Full 2010 Kia Sportage Review
What's New for 2010
Other than a couple of minor feature revisions, the 2010 Kia Sportage is unchanged.
Let's be clear right up front: The 2010 Kia Sportage is a good little crossover SUV. The only problem is that the hyper-competitive compact crossover segment is one of those places where being good might not be quite good enough.
The Sportage's long-standing midpack status dates all the way back to the model's U.S. introduction in 1995, when it broke new ground as one of the first truly compact sport-utility vehicles. Unfortunately, that original version was also rather crude, and it was quickly eclipsed by more refined entries from Honda and Toyota.
Kia went back to the drawing board and rolled out an all-new Sportage in 2004. Built on a more carlike unibody platform, this second-generation Sportage was a dramatic improvement over the previous version. The problem, of course, is that while the Sportage's engineers were upping their game, the competition was upping theirs. The result is that the 2010 Sportage is likable enough, but it lacks any subjective advantages that might lure buyers away from segment leaders like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The Sportage's most obvious shortcoming is that both its available engines are no match for its rivals. Its 173-horsepower V6, for example, actually has less oomph than the CR-V's four-cylinder, to say nothing of the RAV4's spirited 269-hp V6. The Kia's four-speed automatic also lacks refinement compared to the competition's five-speeds, and that missing gear also adversely affects the Sportage's fuel economy. While these weaknesses don't exactly make the Sportage a slug in everyday driving, they're the kind of small differences that can become the deciding factor in a segment filled with a number of attractive choices.
There is one area where the Kia Sportage does manage to one-up its competitors, however, and that's the value proposition it offers. Compare its list of standard features with the Honda and Toyota, then take a look at their respective MSRPs and you'll discover that buying the Sportage can save you thousands of dollars. Figure in Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and this Korean crossover begins to look even better. As such, the Sportage is best suited for buyers whose first concern is finding a relative bargain.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Kia Sportage is a compact crossover SUV that's offered in LX and EX trim levels. Both are offered with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
The entry-level LX comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and a flip-up rear window that opens independently of the liftgate. The interior features air-conditioning (except on four-cylinder base models), cloth upholstery, full power accessories, cruise control and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio capability and auxiliary audio/USB input jacks.
Pony up for the EX and you'll get 17-inch wheels, foglights, a sunroof, heated outside mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, plus a rear cargo area cover and a trip computer. The EX can be decked out with a Luxury package that adds choice extras including rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded stereo with six-disc CD changer. A navigation system is also offered on EX models as a stand-alone option.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Kia Sportage can be had with one of two engines and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. LX base models get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 140 hp and 136 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard and a four-speed automatic transmission is available as an option. Those in search of better performance can step up to the LX V6 or top-of-the-line EX, both of which are powered by a 2.7-liter V6 that's good for 173 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. The four-speed automatic is the only transmission offered.
In our tests, a V6-powered Sportage took 10.7 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph. To put that number in perspective, that's about a second slower than the quickest four-cylinder crossovers and more than 3 seconds off the time set by the segment-leading RAV4 V6.
The Sportage's powertrains are also substantially less fuel-efficient than those of its competitors. EPA estimates range from 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder model to 18/23/20 for the all-wheel-drive V6.
The 2010 Kia Sportage comes equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side curtain airbags and side-impact airbags for front seat passengers. Active front head restraints are also standard.
In government crash tests, the Sportage earned 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 its frontal offset and side-impact crash tests. Unfortunately, the Sportage got a worst-possible score of "Poor" for its performance in the IIHS's new roof-strength test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Step inside the 2010 Kia Sportage and you'll find a pleasing interior with seating for up to five passengers. Build quality and materials are also generally good, with the exception of a few cheap-feeling knobs and switches.
Up front, the Sportage offers head- and legroom on par with most of its competitors. The 60/40-split rear seat offers slightly less legroom, however, making it a bit of a tight squeeze for larger adults.
That split-folding rear seat design makes schlepping stuff easy. In passenger mode there are 23.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats, while folding them forward creates a nice flat load floor with a total of 66.6 cubic feet of space. While those numbers are respectable enough, both fall a tad short of the category leaders.
Much of the appeal of compact crossovers is in their ability to deliver some of the practicality of larger SUVs along with easier maneuverability and parking on city streets and in tight parking lots. The 2010 Kia Sportage is no exception.
Because the performance of the base model's four-cylinder is weak, we'd recommend stepping up to one of the V6-powered models. Even with the V6, the Sportage feels rather sluggish compared to many competitors, though it's probably just fine for most people's needs. On the open road, the Sportage feels nimble. The ride quality is a little firmer than the norm and handling is not exactly sporty, but neither is really objectionable.