Avg. Price Paid:$7,184 - $11,338
Original MSRP: $16,050 - $22,895
MPG: 20 City / 25 Hwy
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2008 Kia Sportage Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Kia Sportage was new.

Most test drivers find the base four-cylinder engine on the sluggish side.  But car-like handling and a more powerful V6 option lead the Detroit News to call the Kia's ride "confidence-inspiring," while Kelley Blue Book describes it as "creditable, although not entertaining."

The Kia Sportage offers seven trims, featuring either the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or the 2.7-liter V6. Four-wheel drive is available with both engines.

Many reviewers found the Kia Sportage's ride to be adequate and relatively pleasant, but they noted that the engine could be more powerful. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman, who tested both the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson, writes, "The Sportage and Tucson handle comfortably, like a sedan, but corner haltingly and need to be nursed through curves." The Chicago Tribune reviewer, who tested the EX with a V6 engine, says, "It has sufficient power to merge, pass or climb but don't expect to do any of those as swiftly as you would with a larger V-6 ..." USA Today finds that, in bad weather, the "optional four-wheel drive is so-so. It allowed some wheelspin and slithering on full-throttle starts in heavy rain. But it fairly quickly compensated and stabilized the Sportage."

Edmunds notes that while the Kia Sportage "offers the kind of performance and refinement usually associated with small SUVs from Japanese automakers," it still doesn't offer a lot of power: "The main drawback to the Sportage is its powertrain. Even with the V6, acceleration is no more than adequate." And MSN explains, "Its suspension is tuned for sharper handling than the [Hyundai] Tucson's, but its roadability is nothing to shout about if it's pushed hard."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008  Kia Sportage comes in seven trim levels. The base model offers a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 140 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission available, depending on trim. Also available is a 2.7-liter V6 engine with 173 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, with an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. By and large, reviewers' consensus is that the engine of the Kia Sportage lacks power. Car and Driver listed the V6 engine as a "low," calling it "tepid," and also referred to the transmission as "stubborn." The engine, according to the same review, "tended to sound thrashy near the top of the rev range ..." Edmunds praises the "refinement" of the engine but claims to be "disappointed with its power. With several other V6s in this class topping 200 hp, the Sportage feels sluggish in comparison." Likewise, MSN states, "The 4-cylinder is okay for city driving, but has no surplus of power on highways. The V6 provides lively acceleration in town and on the highway, at least with only a driver aboard."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, gas mileage estimates for the Kia Sportage vary from 17 to 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 to 25 mpg on highways, dependent on front- or all-wheel drive, engine and transmission. MSN finds, however, that the fuel mileage is "competitive for a compact SUV  ... depending on if the Sportage has a 4- or 6-cylinder engine or front- or all-wheel drive."

Handling and Braking

Many reviewers praise the Kia Sportage's handling. Car and Driver refers to the "responsive ride and handling," and Edmunds calls it "sporty." Kelley Blue Book adds, "Kia's product team has hit the sweet spot in achieving a ride/handling balance completely appropriate to the target consumer." According to Kia, the Sportage has independent front and rear suspension as well as rack-and-pinion, power-assisted steering.


The Car and Driver reviewer, who tested the EX 4WD, says that "the car-based Sportage isn't intended for search-and-destroy off-road use," and Cars.com notes that "the Sportage's all-wheel drive is meant for light-duty use, not serious off-roading." However, other auto reviewers, such as New Car Test Drive, recommend it for off-roading: "Those whose hobbies take them off road, may appreciate the superior off-road capability of the Sportage when compared with the more expensive, more carlike mini SUVs from Honda, Ford and Mazda."

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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