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2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD Turbo: The affordable performance crossover

It's often tough to capture in a few words what a car will or will not do. Such is the case with Kia's 2017 Sportage SX FWD, the affordable performance crossover.

"Darn quick, agile, fun to drive, a decent long hauler, dynamic looking!" all appropriate accolades for 2017 Kia Sportage; a brand name that's plied America's roads for 2 decades.

2017 Kia Sportage comes to market with an MSRP($22,990 LX FWD to $35,750+, SX Turbo AWD) and a standard features list that butts heads with Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escalade. If this competition was to come down to dynamic looks alone, Kia Sportage, the "Darth Vader" of the compact crossover set, could possibly win the segment hands down.

It's the "Art of the Line" and Kia's on it!

It's unusual that you'll find Torque News reviewing a FWD (front wheel drive) crossover or SUV. Most, if not all of our contributors live in snow country, and tend to drift toward "all wheel" or 4-wheel drive optioned 2 and 3 row, domestic and import crossovers and SUVs.

living in the Pacific Northwest, I made the assumption that our "week in the seat" would be conducted in an all-wheel drive Kia Sportage. Not! This is where things turn a shade of gray. I was amazed by the stability and traction afforded to me by this compact FWD crossover. could it be that I didn't require an AWD equipped SUV for Eugene, Oregon winters?

You know what they say about assumptions

Assuming that our latest Kia was AWD, I didn't check the specifications before venturing off road. In fact, I took the 6 speed electronically shifted automatic transmission, 2.0 Liter 16 valve DOHC smart-injected, turbocharged, 4 cylinder CVTT gasoline engine with FWD (2-wheel-drive) onto a 3 mile gravel ranch road in the rain and mud -- it didn't skip a beat, slip, slide, down hill, bury, side slide, or stall.

Turbo-torque, smooth shifting, traction-stability track

To put it in a nut shell: We discovered a surprisingly refined and well engineered package in what was at one time a bare-bones "wish I had bought up a notch" compact crossover -- No more! The Kia brand continues on a fast-track auto evolution, with no compromise noted as to blatant cost saving measures -- resulting in a cheep looking interior and suspect paint finishes. What you see is what you get when it comes to Kia Sportage.

Our 2017 Kia Sportage SX test mule proves to be a surprising sport-UTE as to (near) instant on demand torque, sprint speed, and road handling agility. The 2.0 Liter turbocharged engine is rated at 240 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and most noticeably, 260 lb-ft torque @1450 to 3500 rpm, right were you need it, in the midrange.

Frankly the spot-on acceleration off the light is quite surprising, as was a conducted roll off from 40 mph to 100 mph. in it's essence, 2017 Sportage Turbo is a "driver's" crossover.

On the safety, connectivity side of things

Sportage SX comes standard equipped with push button "drive mode select," steering wheel paddle shifting, ABS, traction control, collision avoidance, rear sensing, blind spot detection with lane assist, and more.

We further discovered premium, power adjusted, cooled and heated seating. A heated, leather wrapped wheel, ample interior convenience and exit lighting -- an almost intuitive center stack and dash array, as well as a Harman Kardon premium stereo/ entertainment system with *Apple Carplay and Android based Blue Tooth connectivity.

On a personal note: Nancy and I didn't have much luck with " personal connectivity," I'm sure it's a personal hard drive glitch. Navigation worked well, and is displayed via Kia's stelar UVO 8 inch monitor with Navigation and Android Auto.

A 4 inch color center dash i-MID is provided for monitoring engine vitals, trip fuel efficiency and remaining fuel range. Dash gauges are anologue looking and easy to read.

I truly appreciate Kia's uncluttered one screen center stack, optional hand to knob stereo and climate control connectivity. I also like the Kia's use of red instrument and control lighting for night driving -- it takes me back to my BMW and Porsche roots.

Speaking of night time driving: Our top of the line Sportage SX comes equipped with "bending light" and self leveling BI-Xenon HID Projector Beam headlamps -- they work very well, without blinding the oncoming driver.

O.K., I'll just say it, I found the Sportage SX to be just a tad over tech

While I do appreciate modern automotive technology, Kia may have hit the wall here with a plate full of overlapping control options. Some drivers may consider the fully optioned Sportgage SX to be a bit redundant in this regard. However, it's nice to have choices, and one doesn't necessarily have to use all of them.

I have very few complaints on the driving side of Sportage SX Turbo -- other than perhaps too firm a driver's seat, and very limited vision through the rear view mirror. Also at times, I experienced a noticeable feeling of hesitant acceleration, or delay at times. There are many systems, and sensors working in and around Kia Sportage, and at times -- you can feel them working.

I attribute this phenomena to Kia's "very" active safety and accident prevention features. But, you can turn many features off with the push of a button. I'll leave it at that.

Interior quiet, seating and finish quality

Sportage is not the quietest, nor the roomiest crossover in the compact 2-row segment, that honor goes to this car. However, other than a bothersome wind sounds coming off of the oversized exterior rearview mirrors, and minimal tread noise, Kia Sportage presents a near premium package of measurable quality and good utility. At the price point it's a measurable value.

2017 Sportage is quiet enough, features a decent ride and independent suspension handling tendency. When driven aggressively. Kia Sportage holds a decent line. I like the stability exhibited by Sportage while driven through a high speed sweep.

The 19 inch well styled alloy wheels and 245/45R-19 low profile all season tires work very well in tandem with Kia's independent suspension and vented disk brakes, to provide a fade-free relatively high speed ride and drive experience.

As to the interior ride comfort: I do like the infinitely adjustable driver's and front passenger seat,( although I find it to be a bit aggressively bolstered for crossover) piano black and brushed chrome-like interior trim accents, very decent hard and soft-padded molded surfaces, integrated headliner, glass roof, roof rails and lit door handles.

Sportage's drive and ride seating position is elevated, instilling in the driver a sense of confidence and control.Yet entering and exiting Kia Sportage is effortless, as is opening the automated rear hatch.

However, the second row is a bit limited as to head and leg clearance -- and is better suited for passengers of shorter stature or children. With the second row set in the down position, you will find 60.1 cubic ft of cargo area -- 10 less than Honda CR-V, but comparable to Mazda 5.

On the down side: I found the carpet mats to be riding the ridge of substandard, and the option foglight cowling on our Sportage SX to be suspiciously thin and flexible. But, when compared to the competition, and I've driven them all, I give Sportage extremely high marks for "Sport with attitude," good looks, and price point.

For driver's that demand engine and handling performance from their compact crossover, 2017 Kia Sportage has earned your test drive. It's fun to drive, nimble an MSRP consumer friendly. On a budget? You may wish to take a look at the normally aspirated 2.5 Liter Kia Sportage LX.

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