Thanks to a fun-to-drive nature, the 2013 Kia Sportage is a realistic alternative to other top small crossover SUVs on the market.
With its head-turning looks and long list of desirable standard features and options, the 2013 Kia Sportage offers an admirable balance of both style and substance. While the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine under the hoods of lower trim levels is merely adequate, the firm standard suspension makes for responsive handling. The sportier SX model raises things to a new level, with its 260-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and sport-tuned suspension delivering above-average performance.
Despite these admirable qualities, the Sportage does have a couple of notable drawbacks, not the least of which is a ride quality that will undoubtedly be a little too firm for some buyers. The interior is also a bit short on passenger and cargo room compared to several of its competitors.
As such, crossover shoppers focused on practicality might want to compare the Sportage to other, slightly roomier crossovers on the market including the Chevrolet Equinox, 2013 Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Those looking for a similarly sprightly driving experience will want to check out the new 2013 Ford Escape and 2013 Mazda CX-5. Overall, however, the 2013 Kia Sportage is a strong contender in this group thanks to its fun nature and value for the dollar.
The 2013 Kia Sportage is a compact crossover SUV with seating for five. There are a total of four trim levels available, including Base, LX, EX and SX.
Standard features on the base model include 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, 60\/40 split-folding rear seats, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-only steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with satellite radio, a CD player, an auxiliary audio input jack and an iPod\/USB audio interface.
Stepping up to the Sportage LX adds 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass and keyless entry. The available Convenience package adds a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a rear spoiler, roof rack side rails, heated outside mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a rear cargo area cover.
The Sportage EX includes all the goodies in the Convenience package along with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an easier-folding rear seat, the Uvo infotainment system and an upgraded sound system with HD radio, digital music storage and a small touchscreen interface. The SX model adds a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a sport-tuned suspension, keyless entry\/ignition, upgraded gauges, leather upholstery and distinctive exterior and interior styling details.
Other options include a Premium package that bundles a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery (standard on SX), heated front seats, a ventilated driver seat, keyless entry\/ignition (standard on SX), upgraded gauges and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic info is available on all but the base model.
The 2013 Kia Sportage isn't exactly sporty, but it is more fun to drive than you might expect from a small crossover. Handling is quite good, a benefit from the firmly tuned suspension. Naturally there's a price to be paid here in the form of a ride quality that can be a tad on the rough side, especially with the SE model's sport suspension and 18-inch wheels.
Acceleration with the 2.4-liter engine is decent enough and the transmission works well in both manual and fully automatic modes. The SE's turbocharged 2.0-liter delivers a healthy dose of acceleration and is a worthy alternative to the V6s found in competing crossovers.
Power for the 2013 Kia Sportage comes from one of two inline four-cylinder engines. Base, LX and EX models come with a 2.4-liter that puts out 176 hp and 168 pound-feet of torque. Base models are only offered with a six-speed manual transmission, while all other versions come with a six-speed automatic with a manual-shift feature. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive offered as an option on all but the base model.
In Edmunds performance tests, a front-wheel-drive Sportage with the 2.4-liter engine and automatic accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, an average time for this class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city\/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with the automatic and front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive drops those numbers to 20\/27\/23.
The SX model gets a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that puts out an impressive 260 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, it went from zero to 60 mph in a very quick 6.5 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy is 21\/28\/24 with front-wheel drive and 20\/25\/22 with AWD, although we've found the Sportage SX struggles to match these numbers in real-world driving.
Standard safety features on all 2013 Kia Sportage models include antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control, as well as hill descent and hill start control. Inside are front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In Edmunds brake testing, an EX came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet -- a better-than-average performance for this type of vehicle. The sport-oriented SX was better at 117 feet. In government crash tests, the Sportage received an overall rating of four stars (out of five) for front-wheel-drive models and five stars for all-wheel-drive versions, plus solid five-star ratings for frontal and side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Sportage received the highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Just as the 2013 Kia Sportage's aggressive exterior styling helps it stand out in a crowd, the handsome passenger cabin gives it an edge over several better-known competitors. There's no shortage of hard plastic, but it's nicely textured and there's a good amount of padding where it's needed.
Front seats are comfortable and supportive, with decent head- and legroom. The 60\/40-split rear seats are a bit tighter, with room for a couple of smaller adults. The fact that these seats don't slide up and back like those in some competitors is a weakness.
Behind those rear seats is the Sportage's other principal shortcoming, namely its relatively small cargo hold. With just 26.1 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats up and 54.6 with both sections folded down, the interior has roughly 15 cubic feet of space (picture the trunk of a good midsize sedan) less than its larger rivals.
Sharp styling inside and out; more fun to drive than other crossovers; powerful and efficient turbo engine in SX trim; plenty of premium features; intuitive controls; generous warranty.
Stiff-legged ride; backseat doesn't slide or recline; less cargo capacity than other crossovers.