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The Sportage is a two-row SUV that fits in between the Seltos and the three-row Telluride in the Kia lineup. This is an option that has managed to hang tough in the highly competitive compact SUV segment of the market. In fact, it is currently in its fourth generation, which started in 2017. In many ways, the 2021 Sportage is the whole package. There are a few glaring exceptions, however, that should not be overlooked. So what does it get right, and what are the areas it can improve?
What's New for 2021?
Many changes have been made in recent years, leaving Kia with only a few minor tweaks to make in 2021. Both the S Sunroof and Premium packages have been deleted this year. More importantly, there are now two new packages, known as the Nightfall Edition and the Nightfall Edition Premium. These two packages are only available for the S trim, which is one step up from the entry-level model.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Kia Sportage – The Pros
1. Spacious Seating in Both Rows
Do not let the compact label fool you, the Kia Sportage is designed so that people in both rows of seating have enough space. Models without the available moonroof offer nearly 40-inches of headroom in both the front and back. Throw in 41.5-inches of front legroom and just over 38-inches of rear legroom and you can see how everyone can get comfortable in the 2021 Sportage. Just be aware that if you do want the sunroof, you will lose about two inches of headroom for both rows.
2. Strong Emphasis on Safety
The 2021 Sportage has received five out of five stars in crash testing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Kia gives the family-oriented SUV standard driver aids such as forward collision mitigation with both automatic braking and pedestrian detection. It also has automatic high beams, a driver attention monitor, and lane departure warning to help keep you safe. Upper trim levels get even fancier, adding things like front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring.
3. Quiet Ride at Highway Speeds
Thanks to the design of the Sportage, very little road or wind noise manages to leak into the cabin. This is true while zipping around town or getting up to highway speeds. Sound-absorbing windshield glass, which is standard on all models, plays a big part in this. Both solar control glass and privacy glass are standard as well, helping the Sportage feel like a safe and comfortable place to relax.
4. Sporty and Stylish Exterior
Kia says that the shape and style of the Sportage were designed to mimic a fighter jet. This is evident when you consider the sharp edges along with the smooth surfaces. All models sit on alloy wheels, with lower trims going with 17-inches while upper trims jump up to 19-inches. There are eight different paint options to choose from. Sparkling Silver, Hyper Red, Black Cherry, and Burnished Copper are just some examples of the exciting choices.
5. Well-Equipped Entry-Level LX
The Sportage built its reputation on being affordable. Over the years, it has gotten more sophisticated while still maintaining the value, particularly with its lower trims. Stick with the base model in 2021 and you will get an 8-inch touchscreen, USB port, Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. It also has handy features like a dual-level cargo floor and driver-selectable modes. The cabin uses sophisticated materials to give the Sportage an upscale appearance. Plus, it has plenty of high-tech driver assistance features, making it a strong choice overall.
6. Available with Turbocharged Power
Sticking with the base engine of the Sportage will get you a respectable 181-horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. For even more fun, however, consider the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder. These models can make 240-horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque. For a vehicle this size, this is more than enough power for exciting acceleration and reliable power. Models with this engine also have a fun sport-tuned suspension.
7. Smooth and Satisfying Ride
Vehicles are usually either comfortable or sporty when it comes to their ride and handling. The Sportage is an SUV that manages to strike a balance between the two better than most. Thanks to its body design, the minor bumps on the road are typically not felt inside the cabin. For the driver, the 2021 Sportage offers an engaging drive and responsive steering. In short, this is an SUV that is pleasant to be inside, no matter where you are sitting.
8. Hard-to-Beat Warranty
Kia is one of the few companies that offers more than what would be considered a standard warranty, at least when it comes to the length. This vehicle is covered for 5-years or 60,000 miles for its basic limited warranty. The powertrain is covered for 10-years of 100,000 miles. You also get a roadside assistance plan that is good for 5-years or 60,000 miles, further adding to your peace of mind when you choose the Sportage.
9. Nightfall Edition Packages Available
New for 2021 are two packages that tweak the outer appearance of the Sportage S. Both the Nightfall Edition and Nightfall Edition Premium add things like black satin window surrounds and a gloss black radiator grille. There are many other black exterior accents to be found, like skid plates, bumper trims, and side sills. Of course, there are also many black Night Edition badges so that everyone knows exactly what they are looking at. Going with the Premium package will also give the S trim some luxury features usually reserved for the EX model. Either option is sure to turn heads with its sleek look.
10. Luxury Features Available on Higher Trims
Although the Sportage is known as being affordable, it also offers upscale features on its higher trim levels. You can get things like heated and ventilated front seats, for example. Other things found on the top trim include an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage door opener, wireless charging, and genuine leather upholstery. Also available are sporty features such as a flat-bottomed steering wheel and stainless steel pedals.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Kia Sportage – The Cons
1. Low on Cargo Space
With the back seats up, there are just over 30 cubic feet of space in the cargo area. The maximum capacity is just over 60 cubic feet. While these numbers may not sound that bad, they are lower than most of the competition. It is clear that Kia prioritized space for passengers over space for your gear. Still, the Sportage has things like an adjustable-height cargo floor and fold-flat seats to help make up for this shortcoming. You can also get a power liftgate to make things even easier.
2. Fuel Economy Numbers Don't Wow
Sticking with front-wheel drive and the base engine will have the Sportage getting 23mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway. These are the best numbers for any combination of drivetrains and engines and are frankly not great. Many rivals do better, which may be a good enough reason to pass of the 2021 Sportage. Going with the turbo engine and all-wheel drive will mean getting only 19 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
3. The Base Engine is Blah
The standard engine for the Sportage is best described as adequate. It gets the SUV going, but not quickly. The sluggish acceleration with this engine is frustrating. Further adding to this frustration is the fact that it is the only available engine for three out of the four trim levels.
4. Poor Forward Visibility
In an effort to make the Sportage stand out, Kia places the standard 8-inch touchscreen in the dash rather than on up on top of it. While this certainly looks cool, it means the dashboard is higher than it really needs to be, which negatively impacts your view when behind the driver's seat.
5. Questionable Off-Road Ability
For some time now, many SUVs have prioritized comfort and technology over things like actual sportiness. Still, there is an expectation that an SUV can handle itself off-road. Although it does offer all-wheel drive, the Sportage just does not have the ability to handle much more than broken pavement. This does not detract at all from its ability to be a great family vehicle. It may, however, deter some of the more adventurous shoppers out there, especially considering how capable some of the Sportage's rivals truly are.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Kia Sportage vs 2021 Hyundai Tucson
These two SUVs are pretty similar in many ways. The Tucson shares the lack of cargo space problem with the Tucson. Still, it is a feature-packed SUV option with a lot of appeal. Buyers will want to keep in mind that the standard engine for the Sportage produces the same amount of horsepower as the turbo option for the Tucson. That means that while the Tucson tops out at 181, the Sportage can go to 240. The Sportage is also more fun to drive, further helping it to come on out on top in the matchup.
2021 Kia Sportage vs 2021 Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is a strong competitor in the compact SUV market. It offers significantly more cargo space. The CR-V is also way more efficient, giving it a lower cost of ownership in the long run. However, it is not available with nearly as much power as the Sportage is. The list of available features for the Sportage is much longer than that of the CR-V, making it easier to find the perfect model for your life. The starting price for the Sportage is also lower than the CR-V.
As a whole, the 2021 Kia Sportage is a solid SUV choice. Both of its engines are at least adequate and the standard feature list is impressive. It may work for a variety of drivers and their families. However, this is not the option for anyone who likes to take road trips. Not only is the cargo area small, but the fuel economy numbers would make the journey more expensive than it needs to be. Considering the Sportage has not had a full redesign since 2017, Kia may want to consider a complete overhaul for next year that includes opening up the cargo hold and giving it more off-road prowess. They will definitely want to find solutions for the Sportage's low fuel economy estimates as well.
• Why buy a 2020 Kia Sportage? w/ pros vs cons