years/60,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance Five years/60,000 miles
- Corrosion 10 years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD
The 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD is the real deal. This clean, classic-looking crossover has design touches of the Porsche Macan, which is a good thing. Plus, the Sportage comes with the best warranty on the market.
While Clean Fleet Report’s Sportage AWD SX was highly optioned and the price reflected the equipment level, you should start by shopping the entry-level LX model and see for yourself how much you can get for under $24,000.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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