Refreshed 2020 Kia Sportage EX Premium fills up on standard features
My very first contact with the Sportage was back in 2012. I spent a week in the passenger seat exploring Newfoundland during the Targa Newfoundland Rally.
Kia had two participating cars in the rally that year, including one driven by a team of colleagues who enrolled me for photography and social media.
At the time, the Sportage was an excellent choice for the trip: it provided space for some of the gear and luggage of our teams and was comfortable enough to go for hundreds of kilometres every day without having to stop at the gas station every second hour.
It was the dawn of the reign of the compact SUVs and, already, the Sportage had proven its value, its utility, and its versatility in a rather demanding context.
Fast forward seven years and not much has changed. Of course, Kia has been hard at work to keep the model up to date and current, including the introduction of a new generation in 2015.
For the 2020 model-year, the vehicle was refreshed and received a new design, trading the almond-shaped headlights for bigger and shapely lighting units as well as a modernized tiger-nose grille.
Also new for this year is the addition of a few, now standard features, namely an eight-inch display as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. On higher trim levels, new safety features have been added as well, which include lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking assist, and such. Nothing revolutionary, but a few welcome additions that help increase the model’s sophistication.
Now, I’ll be blunt. The Sportage is far from being a memorable vehicle, but for what it is supposed to do, it does very well.
Simply put, the Sportage has been designed to take you where you need to be with as little inconvenience as possible and it perfectly fulfills its mission.
The cabin of the vehicle is open, welcoming, and comfortable. I even tested fitting my long legs at the back and I sat behind the driver’s seat with room to spare. The cargo area is spacious and practical as well — the “full Costco run” type of spacious. If you can’t make it fit, you’re doing it wrong.
While there’s nothing inherently exciting about the Kia, there’s also nothing wrong with it. The ride is comfortable and the cabin well insulated from exterior and road noises. A strength of the Koreans is to take cheaper materials and enhance them in a way that makes them look and feel more premium and the Sportage is no exception. While there’s an abundance of hard plastics, matte finishes and textures created a more elevated look.
At the centre of the dashboard, an eight-inch touchscreen gives access to a standard menu of functionalities including satellite radio, Bluetooth pairing and streaming, navigation, and such. The EX trim level I drove was also equipped with a wireless charging pad which doubles as a practical compartment to store your smartphone.
The compact SUV uses a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque, power figures that position the model in a comfortable middle-ground within its segment. The block is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. In addition, the Sportage is equipped with the all-wheel-drive system.
While the powertrain works well for the size of the vehicle, there is one thing you shouldn’t expect from the Sportage and that’s fuel economy. I’m not a hypermiler by any means. On the contrary, I would even say I’m a little heavy on the accelerator which tends to give me higher consumption numbers. But at close to 12.0L/100km, lead foot or not, this remains a high number considering the size of the vehicle. Most of that mileage was clocked in the city and in rush hour situations.
Granted, there are drive modes (Eco, Normal, and Sport). I possibly could have ended the week with a lower number had I stayed in Eco mode but, to be frank, it makes the vehicle undrivable. While the Sportage isn’t meant to be a beast of performance, sometimes getting decent acceleration can be crucial — I call that “get out of the way” power. I know the Eco mode is designed to help improve fuel economy, but it’s so invasive and it makes the vehicle (too) sluggish and the accelerations slow and unresponsive. So I left the selector in Normal mode and went with it.
The handling is smooth and what I usually refer to as “predictable” — the model handles exactly the way you expect most compact SUVs to handle. Not completely disconnected from the road like bigger or premium vehicles, but definitely not as nervous or responsive as compacts or sedans.
One thing I didn’t expect, however, is how well the Sportage corners. I always make it a mission of mine to take a few curves with enthusiasm to test the body and the suspension’s response (also a little bit because I have fun doing so).
Holy smokes, I did not expect the Kia to handle this well; the body roll was a lot less noticeable than I anticipated and it rocked from left to right surefooted and confident.
Bravo, Kia, that was a nice surprise.
The model has a lot to offer at a price point that’s more appealing than most of its competitors, which is its biggest selling point in my opinion. The Sportage comes in at around $2,000 below most of the other compact SUVs on the market with a starting price of $25,795 for the entry-level.
That and the fact that Kia enjoys an overall good reputation when it comes to reliability.