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The Kia Sportage is the most visually compelling compact crossover in a jam-packed category. Sleeker in appearance than most compact SUVs, Sportage stands apart from the crowd because of its tidy proportions, eager stance, and fashionably rakish profile. Focusing on practical efficiency, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 dominate this category; but Kia’s entrant emits a livelier attitude.
Countering its visual flair, Sportage suffers from a comparatively small interior, which translates to tight legroom in the back seat. Sportage is smaller than some of its competitors, though it scores major points when judged by the fit and finish of its cabin.
Ride quality falls short, too, and Sportage can get expensive as you move up the trim-level scale. Sportage isn’t recommended for off-roading, though available all-wheel drive does include a differential lock that provides a 50/50 split, at up to 25 mph.
Changes are minor for 2016, aiming to simplify the lineup. The 2016 Kia Sportage EX gains leather-trimmed seating surfaces and pushbutton start. Contents of LX Popular and EX Premium packages have been revised for 2016.
Two four-cylinder engines are available. Sportage LX and EX get a 2.4-liter direct-injected engine, rated 182 horsepower in the LX and 180 hp in EX. Each drives a 6-speed automatic transmission. In the sporty and markedly swifter Sportage SX, a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine makes 260 horsepower, and its transmission includes shift paddles for improved responses.
By today’s standards, fuel economy is so-so. With the base engine and front-wheel drive, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates 21/28 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined. The turbocharged Sportage SX gets an estimate of 19/26 mpg City/Highway. All-wheel drive drops the figures to 19/26 mpg with the regular 2.4-liter engine, or 19/25 mpg with the turbo. Several rivals return better than 30 mpg in highway driving.
Crash-test scores trail prominent rivals, and Sportage has few modern high-tech safety features. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the front-wheel-drive Sportage a four-star overall rating, while the all-wheel-drive version scored five stars. In the small overlap frontal crash test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Sportage ranked Poor, which is poor. Hill-start assist and downhill brake assist are standard equipment.