2014 Kia Sportage Introduction

Kia Sportage is a sporty crossover utility vehicle, conveniently sized and well-executed in almost every way. The Sportage coaxes both ample performance and decent fuel economy from a choice of two moderately sized engines. Unlike some competitors in this class, which tend to look alike, the Kia Sportage glories in its distinctive appearance, helped by a high beltline, pronounced rear pillars and prominent wheel flares.

For 2014, Kia has enhanced its standard 2.4-liter engine, adding direct injection and boosting horsepower from 176 to 182 horsepower. Wheels and the grille have been redesigned, and high-intensity-discharge headlights have been added to the options. LED rear taillights are installed, and EX models get new fog lamps. Newly available features for 2014 also include Infinity premium audio, rear ventilation, a ventilated passenger seat, and UVO eServices that work with a free smartphone app. All 2014 Sportage models have a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. A new navigation system is available, compatible with UVO eServices. On the dashboard is a new 4.2-inch LCD screen.

All 2014 Sportage models have high-performance dampers. Kia has dropped the previous base model and the manual transmission; all 2014 Sportage models have a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Three trim levels and two engines are offered. The 2014 Kia Sportage LX and EX with the standard 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine earn an EPA City/Highway rating of 19/26 mpg with all-wheel drive (AWD). Front-wheel-drive 2014 Sportage models achieve an even better 21/28 mpg rating. Aiding fuel efficiency is a relatively lean curb weight, though Sportage isn't quite as light as it used to be.

The Sportage SX, with its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, benefits from 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The 2014 Sportage SX gets a respectable 20/26 mpg City/Highway rating from the EPA with front-wheel drive, and 19/24 mpg with AWD.

We've found that the standard 2.4-liter engine delivers its power smoothly and mostly in a linear manner, with only an occasional, slight surge after an upshift in the automatic as the electronics adjust to the changing load. Those gear changes are clean, if not remarkably sharp, with ready downshifts for overtaking or merging.

The steering feels heavier in the AWD version but is reasonably responsive in both, with good directional stability. All-wheel drive comes with a limited locking feature for low-speed use in adverse conditions.

Power folding mirrors and sunvisor extenders come on all 2014 Sportage models. LED accent lights are mounted on Sportage LX and Sportage EX models; the 2014 Sportage SX has LED daytime running lights.

Sportage styling looks fresh and sharp from every angle. Character lines are crisp but subdued, contrasting nicely with the overall rounded look. Blackened lower trim panels imply good ground clearance, while keeping the tires visually in proper proportion to the body.

We found the interior accommodations comfortable, though the Sportage lacks the interior roominess of its competitors: mainly, the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Subaru Forester. The front seats offer good support. Leather-trimmed seats and front-seat ventilation are available.

An AM/FM/CD six-speaker stereo with SiriusXM radio and USB/auxiliary input jacks comes standard, with Infinity premium audio included on EX and SX models. An optional navigation system with a touch screen includes Sirius Traffic. A rearview camera is available, which is an excellent safety feature. Sportage EX and SX get dual-zone, automatic climate control.

Cargo capacity is a generous 26.1 cubic feet behind the second seat, but a less-impressive 54.6 cubic feet with the second seat folded. Translation: It's handier for hauling people than large amounts of cargo.

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