Kia Sportage SX Turbo review

This millennial finally found its stride

Kia Sportage

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I wasn't a big fan of the Sportage when it debuted at the LA Auto Show, but I've come around to finding it quite sharp-looking. The front end sports a sinister snicker, not a happy smirk, and the piano black details with black headlight housings looks fantastic. Kia did a remarkable job on the backside too, which is my favorite angle.

It's something I could see myself driving if I was in the market for a compact CUV. The Sportage also earns brownie points for satin silver bright work instead of the gaudy chrome trim.

We liked

Android Auto support should be standard in every new car. I love it, because Google owns my life and I never leave home without my Nexus 6. The nicety of having my calendar, Hangouts, Skype and Google Maps search history accessible through the car infotainment screen is very convenient and trumps every native feature of the infotainment system.

Harman Kardon Clari-Fi technology is aural magic for poor quality sources like SiriusXM. Satellite radio quality is absolutely terrible and SiriusXM should be ashamed for considering it acceptable, especially since you have to pay for a subscription after the initial 3-month trial period. Clari-Fi does its best to make SiriusXM tolerable, but considering that you're probably already subscribed to Spotify, the service remains a tough sell.

The hands-free smart trunk is a convenience I quite enjoy. If you're stubborn like me and try to carry your groceries out to the car, instead of pushing the shopping cart, it saves you the trouble of fumbling for keys or reaching to manually open the tailgate.

We disliked

Kia's lack of ACC in the Sportage is a disappointment. The car has the radar sensors and cameras necessary to support it, but lacks the programming for it. There's even a spot for an electronic parking brake release in the center console, which would give it full-speed capabilities. But, Kia just wants to tease, which is fine for upcoming new products, but not for a $35,000 car.

It's also a big bummer that Apple CarPlay isn't included at launch. Hyundai had Apple CarPlay working when it launched the Elantra last month, with the same infotainment platform, no less. Kia promises the update will come next month, but it has yet to deliver the promised update for the 2016 Kia Optima.

Final Verdict

If you're shopping for a stylish CUV with an excellent infotainment system, the Kia Sportage puts up a good fight and is one of my top choices in the crowded CUV segment. Its striking good looks and easy-to-use infotainment system is something I wouldn't mind living with every day.

Kia dialed in the suspension and steering response very well and it's enjoyable to drive on windy roads. It's not as engaging as the Mazda CX-5, but the Sportage feels like a higher quality car, with better interior materials and powertrain that never feels overworked. Compared to the Toyota RAV4, the Kia Sportage is a luxury car.

Ultimately, the Sportage conveys the trendy active lifestyle appearance, with comfort and technology to match. Ford, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia rank in my top five choices for CUVs. The Ford Escape has the sporty driving dynamics, turbocharged power and SYNC 3 infotainment while the Honda CR-V is always a safe choice. Mazda's CX-5 is bred for windy roads and has full-speed range adaptive cruise control, but can't compete under the hood.

I really liked the Hyundai Tucson for its solid build quality, interior feel, powertrain and subtle good looks, but the Kia Sportage wins me over for steering feel. It seems minor, but Kia did a better job tuning the electronic power steering sport mode for better response and feel for the road, not just making it feel heavier with no benefits like the Tucson.

So where does that put the Sportage? It's a tough call, because there's something to love about all the CUVs in my top five. Narrowing it down, the Sportage would be in my top two (alongside the Ford Escape). The refreshed 2017 Escape is right around the corner and gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while 2016 models will get it at the end of the year, too.

Both cars have their merits: I enjoy driving the Ford Escape with the 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecoboost motor more. The car feels lighter on its feet, but I dislike the dashboard layout with its bulbous and recessed touchscreen.

Seeing as how the interior is where you spend most of your time in a car, I'll have to give the nod to the Kia Sportage as the best CUV in the segment. It has the looks, technology, simple interior layout, comfort and conveniences that make it a great daily driver to live with. There's also a brown leather interior option, which I'm a complete sucker for.

Starting at $33,395 (£24,350 for the similar GT-Line and AU$47,992 for the Platinum trim), the Sportage SX Turbo isn't a cheap car, but you'll pay around the same price for competing models with the same options.