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Thread: 2008 Kia Sportage

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2008 Kia Sportage

    SUVs are supposed to be at least a little bit sporty, right? So how come only a couple of them even offer a manual transmission?

    Kia's Sportage is one of the few that does.

    Chalk that up as a potential plus.

    So also its reasonable fuel economy (20-25 mpg with the standard four-cylinder engine/5-speed manual transmission ) can't beat it price ($16,050 to start) and fantastic warranty coverage (10 years/100,000 miles on the engine/driveline - five years or 60,000 miles on the whole thing).


    The Sportage is a compact-sized, light-duty SUV that seats up to five people. It competes against other small SUVs and crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson. (Hyundai is Kia's parent company and the Tucson and Sportage are very similar vehicles with common ancestry and shared parts - including identical standard and optional engines - but the Kia is priced considerably lower than its Hyundai cousin, which starts at $17,235.)


    The Sportage is unchanged for 2008. But that's not necessarily a downside, if you're a savvy buyer. In an industry where being the "newest" and the "latest thing" track closely with a premium MSRP - and more often than not, little to no chance of haggling it down - there are probably some fantastic deals to be had on carryover models like the Sportage.


    There are two engines available in the Sportage - a 2.0 liter four-cylinder rated at 140 hp and an optionally available 2.7 liter V-6 rated at 173 hp. The four-cylinder engine can be teamed with either a 5-speed manual transmission or an optional 4-speed automatic. The optional V-6 comes standard with the automatic transmission.

    Engine power is routed to the front wheels or - optionally - a full-time AWD system.

    Buyer's Note: Kia insists on calling its car-type, light-duty AWD system "4WD" - which is technically correct since all four wheels do "drive" the Sportage. However, the term "4WD" usually refers to a truck-type heavy-duty system with a two-speed transfer case and 4WD Low range gearing - which the Sportage does not have.

    The Sportage's AWD system does feature a "lock" function, but it's not the same thing as low-range gearing - or a locking rear differential. Instead, the system "locks" the power split between the front and rear wheels, to make sure that a fixed ratio of the engine's power goes to the rear wheels for improved traction on slick surfaces.

    If you need the HD capability of a real 4WD system with low range gearing, then you should be shopping for a truck-based SUV with a heavy-duty, truck-type 4WD system.


    Very few new vehicles have "poor" ride quality - and the Sportage is no exception. It is perfectly comfortable and composed when driven normally (translation: within 10-15 mph or so of the posted maximum speed limit).

    But drive much faster than that - especially on a less-than-straight road - and you'll begin to feel all that weight (3,200 lbs. for four-cylinder FWD versions; 3,500-plus for V-6 models with AWD) sloshing around like Oprah on roller skates as the overmatched steering/suspension try to keep up.

    Take a corner a little hard or turn the wheel a bit too sharply and the tires will squeal an early warning; ignore those warnings and the ESP stability control steps in quickly (and aggressively) to save the day - and maybe your rear end, too.

    It's not terrible by any means - but it is a reality check that encourages (or ought to encourage) prudent driving. And that may not be a bad thing, if you stop to think about it. In an SUV with less obvious handling limits, a driver can easily be lulled into a false sense of security - and be tempted to drive faster than he should. In an SUV - with its higher center of mass (and usually, lots of mass to throw around) it's much easier to end up in a bad place if you run the thing into decreasing radius turns doing 15 or 20 mph faster than the recommended maximum. Or find yourself hitting the brakes hard from 80-something mph while trying to steer around a deer that just bounded into the road.

    The manufactures have burned many 50 gallon drums of midnight oil to make SUVs handle more like cars - which is kind of like trying to make a wide receiver out of a 300 pound offensive center.

    But arguably, an SUV ought to handle like an SUV.

    It keeps people out of trouble.


    The Sportage is comfortably bland-looking; a great vehicle if you prefer not to stand out in a crowd. Nothing wrong with that; in my book, it's better to not be noticed t all than noticed for the wrong reasons. The Sportage is also the kind of vehicle that will still look reasonably current 5-10 years down the road - much to be preferred over the obviously dated four-wheeled manifestation of yesterday's misbegotten styling adventures. (See: Pontiac Aztek, Subaru B9 Tribeca - etc.)

    Same inside.

    Nothing weird; nothing controversial - solid in both form and function, especially given the $16k-$22k Kia asks for this vehicle. Very roomy for up-front passengers; perfectly comfortable in back for adults unless they are really huge. Kids are no problem at all.

    The second row seats fold and stow into the floor - as in a minivan - opening up enough cargo space for 67 cubic feet of whatever you need to cart around. This is only slightly less cargo capacity than the much more expensive ($21,500 to start) Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V ($20,700) both of which offer 73 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The Kia's corporate cousin, the Hyundia Tucson ($17,235) and the Ford Escape ($20,100) each have slightly less cargo capacity at 66 cubic feet.


    If quality means "you get a lot for your dollar" the Kia certainly delivers. The Sportage is priced only slightly higher than some of the least expensive (and often very depressing) subcompact econoboxes on the market - and it offers interior space and versatility those cars can't match.

    The base Sportage LX with the 5-speed manual transmission and four-cylinder engine barely crests $16k, too - and that's sticker price. With standard 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows and locks, rear wiper and CD-playing stereo. The only major "must have" that's not included in the as-it-sits price is AC - which is available as a stand-alone option for $800. (AC is standard on all other versions of the Sportage, including the LX with automatic transmission or AWD and top-of-the-line EX trims.)

    So even with AC, you can buy a new Sportage with everything you really need for under $17k.

    Don't forget that industry-best warranty, either. (Toyota and Honda only offer a pretty weak three year/36,000 mile basic warranty - and their drivetrain warranties, at five years/60,000 miles, are barely better than half as long as what Kia gives you.)

    As far as safety stuff goes, the Sportage is also better equipped than most of its rivals. All versions - including the base $16k LX - come with side-impact and full-row curtain air bags, as well as ABS, traction control and stability control. It received a 5-star ranking (the highest possible) in government crash testing and the second best ranking ("acceptable") in insurance industry testing.


    This vehicle may look rough and ready - but like the RAV4, CR-V, Tucson, Escape and other small, light-duty SUVs based on car-type platforms, the Sportage is built for paved road use primarily - with the optional AWD and increased ground clearance giving it a leg up over a FWD passenger car on snow days, etc. It's a good choice for people who need a "4WD" vehicle maybe five or six days out of the year - and a car (albeit one with lots of room and rugged looks) the rest of the time.

    Acceleration/performance is not the Kia's strongest point. Even with the optional V-6, it takes more than 10 seconds to reach 60 mph. That is pretty doggy both in real-world terms and compared to competitors like the RAV4 V-6, which can get there several seconds (not tenths of a second) sooner.

    The four-cylinder with the stick feels peppier - as virtually any vehicle with a stick will over the same vehicle with an automatic. And it's definitely more fun to drive. But it won't get you to 60 any faster - especially if you order the optional AWD system., which adds some extra weight as well as inertial load for the already overmatched engine to cope with.

    Kia masks the weakness of its engines somewhat with pretty aggressive throttle tip-in (the accelerator pedal tension is very light and even modest pressure causes the Sportage to surge forward manfully - or at least give the impression of doing so). The automatic transmission's shift points are crisp, too. But due to the borderline iffy power output, it has to downshift frequently just to maintain the vehicle's speed - even with the V-6. Keep in mind that the 2.7 liter engine (173 hp) is actually less powerful than the RAV4's 2.5 liter four (179 hp) and just barely stronger than the Ford's Escape's 2.5 liter four (171 hp) and the Honda CRV-V's 2.4 liter four (166 hp).

    The V-6 versions of those vehicles easily outgun the Sportage's V-6, with 200-plus hp and 0-60 times close to 8 seconds (vs. 10-plus seconds for the Kia).

    However, neither the RAV4 nor the CR-V can be had with a manual transmission - and though they are powerful and quick, the acceleration experience is more passive when all there is to do is floor the gas pedal and keep the nose pointed in the right direction. I'd rather have a slower/less powerful vehicle - and a gearshift/clutch to play with. (The Ford Escape is the only direct Sportage competitor that also offers a manual transmission; but its appeal is blunted by its $20,100 base price - which is nearly four grand above that of the otherwise comparable Kia.)


    Despite its so-so acceleration, it's difficult not to notice the huge price gap between the Sportage and its competitors - all of which have starting prices between three and four thousand dollars higher. That is enough coin in your pocket to make you forget all about those 2-3 seconds you'll lose out in the stoplight grand prix.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2007

    Re: 2008 Kia Sportage

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