2015 Kia Sportage SX Luxury: Template For Small SUV Success

Strong points
  • Stylish design
  • Powerful engine
  • Available all-wheel drive
  • Comfortable ride
  • Affordable entry-level trims
Weak points
  • Expensive at the top end of the trim list
  • Fuel mileage is average at best
  • Not as large inside as some of its rivals
  • Interior not as expressively styled as the exterior
Full report

The last few years have afforded families with an embarrassment of compact crossover riches. The 2015 Kia Sportage is a perfect example of the highly evolved state of the small people mover segment, a stylish, comfortable, and practical vehicle that also happens to be reasonably affordable. The Sportage is also one of the few 'compacts' out there that feels true to its name, as its possesses small dimensions that make it a breeze to navigate through clogged urban arteries and into tight condo parking spaces.

There has never been a better time to be shopping for a pint-sized, inexpensive, do-it-all daily driver, and the 2015 Kia Sportage proves that you don't have to turn to big names like the Toyota RAV4 and the Ford Escape to get the job done - especially if you're looking to maximize your bang for the buck. Some models in the Sportage line-up, however, present a more cautionary tale of how you can easily overload a vehicle with options and end up forking over more money than is absolutely necessary to get the job done.

Sharp Creases, Sharp Style

The 2015 Kia Sportage presents one of the most cohesive designs on the small SUV landscape, with even the small details working together to reinforce the vehicle's overall presence. Open the door and the sills of the SX Luxury trim model that I drove feature the same shape as the now-familiar Kia grille opening, which is itself framed by searing teardrop headlights and a large fog light / running light opening in the front bumper. The Sportage really doesn't have a bad angle, as even in profile its bold shape suggests power and prestige.  This is quite the accomplishment for a value-focused model.

Balancing Act

Interior trim is somewhat more subdued. While the same strong shapes are present on the dash and door panels, the budget-friendly roots of the Sportage are more easily detected inside the cabin, despite the presence of leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Kia manages to balance out the more modest aspects of the crossover's passenger compartment by way of its features list, which on the SX Luxury trim is quite lengthy. A heated steering wheel, heated seats front and rear (with a cooling function in the first two positions), a panoramic sunroof, a very attractive touchscreen infotainment and communications interface (with navigation), and automatic climate control were all to be found inside the vehicle, as was a push button starter.

Practical For Its Size

As I mentioned earlier the 2015 Kia Sportage isn't quite as big on the outside as some of its rivals, but that doesn't mean its interior space has been truncated - just that's it's not class-leading. This will be perfectly fine for the majority of families who will have no trouble fitting two adults and two teenagers into the Sportage's first and second rows of seating. There's also a respectable amount of cargo space to be found inside the crossover once you fold down the back seat, but you'll have half-again as much inside the RAV4 (and a sizable boost inside the Escape, too).

Lots Of Power, If A Bit Unrefined

One of the advantages of selecting the Sportage SX Luxury (and regular SX) trim is access to the vehicle's 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Capable producing 260 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, the unit represents a huge 78 horse upgrade over the base 2.4-litre unit, not to mention the best specs in its class (in some cases by a wide margin). I found the turbo motor to be very willing to burst forward while passing, and coupled with the Sportage's optional all-wheel drive system the vehicle was surefooted and stable during a long week of winter driving.

What did I wish for behind the wheel of the Sportage SX Luxury? Maybe a little more refinement from the 2.0 turbo, as the overrun on throttle lift-off and overall noise level indicated that there was still some polishing to be done under the hood. The six-speed automatic transmission could also use a bit of fine-tuning to help smooth out the vehicle's overall performance and improve on the 12.5 l/100 km fuel consumption that I saw during an admittedly cold driving period.

There's Always A Catch

The 2015 Kia Sportage SX Luxury is a great little crossover, packed with features, more powerful than it needs to be, and offering the practicality of a respectably-sized cabin and winter-friendly all-wheel drive. It's also much too expensive, with a sticker price of $38,495 confounding the expectations of thrift long associated with the Kia brand. The SX Luxury trim isn't just pricy for a Kia: it costs roughly $6k more than a fully-loaded RAV4 and is on par with the also out-there pricing of a Ford Escape Titanium with all the options ticked. My recommendation is to shirk the premium gear in the SX Luxury you don't really need (HID headlights, navigation, heated rear seats), and instead opt for either the powerful SX ($32,000) or the equally comfortable, but not as quick EX ($28,495) models. You'll be almost as happy, and go home with a much fatter wallet.

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