Kia Sportage SX Turbo review

This millennial finally found its stride

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Kia continues its relationship with Harman to bring the Harman Kardon branded premium sound system to the Sportage. The premium sound system is standard on all SX Turbo trim levels and comes with eight physical speakers in a six-channel configuration. The two tweeters are counted as separate speakers but run off the same channel as the front door speakers.

Harman touts up to 320-watts of power to the entire system from a trunk-mounted amplifier, which is respectable for a car. Harman's Clari-Fi technology is the cherry on top.

Clari-Fi technology claims to restore lost musical details in compressed music. While I rarely notice quality issues with my high bitrate MP3's or Google Play Music subscription, SiriusXM benefits greatly from Clari-Fi.

Kia Sportage

I'm not a fan of SiriusXM sound quality -- it always sounds extremely compressed. The only time it's not noticeable is with lower end sound systems. However, Clari-Fi makes SiriusXM more tolerable.

It cleans up the sound to add more depth and warmth to what formerly sounded like a 90's mixtape. So if you subscribe to SiriusXM or listen to radio, Harman Kardon Clari-Fi technology helps improve sound quality – significantly.

As for the Harman Kardon branded sound system in the Sportage, it's the best system available in a compact CUV. It It's an enjoyable system with clear highs that don't cause fatigue and punchy mid-bass, that beats out the plain-jane system in the Hyundai Tucson and Honda CR-V, and leagues better than the Bose systems in the Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.

Driver Assists

Kia offers the exact same driver assists in the Sportage as the Hyundai Tucson, which includes blind spot monitor (BSM), lane departure warning (LDW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), backup camera and downhill brake control (DBC).

Kia Sportage

Everything works exactly the same, too. The BSM system has an indicator placed in the mirror that flashes once when a car enters your blind spot. If you have your turn signal on, the flashing speeds up to catch your attention and is joined by audible warnings. It uses radar sensors mounted in the rear bumper to detect cars.

LDW is a passive affair that flashes an indicator in the gauge cluster and sounds an audible warning every time you are near the lane marker or leave the lane. Fortunately, Kia provides three different sensitivity settings that are selectable in the vehicle settings. There's also a simple off button to the left of the steering wheel.

Kia Sportage

Kia hides the radar sensor in the grille

I didn't get a chance to test AEB, because it's not a feature I purposely try to trigger on public roads – you know, preservation of life and all. However, I managed to get the AEB system in the Hyundai Elantra to angrily flash a warning in the gauge cluster LCD display and provide full braking power with a tap of the brake pedal.

I assume the Sportage system works the same way and just as well. The LDW and AEB systems use a front mounted radar sensor and camera mounted above the rear view mirror, so part of the hardware required for adaptive cruise control (ACC) is already there. There's even a spot below the shifter that's the perfect size for Kia's electronic parking brake, for a full-speed ACC functions.

Kia does not offer ACC in the Sportage, while Mazda, Toyota, Honda and Subaru have it in competing CUVs. I wasn't able to get a straight answer from Kia representatives, except that ACC is technically possible, but is not offered.

Kia Sportage

DBC is a great feature for going down steep hills covered in ice and snow. It's easy to activate in the Kia Sportage -- just press the button below the shifter and let off the brake and gas. I was unable to find any ice or snow in San Diego (crazy, right?), but found a steep dirt hill to try it out.

With DBC engaged, the brakes automatically apply to keep the car moving at 5 mph. The car makes a lot of noises, but it's the typical sounds associated with anti-lock brakes (ABS) doing its thang.