In an extremely crowded SUV market, it’s really hard to stand out from the competitors. There are well established compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4. But if you’re looking for something different, the 2020 Kia Sportage is hoping to grab your attention.
Engine – The Sportage is powered by a 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine. It produces 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque which is a respectable amount for a non-turbocharged economic engine. However if you’re wanting for more power, the top spec SX trim is available with a… you guessed it, 2.0L turbocharged engine that produces 237 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Everyother trim though, including this EX Tech, has to make due with the 2.4L engine.
Power delivery is adequate with the 2.4L engine. There’s just enough of it to get the nearly 1,700 kg body off the line or up to highway speeds without impeding the drivers behind. It does feel more “spritely” when the engine is in Sport mode as it drastically improves throttle response but the trade off then is poor fuel economy.
This all-wheel-drive Sportage can achieve up to 10.8 L/100km (21.8 mpg) in a city and 9.1 L/100km (25.8 mpg) on a highway. The base LX trim with front-wheel-drive improves those numbers to 10.1 (23.2 mpg) & 7.6 (30.9 mpg) respectively. In the real world, I managed a combined fuel economy rating of 9.8 L/100km during my week with the car.
Transmission – Regardless of which engine or drivetrain is in the Kia Sportage, they all go through a 6-speed automatic transmission. 6-speeds used to be the norm a few decades ago but these days, 8, 9, or even 10-speed automatic transmissions are the new norm. There’s nothing wrong with the way this transmission operates. Shifts are smooth and it reacts relatively quickly to stabs of the throttle pedal. But a transmission with more gear ratios could better utilize the engine’s power and provide better fuel efficiency on highways. Hopefully one with more than 6 gear ratios will find its way into the Sportage in the near future.
Braking – While many other competitor compact SUVs offer automatic emergency braking as standard, you have to move up to the EX trim in the Sportage to get it. There are actually 5 different variants of the EX trim line but all of them have automatic emergency braking. It’s only the base LX trim and its variants that are not equipped with emergency braking.
Handling – The 2020 Kia Sportage is trying to pull off a hard trick when it comes to handling dynamics. It’s trying to be a bit sporty like the Mazda CX-5 but at the same time still be comfortable enough for all the occupants. Very few SUVs can pull this off and unfortunately the Sportage didn’t quite pull it off. Steering feel and precision is ok for a daily commuter crossover but it doesn’t feel as engaging as that of the CX-5.
Ride Comfort – But while the handling dynamics aren’t quite “sports SUV”, the ride quality has been drastically improved over the last generation Sportage. The suspension doesn’t feel floaty over bumps but rather it absorbs them as properly tuned suspension should. Sure, you can still feel a big pothole if you drive over it but doesn’t shake the entire vehicle and make it an uncomfortable driving experience.
Although the seat padding is a little on the firm side, the seats themselves are well contoured for a vast majority of body shapes making long journeys relatively comfortable. Whatsmore, the front seats have the usual amount of adjustments including power lumbar support.
Interior Space – As per usual, front occupants have the most space of any of the seating positions. Having said that though, the driving position is quite high. Yes, it’s very good for seeing above smaller cars but if you’re a taller than average person, you may feel as though the roof is closing in on you. I’m 6’4” and I had just enough headroom but anyone taller than me will feel the headliner against their hair.
Rear occupants have more legroom than the previous generation of the Sportage. The rear backrests can also recline but the seats do not move forwards or backwards for more legroom or cargo space. Speaking of cargo space, behind the rear seats is 868 L (30.7 cu-ft) of cargo space and with those seats folded, that number increases to 1,703 L (60.1 cu-ft).
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – For the most part, the 2020 Kia Sportage is a quiet compact SUV. The reason why I say for the most part is because this particular demo vehicle still had all weather (winter) tires equipped. The tire noise was loud when driving on a highway. But given all-season tires, the road noise is comparable to most other SUVs in the price range.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Just like its parent company, Hyundai, Kia vehicles are known for providing a fair amount of features for not a whole lot of money. The base Sportage starts at $25,795 CAD ($23,990 USD) and it has an 8” touchscreen with CarPlay & Android Auto, bluetooth, heated seats, heated exterior mirrors, backup camera, & remote keyless entry to name a few. This EX Tech trim is priced at $37,995 CAD ($35,205 USD) which is a hefty sum but it is, on average, $2,000 to $3,000 less expensive than the equivalent competitors. And it comes equipped with literally everything that any family would ever need. Ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, wireless phone charging, navigation LED headlights, and so on are equipped on this Sportage.
For the most part all of the gadgets work as they are intended to. There was only one feature that I just had to turn off because it was not only annoying, but potentially a hazard. The lane keep assist system was designed to keep the vehicle in the center of a given lane provided that it can “see” the lane markings. When it can see the markings, it does a very good job of staying centered. But quite often I noticed it had a hard time spotting lane markings that were faded or some that were mistaken for long road cracks. As a result, the system thought I was driving out of my lane and it tried to correct but I was still well within my lane. It didn’t happen all the time but it happened enough times for me to turn off the system.
Interior Design – The interior design is fairly dummy-proof as all of the major controls are where you’d expect them to be. The infotainment has a few quick access physical buttons, the climate control isn’t some overly complicated touchscreen, and the drive mode & AWD lock buttons are right next to the electronic parking brake at the bottom of the gear selector. There’s nothing in particular that stands out but in a way, that’s a good thing. With all of the simple controls, anyone can get into the Sportage and feel comfortable in it.
The only thing worth noting is the choice of materials. For the most part plastics cover most panels. Kia probably could have put in more soft leather on the door panels or center console and used more high quality materials but then the price would have reflected that.
Exterior Design – The exterior design can draw quite a bit of attention, especially in this Scarlet Red paint. The headlights alone have more styling in them than other entire cars. Around back, the 2020 Kia Sportage incorporates quite a few modern day styling cues such as the LED light bar that runs across the back and the hidden exhaust pipe behind the bumper. Overall the 2020 Sportage is a good looking compact SUV.
In all, the 2020 Kia Sportage is a compact crossover SUV that many may only consider as an alternative to the more mainstream auto manufacturers. But in the past few years, the quality and value has brought Kia to a point where you can consider the Sportage on the same level as the Honda CR-V or Ford Escape or Toyota Rav4.
Thank you to Kia Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Kia.ca