The popular Kia Sportage crossover stands out for its swoopy lines and its excellent warranty. Unchanged for 2019, it comes as standard front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive, and with a standard 4-cylinder engine making 181 horsepower or available turbo-4 making 240 hp.
There’s also an SX with sharper handling and the turbocharged engine that changes the character of the crossover. Every Sportage uses a 6-speed automatic transmission, which might not get the fuel mileage of a CVT, but it’s worth it not to have that big rubber-band slinging the car along.
Active safety equipment such as automatic emergency braking is optional on all but the SX, where it’s standard. All models but the base LX get Kia’s useful Uvo infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a big, high-resolution touchscreen.
The front-wheel-drive LX is EPA-rated at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, and 25 combined. All-wheel-drive LXs check in at 21/25/22 mpg.
The EX model, with a bit more equipment, is rated at 22/29/25 mpg with front-wheel drive, or 21/26/23 mpg with all-wheel drive.
The SX pays for its horsepower, with front-drive models at 21/26/23 mpg, and all-wheel drive at 20/23/21 mpg.
The NHTSA gives the Sportage five stars overall, with four stars for front-impact and rollover prevention.
The 2019 Kia Sportage LX comes with power features, air conditioning, cruise control, 17-inch wheels, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen. Notable is the sterling Kia warranty: a 5-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper promise with 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain coverage.
An optional package upgrades the infotainment to a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and adds heated front seats, a power driver seat, and automatic climate control. Another package includes automatic emergency braking.
For $30,000, the EX adds that infotainment system, as well as blind-spot monitors, 18-inch wheels, and an extra USB port. Options include cooled front seats, a power tailgate, Harman Kardon audio, an 8.0-inch infotainment system and automatic emergency braking.
The $35,000 SX Turbo adds the turbocharged engine, automatic emergency braking, and sharper handling from revised dampers, firmer springs, and slightly modified steering settings.
Leather, a sunroof, and a premium sound system are available.
The Sportage’s styling is bold and uncluttered. The stance is plucky and planted. The grille is pronounced and the pillars are swept back. The design works because it’s simple, unlike rivals that try too hard to be edgy. Its clarity is refreshing.
With a short wheelbase of 105.1 inches and overall length of 176.4 inches with short overhangs, it somehow looks longer than rivals, even with a high belt line and thick roof pillars.
The LX wheels are 17 inches, EX wheels are not too shabby at 18 inches, and SX Turbo wheels are dressy at 19.
The instrument panel is also uncluttered, dominated on the EX and SX by a big, bright touchscreen and swaths of glossy black plastic. It’s canted toward the driver and laid out well. The dash is divided horizontally, with the top half for the gauges and infotainment, the bottom half for the rest.
Although it’s an expensive option on the LX, the Uvo infotainment system has a simple interface, and the bigger touchscreen has high resolution.
The front its seats have nice contours and are comfortable for long distances. The cloth on the LX looks durable. The driver’s seat is adjustable six ways, with 10-way adjustment optional on the LX and standard on the EX and SX, which also have available leather.
The rear seat is just a bench that technically seats three, but comfortably only two. The Sportage offers 30.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and 60.1 cubic feet when it’s folded. The cargo floor is low, and a power tailgate opens high, making things easy and flexible.
Extensive sound deadening and acoustic glass make the cabin remarkably quiet for a crossover.
The 2.4-liter engine in the LX and EX delivers ordinary acceleration, with its 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. It’s adequate but also quiet, with a mere soft growl entering the cabin.
Most of our seat time was in the SX Turbo, whose 2.0-liter turbo-4 delivers 240 horsepower and an awesome 260 pound-feet of torque.
Although the handling can’t be called sporty, by crossover standards the Sportage likes a curvy road. It rides well, without much harshness, especially the LX with its softer-sidewall tires on 17-inch wheels.
The SX Turbo has a different cornering character–confident and predictable, precise and sure-footed–with its revised dampers, firmer springs, and slightly modified steering settings.
The available all-wheel-drive system is a simple one that shifts power rearward when the front wheels slip.
The 2019 Kia Sportage fares best in its middle trim levels and above. The LX and EX have adequate power, but the spirited SX Turbo is the one we’d choose.