Click on any image to see a larger slideshow and captions. Cars.com photos by Kelsey Mays, except where noted.
Mostly unchanged since it arrived in late 2010, the Sportage bears Kia's attractive corporate styling. LX and EX models get LED accent lights for 2013; last year's LED accents went on the EX only. The range-topping Sportage SX, meanwhile, has LED daytime running lights.
Interior materials remain so-so — the sheet of smoked plastic across the dash puts cost-cutting on display — but the cabin's sharp, simple design hides much of that. One gripe: A telescoping steering adjustment, which is widely standard in the segment, remains optional.
Our test car's touch-screen navigation system was the fanciest of three available center-control layouts. The standard CD stereo has USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, while a midlevel system includes all those features plus a small screen with Kia's UVO ("your voice") voice-activation system. Dual-zone automatic climate control (shown) comes on EX and SX models.
When it comes to cabin quality, small SUVs are a spotty bunch. Kia is right there with them. The doors have good armrest padding but cheap, hard upper panels, and the handles are silver plastic instead of chrome or metal.
The Sportage comes with two types of fabric — one of them stain-resistant — or leather of uninspired quality (shown). A manually height-adjustable driver's seat is standard, with a six-way power seat (shown) optional.
The Sportage EX and SX have optional heated front seats, as well as an air-cooled driver's seat. The seat cooler is more effective than the air-conditioned seats in some six-figure cars we've tested, but in bright sunlight — you know, when it's hot out — the blue indicators make it hard to tell it's on. (Cars.com photo by Ian Merritt)
Adults should find rear legroom modest but workable. Headroom is OK, given our test car had a headroom-deminishing panoramic moonroof, but the tradeoff is a seating position that's low to the floor. The seat has no reclining or forward/backward adjustments.
The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split via releases near the head restraints. EX and SX models add spring-loaded seats with pull-straps to raise and lower more easily (shown). With the seats down, maximum cargo volume totals 54.6 cubic feet — again, small for this class.
A small rear window hurts the view out back. So does the Sportage's center seat belt, which anchors in the ceiling rather than the seat itself, as hatchbacks and SUVs increasingly do. If you leave it stowed in the ceiling to maintain a clear view, there's a higher chance center passengers won't use it.
The Sportage's 2.4-liter four-cylinder (shown) makes 176 hp and 168 pounds-feet of torque; it works through a six-speed manual on base models and a six-speed automatic everywhere else. SX models have a 260-hp, turbo four-cylinder.
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