Five First Impressions: 2017 Kia Sportage

Among the mob of compact SUVs, the 2017 Kia Sportage stands out even if it isn’t painted in gold.

And now that these kinds of vehicles make up an enormous chunk of new-car sales around the world, the better they stand out the better they are in my book. Many of the Sportage’s competitors have given me the impression they are good cars, but far from great ones and about as memorable as the Phoenix airport.

I’ve been driving the 2017 Sportage SX Turbo for a few days now. Here are my first thoughts ahead of a full review.

Advancing by a nose
Shortly after getting on the road, I pulled up alongside another Sportage that looked a lot like the one I was driving. Except it was actually the previous model. The 2017 Sportage looks like it’s just a refinement over the old one from the rear. Which is fine, since the Peter Schreyer-designed model that had been around since 2010 still looked pretty fresh by the end of its run.

But up front, the new nose definitely divides opinion. It looks like a Sportage that’s pushing its nose in with its own thumb. Other people seem to like that, however. It’s less SUV-ish, which is also appealing to some.

The color it wears
Also divisive is the color, which looks gold, but is actually called Burnished Copper. I haven’t made my mind up about it yet, but it does go some way to mitigate the more garish detailing on the car, like the quad fog lights. As I’ve already determined a Sportage is a way to stand out among the CR-V/RAV4/Escape crowd, though, Burnished Copper isn’t a bad way to go.

Gold case

A photo posted by Zac Estrada (@zacestrada)” style=”font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px;”>Apr 17, 2016 at 12:49pm PDT

My God, it’s quick
This Sportage SX Turbo is equipped with a 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four. It wasn’t the motor I expected when this compact SUV was delivered to me, as the 2.4-liter engine with 181 horses that comes in lesser Sportages is more typical of the motivation its rivals receive. There’s a burst of energy from this turbo in an old-school way, unlike a lot of small-displacement units that have emerged in recent years. And it makes the Sportage more exciting than a lot of similar vehicles. There will be a price to pay for all of this, however.

Plush versus power
Aside from the engine, however, the Sportage isn’t that sporty. The interior is set up for comfort, with comfortable rather than aggressive leather seats. Even with the 19-inch wheels, the ride is fairly soft. And the steering is low effort (and devoid of feel). Yet it’s all relatively quiet, too, meaning the Sportage SX Turbo should be good when loaded with four adults and their luggage and trying to climb a grade. Despite the adventurous styling and enormous glass roof on this example, there’s space inside comparable to popular crossovers like the Mazda CX-5.

It’s a Kia, and that’s a good thing
Add the $1,500 all-wheel drive and you get a lot for your $34,895. That huge sunroof, power tailgate, keyless entry and start, heated and cooled front seats, front and rear parking sensors, etc. This continues to be a pleasing hallmark of the brand.

Even if you’ve spent time in recent Kia products, the Sportage is surprisingly well-equipped for the money and oozes lots of quality. It’s shaping up to be one of my favorite compact SUVs of the moment.

But what questions do you have? Sound off in the comments.

Photos: Estrada

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