I bought the vehicle with my daughter, knowing that women tend to like it more than men. After 95/000 miles it remains very reliable and gets 28 mpg in 2 w/d if driven reasonably. I don't mind that the acceleration is slower than some. The drive is relaxing and enjoyable. My daughter has done most of the driving and once slid off the road during severe icing. Studded tires could have prevented this I suspect.
Fuel efficiency, ease of driving, competence of the 4w/d unit, and safe feel. The manual 5 speed feels vague but has worked flawlessly. Have recently driven the vehicle at up to 85 mph for 500 miles without any problem.
The heating system is not adequate for 50 degrees below zero or anything close. Dress warmly. There has been some cracking of the paint and rust in the wheels and spare tire Carrier.
I purchased my Sportage new in August of 2001, with utility truly being the #1 selling point. I wanted something with 4WD, decent ground clearance, and easy access for loading and unloading large, heavy equipment. The various car-based SUVs lacked in one or more of those areas. The Kia has been very "adequate" overall. The fuel economy was as listed, which honestly was a bit disappointing to me. Handling on a windy day is poor, and it is worthless on slippery roads without 4WD engaged. I've had numerous locking hub problems fixed under warranty - never left stranded, but I don't trust it entirely. Problematic power windows and alarm, but it runs great with scheduled maintenance.
Good leg room for 6' driver, perfect vehicle height for trunk access. Respectable performance in snow with 4WD. Good use of interior cargo and passenger space for a compact SUV. Full-sized spare tire sufficient for winter use in a pinch.
Most have probably been addressed on new version, but 4WD locking hubs sometimes do not engage, requiring service at worst possible times. Swinging rear gate is inconvenient, and trunk hatch requires absurd amount of force to shut tight. Terrible handling in wind, bumpy ride.
My 2001 KIA Sportage (or should I say Shortage) Limited is the worst vehicle I have ever purchased. I have had a great deal of problems with rust around the back window since it was 24 months old and the company would not fix it (it looks like a junk car because of this horrible rust problem that has spread all over the rear hatch). Things inside have broken off like visors, cup holder, and it doesn't go over 25 mph unless it warms up for a half hour once the temperature dips below 50 degrees. It is now in the shop for an electrical problem and the service people are rude about fixing it since it is not a pretty sight due to the rust.
Warranty the rust that comes out around the windows for nothing like the old Datsun Cars use to do.
Kia is really cute and draws attention. Good mileage with 25 overall. Cup holder location is poor. Transmission shudders a little on starts. I like the little SUV but would probably go with Honda CR-V if had to do again.
Nice looking little SUV. The EX has some nice extra features. Turns on a dime and nice and easy to park.
Cup holder. Little more horsepower. The gas lid opener is in a poor position and makes it easy to accidently trip open.
My story is not as bad as others, but here are the problems: unstable in winds, spark plugs a pain to replace, -cannot drive on any amount of snow -drink holders break easily -one passenger window stuck for a year -fuel pump squeals -check engine light constantly on -exhaust rattles -underpowered -extended warranty was a Ponzi scheme fraud -replaced battery only to cause more electrical problems -air conditioning weakens in a year -KIA dealership service is a joke at best -paid off car only to have it become un-driveable soon after -cannot fit three children's car seats comfortably -would not sell on used market -mileage drops off rapidly -alarm so difficult to turn off it goes unused