“You could be forgiven for thinking that Crossover Utility Vehicles, or cute utes as they are affectionately known, are a 21st century invention but they’re not.”
Remember those days when one would wax lyrical to parents about some amazing new-fangled invention?
If you do, you will doubtless recall being told by less than impressed parents that “there is nothing new under the sun” and what’s old is new again.
You could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that Crossover Utility Vehicles, or cute utes as they are affectionately known, are a 21st century invention. Maybe the CUV designation is newish but as Kia is quick to point out, the South Korean manufacturer has sold one since 1993! Admittedly, the Sportage of the 90s was basic but now in its fourth generation it is anything but basic. It didn’t sell in big numbers back then but now it’s a challenger to the Japanese domination of that market segment.
Even the base models are well-equipped safety equipment wise though I must chuckle at one standard feature. Standard Downhill Descent Control? – I will hazard a guess that few Sportages will see the backwoods. But if you have a steep hill in your neighborhood you just press a button on the centre console and take your feet off the brake and accelerator pedals. The car eases down automatically at a leisurely 8 km/h. I first tried that technology on a Subaru Forester last year. It was fun but I never thought for a moment it would be anything other than an optional toy, I mean feature on mass market utes.
On the level, the Sportage performs well in busy city traffic and on the highway. The base front-wheel drive LX and EX trims feature a direct injection 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder with 181 horses at their disposal. Fuel economy for the FWD is 10.4/8.0L/100 km (city/highway), AWD 11.3/9.5L/100 km (city/highway).
Step up to the all-wheel drive EX Tech and SX models and the throttle is linked to a very perky 2.0-litre twin turbo four-cylinder with an extra 56 horses chomping at the bit. All powerplants use a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for that configuration is 11.9/10.2L/100 km (city/highway).
In terms of looks, the changes are subtle: the manufacturer’s blurb lists multiple changes but the bottom line is the designers did not mess too much with an already attractive package. It is arguably less cute and more aggressive looking than its closest competitors.
Kia describes the interior as “a driver-oriented cockpit featuring a simple and modern design with clean horizontal lines emphasizing a more spacious interior.” I’ll second the line about the driver position but, frankly, the rest of its design is unremarkable.
What I did like is how the dashboard splits it into two distinctive zones. The upper zone displays information via a new colour touchscreen. The lower half is the controls area.
The EX and SX Turbo models do step it up with leather upholstery, and the SX Turbo includes a D-shaped, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, piano black trim along the centre console and stitching on the dashboard.
Connectivity is the buzz word and the Sportage is well-connected. It is the first Kia to offer Android Auto, Apple CarPlay for smart phone addicts. There’s also eight gigs of onboard music storage.
The LX comes equipped with a standard 5.0-inch colour touchscreen that features Bluetooth hands-free phone operation and streaming audio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and rear-camera display – the EX adds a 7-inch touchscreen and the SX Turbo an 8-inch screen.
All Sportages come standard with a 160-watt six-speaker audio system. A powerful 320-watt Harman Kardon® premium audio system is also available and features eight speakers.
Returning to my reference of the likelihood that most examples will be put to work
as urban cutes, it’s appropriate that the Sportage has installed a dual-level cargo floor and expanded the luggage area. The Big Shop will load easily and leave room to spare. The outgoing version had a cargo capacity 739 litres (26.1 cu ft), now it’s expanded to 869 litres (30.7 cu ft).
I would swap the optional Smart Power Liftgate, which automatically opens when the key fob is within a metre of the vehicle, for the standard hill descent.
Interestingly, there is a bit of Canada in the deluxe versions. They feature the Dynamax intelligent AWD system from Magna Canada! It has a 50/50 locking centre differential for those of you insist taking it off road. Just kidding. There is much to be like about this system that senses and anticipates road and weather conditions then adjusts traction control.
Here are the base prices, exclusive of freight and taxes: LX – FWD/AWD, $24,795/$26,995; EX – FWD $27,795; EX AWD/AWD Premium, $29,795 AWD Tech, $36,995; SX, $39,395.