Kia’s longest running nameplate, the Sportage, is getting a major makeover inside and out to compete with what may be the most difficult segment in the industry these days: compact sport-utility vehicles. The new ute made its U.S. debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show today.
The South Korean maker produced a fourth-generation ute that not only gets contemporary, stand-out exterior styling, but also the performance capabilities and technology to live up to the look.
“Simply put, the Sportage is a breed apart in the compact CUV segment,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning KMA. “Instead of bland utility, the Sportage combines distinctly European and sporty styling with thoughtful design and functionality, including innovative packaging, premium materials, a turbocharged engine and surprising features.
“Sales of compact CUVs are on a sharply upward trajectory, and the all-new 2017 Sportage hits the sweet spot by providing an alternative for those seeking to express themselves with a vehicle that’s versatile enough to suit their unique lifestyle.”
Kia exterior designs continue to benefit from the maker’s renowned design chief, Peter Schreyer. The new Sportage retains the brand’s trademark “tiger-nose” grille with a vertical treatment that positions the headlights higher, and combined with the wider, lower front clip to help with engine cooing, the Sportage looks more aggressive than its predecessor.
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Other modifications include chrome touches surround the windows on the Sportage LX and EX, while the top-of-the-line SX Turbo model adds more visual interest with new “ice cube” LED fog lamps, HID headlamps, LED tail lights, satin exterior trim, metal-look skid plates, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
While the changes are tangible, they’re not so overwhelming as to make the Sportage line-up unrecognizable. Kia officials are hoping the result is a more upscale, high-end look that drives more sales.
On the inside, Kia employed more soft-touch materials to enhance the feeling of comfort and quality combined with a simple, clean look for the instrument panels and infotainment center designed to emphasize the interior’s spaciousness.
To accomplish that the designers divided the dashboard into two clear zones. The upper “display” zone delivers information to occupants via the instrument panel and new color touchscreen, which is canted 10 degrees toward the driver.
The lower half, or the “control” zone, features easily identifiable switchgear to operate the available dual-zone climate system, audio and secondary controls. Similar to the touchscreen, the center console has been angled to face the driver.
While the interior design is supposed to make the cabin feel bigger, it accomplishes that in some measure because, well, the cabin is bigger in this generation Sportage. The new model offers small increases in head- and legroom as well as a larger cargo area.
Engineers reconfigured the back end to lower the liftgate making it easier load the Sportage. Additionally, a Smart Power Liftgate, which automatically opens when the key fob is within three feet of the vehicle, is also available.
The Sportage also got a handling and performance makeover as well for 2017 with a completely redesigned fully independent front suspension lead by a four-point bushing setup delivering greater stability and stiffer wheel bearings and bushings result in more precise handling.
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The 2017 Sportage is offered in front or all-wheel-drive, both coupled with a six-speed Sportmatic transmission. The Dynamax intelligent AWD system is available on every trim and features a 50/50 locking center differential. The system senses, anticipates and optimizes traction requirements for all road and weather conditions and all-wheel-drive models also get a unique front fascia with a steeper approach angle for increased capability.
All of this is powered by two engines: a 2.0-liter inline-four turbo for the SX Turbo, which makes 241 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, while LX and EX use a normally aspirated 2.4-liter engine that produces 181 hp and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are expected to improve on their predecessor’s fuel economy ratings, although no official numbers were released.
Kia officials are targeting a five-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rating and an Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ designation. Safety technologies such as: Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning System, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert should help with that goal.
Ultimately, it seems the differentiation in this segment comes from a combination of capability, safety and technology, including the infotainment systems. The Sportage LX comes standard with a 5-inch color touchscreen that features Bluetoothhands-free phone operation and streaming audio, SiriusXM satellite radio and rear-camera display.
A move up to the EX brings a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen with the latest version of Kia’s award-winning telematics and infotainment system, UVO3, which is making its debut on the all-new Sportage. Complete with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and UVO eServices featuring 14 telematics services, the enhanced system features up to 8 GB of music storage, access to onscreen apps such as Pandoraand Soundhound and Wi-Fi tethering capability, all free of charge.
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The SX Turbo features all of the above, plus an 8-inch touchscreen and onboard navigation. All Sportages come standard with a 160-watt six-speaker audio system, and a powerful 320-watt Harmon Kardon premium audio system is available, featuring eight speakers including subwoofer, an external amplifier, and Clari-Fimusic restoration technology for unrivalled audio quality.