Sporting new looks, features, and power, the latest Kia Sportage has been on Canadian roads for four years now.
Bringing a taste of Kia’s latest capabilities into the extremely competitive crossover scene, this generation of Sportage was built with an improved body structure, a new design language, and a suite of the latest in convenience and connectivity tech, but comes up a little short of the latest driver-assist systems.
Looking to replace an older Sportage with a newer one? Many owners say that the improved roominess, feature content, and driving feel create a worthy upgrade.
Look for a full complement of upscale feature content like automatic lights, automatic climate control, touchscreen infotainment, camera parking assist, automatic high-beams, and more. A premium stereo system and full smartphone connectivity were also available.
Various drivelines, trim grades, and equipment packages make for plenty of selection. After its launch, this-generation Sportage went on to earn numerous awards for safety and value from industry authorities.
Look for a four-cylinder engine on all models, including a 2.4L unit good for 181 hp, and a 2.0L turbo unit good for 240 hp. Both engines run on regular-grade gasoline. Some owners choose to fill up with premium-grade fuel, but save your money – there’s no added benefit.
All-wheel drive (AWD) was available. The system is fully automatic and very fast-acting, and drivers can lock the system the touch of a button. Models equipped with AWD got a slightly redesigned fascia that enabled better clearance in off-road settings.
What Owners Like
Owners report solid ride comfort, and good outward visibility and performance – especially from turbocharged models. The performance and confidence imparted by the AWD system is highly rated by owners in northern climates, too. Good fuel economy from non-turbo models and built-in storage help round out the package.
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What Owners Dislike
Owner complaints tend to centre around higher-than-expected fuel use from the turbocharged engine, and a rougher-than-expected ride from units sporting larger wheels.
Pro Tip: Direct Injection System Maintenance
All Sportage models of this vintage run direct-injection engines. In numerous applications, this type of engine may be prone to long-term buildup of potentially harmful gunk on its intake valves, which can cause engine problems. Adhering strictly to the maintenance intervals, engine maintenance, and fuel requirements outlined in the owner’s manual is a fantastic way to fend off this potential issue for the long run.
Note that pour-in intake system cleaning additives are totally ineffective against this valve gunk buildup, though dealers may be able to recommend professional cleaning services if problems arise. The full scoop is located in the owner’s manual.
The Test Drive
Some owners of various Hyundai and Kia models, including this generation of Sportage, have reported serious engine trouble, including engine fires and engine failure, possibly caused by a problem with engine lubrication. The vast majority of owners have not.
The model you’re considering may have been part of a recall campaign to pre-emptively fend off engine trouble, and some owners have had engines repaired or replaced under warranty. Others have had updated software or sensors installed to remedy the problem. A class-action lawsuit was also filed relating to these engine problems.
As a used shopper, remember that Kia took steps to contact owners and tend to affected engines. How big is the risk to a used shopper? Fairly minimal, provided you check with the seller and a dealer service department to confirm that any recall or update work has been performed. Engine warranties were extended on certain models, too. Your local dealership has the full scoop.
Get It Scanned
Especially on higher-mileage units nearing the end of their engine warranty coverage, test-drivers should consider having a diagnostic scan performed on the vehicle they’re considering before buying. This scan can reveal potential issues with driveline electronics in quick order, and is one of your best defences against surprise engine trouble.
In this forum discussion, some owners say that a detected misfire code revealed by this scan could be evidence of a cracked or damaged spark plug, or some other engine trouble which could cost you money. Here’s some more reading about possible cracked spark plugs, which seem to be an issue for some owners.
Some owners have reported problems with the behaviour or operation of the Sportage’s transmission. Most have not. On your test drive, operate the vehicle at light, moderate, and heavy throttle. While accelerating and decelerating, be on the lookout for any signs of slippage – that is, the engine revs increasing while the vehicle speed remains the same – or hard shifting and slamming, or a notable delay from the transmission when reacting to your throttle inputs.
These are signs of trouble that’s typically fixed with updated transmission software – though they could be signs of larger issues, too. If the transmission in the Sportage you’re considering feels strange or behaves poorly, have the vehicle checked by a professional before you buy.
While checking the transmission, be sure to engage reverse gear several times during your test drive, confirming that the back-up camera engages as expected.
Carefully check the power tailgate if the unit you’re considering is equipped with one. Open and close it from all controls, including the remote, the tailgate button, and the button in the vehicle. Do this several times. If the tailgate seems to struggle or unexpectedly reverses direction, a professional should check the tailgate latch, wiring, computer, and motor for possible trouble before you buy.
Around the Wheels
Spend a moment crouched down, getting up close and personal with the wheels and tires on the Sportage you’re considering. Check the tire sidewalls carefully for signs of splitting, lumps, or gouges, which typically indicate tire damage and may necessitate the need for replacement rubber.
Also, inspect the treads of each tire to confirm even wear across their entire width. If that’s not the case, the vehicle is likely in need of an alignment. Check the finish of the wheels, too, being on the lookout for signs of corrosion, hairline cracks, or other cosmetic damage.
Most owners seem to be enjoying their Sportage with minimal concern, though reports of hard-shifting, spark plug trouble, and in-warranty engine failure mean that some caution is required before your purchase for maximum peace of mind. For maximum confidence, a dealer-inspected unit – perhaps offered as part of a certified pre-owned (CPO) program – is typically a safe bet.
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars
IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2017)
Here’s a list of recalls, including a major recall relating to potential engine trouble.