2005 Kia Sportage
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new-generation Kia Sportage is worlds better than the old model, which was dropped nearly three years ago. The previous Sportage had a successful run following its 1995 debut, but finally fell far short of rivals in performance and refinement.
The redesigned 2005 Sportage looks sportier than the last-generation model and is longer, wider, taller and more powerful—besides being more refined.
The Sportage is similar to the new Tucson from Kia's parent company, Hyundai. Both vehicles have nearly identical dimensions and the same engines and car-like platform.
However, these two compact SUVs are built in different South Korean plants, and the Sportage looks a little sportier. Its suspension is tuned for sharper handling than the Tucson's, but its roadability is nothing to shout about if it's pushed hard.
Long Warranties a Plus
In 2004 both Hyundai and Kia easily topped their previous year's U.S. sales figures, and the companies continue to have strong sales in 2005. Their main strategy is to undercut the competition on price and standard features and continually improve their vehicles.
The funky Sportage convertible is long gone. This Kia now is offered as a 4-door SUV with a two-piece tailgate that comes in base LX and higher-line EX trim levels. It's sold with front-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive system not meant for serious off-road use.
Front-wheel-drive versions have list prices from $15,900 to $20,100, while all-wheel-drive versions cost from $18,000 to $21,500.
The 4-cylinder is okay for city driving, but has no surplus of power on highways. The V6 provides lively acceleration in town and on the highway, at least with only a driver aboard. Still, an optional 3.0-liter V6 with 200 horsepower would be welcome, and such an engine reportedly is coming.
The 4-cylinder is backed by a 5-speed manual gearbox or 4-speed automatic transmission, but the V6 comes only with the automatic, which should be more responsive. The automatic isn't as good as a more modern 5-speed unit, such as the one in the CR-V.
Competitive Fuel Economy
All Sportage versions have a good amount of comfort, convenience and safety items. They include six airbags, power door locks and windows, an AM/FM/CD sound system, a height-adjustable steering column, front/rear 12-volt power points and cruise control on the LX V6 version.
A shopping bag hook in the front passenger area keeps bags upright and accessible. That's one of those thoughtful, small features that may initially seem trivial but is appreciated over time.
The EX adds a power sunroof and remote keyless entry. Leather upholstery, heated front seats and an upgraded sound system are in an EX luxury option package.
Gauges can be quickly read, and there are large climate controls and a height-adjustable front center console with a two-stage tray top. But front and rear cupholders are set too low.
The low, wide cargo opening facilitates loading and "drop-and-fold" split rear seats can be moved entirely forward without much effort to significantly increase cargo space. There's no need to remove headrests and then search for a place to conveniently put them. Also, the front passenger seat folds flat to accommodate especially long cargo.
Average Handling With Hard Driving
However, roadability is helped if a driver pushes overly hard by standard traction control, an anti-skid system and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
Steering is fast enough but has a rather spongy feel that takes getting used to. The ride is supple, thanks to a fully independent suspension and fairly long 103.5-inch wheelbase. Braking is quite good.
South Korean automakers have become much more of a threat in a relatively short time, as the new Sportage clearly shows