Full 2008 Kia Sportage Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Kia Sportage sees no changes.
Before CR-V and RAV4, there was Sportage. Yep, believe it or not, the Kia Sportage was one of the first small import SUVs sold in the United States. However, being first doesn't always lead to sales success. While Honda and Toyota's models have gone on to become incredibly popular, the first Sportage never attained critical mass, suffering from being underpowered, somewhat crude and too small on the inside.
A few years ago, the Sportage was completely redesigned. With the redesign came a switch to a car-based architecture and an emphasis on features and value. It was a welcome change, and for 2008, the Kia Sportage stays the course. As with its corporate twin, the Hyundai Tucson, the Sportage boasts a handsome cabin with quality materials, great ergonomics and a smartly designed split-folding rear seat.
As is common for the segment, buyers can choose between four- and six-cylinder power. But compared to rivals, the Sportage's power plants are both down on power -- the V6 makes only 173 horsepower, not much more than competitors' four cylinders. Furthermore, the Kia must make do with a four-speed automatic, while some other compact SUVs offer five-speed automatics.
With so many choices available for small SUVs these days, the 2008 Kia Sportage's detriments keep it from being one of our top picks. It's not as quick as the RAV4 V6, as sporty as the Mitsubishi Outlander or as refined as the CR-V. However, its roomy passenger quarters, strong warranty and high value still make it worth considering, especially if you're on a tight budget.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Kia Sportage is a compact SUV that's available in two trim levels: LX and EX. Either trim can be had in front- or all-wheel drive. The LX comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, tinted glass, a rear windshield wiper and a CD player. Air-conditioning is also standard on all LX models, except front-drive four-cylinder models with the manual transmission. The EX adds the V6 engine, a sunroof, foglamps, heated outside mirrors, a trip computer, MP3 capability for the CD player and keyless entry.
Individual options include leather seating (for the EX), side step bars and a remote starting system. There are a couple of optional packages as well. The Sport Package for LX V6 models adds foglights, sport gauges, a black mesh grille, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a rear spoiler and the upgraded audio system from the EX. The Luxury Package for the EX adds leather seating, heated front seats, an auto-dimming mirror and a premium audio system with a six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
Two engines are offered on the Sportage LX: a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder (140 hp and 136 pound-feet of torque) and a 2.7-liter V6 (173 hp and 178 lb-ft). The Sportage EX comes standard with the V6. The inline-4 can be had with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic, while the V6 is automatic only. One may also choose front- or all-wheel drive in either trim.
We timed a Sportage V6 at 10.7 seconds from zero to 60 mph, about a second or so off the quicker four-cylinders in the segment and more than three ticks off the class hot rod, the RAV4 V6. Fuel mileage estimates for a 2008 Sportage V6 with AWD are 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, a few mpg under the class average. The four-cylinder gets only a few city mpg better.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard equipment. In government crash tests, the 2008 Kia Sportage scored a top five-star rating for both frontal and side-impact crash protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Sportage received an "Acceptable" rating (the second highest of four) in that agency's frontal offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sportage features a functional, roomy and attractive interior. Both the materials and build quality are very good, especially for this price point. The rear-seat design makes hauling a large amount of cargo a breeze -- it folds and lowers into the footwell, making for a flat load floor, and removing the head restraints isn't required. Thusly configured, the Sportage offers 67 cubic feet of cargo capacity, a respectable figure for this class.
On the road, the 2008 Kia Sportage provides a carlike ride and relatively sporty handling that makes it a little more fun to drive than many other compact SUVs. It's capable of being both a good city runabout and a long-distance highway cruiser. Power from the standard four-cylinder is barely adequate, so we recommend you opt for the V6. The four-speed automatic isn't quite as smooth as the five-speed units offered by competitors, but it's alert enough to usually keep the V6 right in its power band.