Utility vehicles have been critical in building the Kia brand. So, it is really no surprise that the Kia Sportage has emerged, seeming from nowhere, to become a challenger to popular vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. The 2020 Kia Sportage comes with a solid design and driving dynamics.
Overview: The version of the Sportage I got to test also was well equipped, packed with the kind of features and technology you might expect on a more expensive vehicle.
It also seems to fit nicely in a crowded urban and suburban environment where drivers of all kinds are jockeying for space at a time when the pandemic has made driving to the store all the more essential. It also was surprisingly refined and tailored to the diverse needs and lifestyles of most American motorists.
Exterior: One of the 2020 Kia Sportage’s best features is its visual appeal, which is built off its contemporary exterior design. The silhouette and roofline, which is raised up so the Sportage will not be confused with a hatchback, are sleek. The character lines on the side that help mitigate the two-box shape – universal for utility vehicles – hiding behind the sheet metal.
In another mitigating element, designers dropped the hood over the engine compartment on the Sportage so it slopes downward to meet the vehicle’s distinctive front fascia, which includes the Kia badge and the brand’s distinctive front grille.
Kia also does a nice job in tucking in the headlights and daytime running lights into the front corners of the vehicle and around the rear liftgate. The distinctive 19-inch wheels complete the exterior design.
Interior: Carmakers the world over have worked at improving the interiors of their vehicles, and Kia’s effort is plain to see in the 2020 Sportage. The cabin is nicely laid out with controls that are easy to reach and an overall design that feature chrome accents and a particularly good selection of materials that elevate the appearance of the interior and give it the feel of a more expensive vehicle.
The design is attractive once you settle behind the wheel. The clutter is held to a minimum and the gauges and controls are nicely back lit for night driving. The center stack in the Sportage is nicely integrated into the technology built into the vehicle.
The view from the driver’s seat and the second-row seats are surprisingly spacious. But even when the second-row seats are occupied there is still ample space for packages or even sporting gear. The vehicle also has a panoramic sunroof.
Powertrain: The 2020 Kia Sportage SX AWD I drove for a week was equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine with direct that is matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission and driver-selected mode setting. The combination
produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
The version I drove also was equipped with an-all-wheel-drive system. For a vehicle in the compact utility vehicle segment, the fuel economy was okay with a combined rating of 21 miles per gallon, including 20 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway as this model seemed to pay a penalty for the all-wheel-drive system.
Technology and Safety: The 2020 Kia Sportage SX AWD I drove came with a full set of driver assistance features, including blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
The vehicle also came with Bluetooth, satellite radio, wireless phone charger, LED headlights, hands-free liftgate, heated seats, parking sensors and steering wheel controls as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for the 8-inch touch screen.
The list of safety equipment on the vehicle includes front- and side-impact airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and downhill brake and hill start assist as well as forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and smart cruise control.
Driving impressions: The electric-power steering offers a modest amount of feedback but overall, it makes the vehicle easy to maneuver in more crowded settings or out on the highway where the overall ride quality and handling is also nicely tuned making the vehicle pleasant to drive and the turbocharged engine delivered more than enough power under all conditions.
The brakes are also good, and the six-speed transmission seems to handle the on the road challenges smoothly and efficiently, adding to the vehicle’s pleasant road manners. But the 2020 Kia Sportage SX is not really built for off-road travel and its very much an urban or suburban vehicle.
Wrap Up: The 2020 Sportage competes in a very crowded segment. Virtually every manufacturer selling vehicles in the U.S. now offers a compact utility vehicle for sale so there is a lot competition for buyers in this segment.
However, even though the definition of a luxury vehicle has become very fluid, I was surprised seeing the price of this fully loaded version of the Sportage approaching $40,000 or $37,290, including the $1,120 destination charge to be exact. Nonetheless, this is a quite competent and versatile vehicle for travel in busy urban areas with plenty of zip.