The wheel of progress is inexorable.

The wheel of progress is inexorable. Ten years ago it would have seemed absurd to suggest that upstart Korean automaker Kia would one day challenge compact SUV segment leaders like Toyota, Honda, and Ford with a people-mover every bit the equal of their more established efforts. And yet here we are facing down the 2017 Kia Sportage, recently redesigned to further solidify the brand's fashion-forward siege on the establishment. 

It's been a long, hard road for the Sportage - originally an also-ran, body-on-frame trucklet - but the combination of Kia's value-oriented, feature-rich philosophy with design chief Peter Schreyer's deft styling hand has borne predictably appealing fruit. Sleekly sculpted steel and glass wrap around a passenger cabin that stands toe-to-toe with its most popular rivals, combined with a range of power plants tuned to distinguish the Sportage from its Hyundai platform-mate, the Tucson. It's an SUV with all the right moves hitting showrooms at exactly the right time, as there's never been a moment in history where crossovers and their ilk have been more sought after by Canadian families.

2017 Kia Sportage

Crossover SUVs like the Kia Sportage are expected to fill multiple roles, which means versatility must be baked into their DNA. For 2017, Kia has maintained the same basic proportions for the Sportage as it had the year before, but a slight stretch in overall length keeps it competitive from a practicality standpoint. There's a little more room in the second row of seating (with extra light back there from a larger full-length sunroof), you don't have to lift as high when loading up through the hatch, and a dual-floor cargo arrangement boosts overall storage capacity by 10 percent compared to the previous model. There's 130 additional litres of space in the cargo area compared to the departing generation of Sportage, and if you need more room to throw in a couple of hockey bags - even if you're a goalie - you'll find it thanks to a rear seatback that folds flatter than before.

The interior comes across as an upgrade, too, although there's not much new ground here. Anyone who's spent time in a modern Kia will recognize the blend of clean lines and simple instrumentation that are now hallmarks of the brand. Next-generation UVO infotainment and connectivity are a highlight for the Sportage's feature set, while active safety also steps into the spotlight by way of new available features such as automatic braking with forward collision warning, a lane departure warning system, and blind spot monitoring.

More noteworthy changes can be found outside, with the availability of LED running lights, LED tail lights, and standard projector headlights dress up the Sportage's night time profile, and unique quad-LED fog lights are offered on the highest trim level. During the day, the more aggressive grille treatment combined with the short front deck give the Kia SUV an almost baby-Cayenne feel that cuts through the occasional anonymity of the compact class.

2017 Kia Sportage

You get two choices under the hood when ordering the 2017 Kia Sportage. At the entry-level there's a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder mill that generates 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, numbers that are identical to the year before as the engine has undergone only a few efficiency-related changes (including electronic cam timing control). Stepping up to the Sportage's 2.0-liter turbocharged unit pumps up performance considerably by way of its 237 hp and 260 lb-ft of twist, numbers that are strong enough to push the crossover to the front of its class.

Kia fans might notice that the turbocharged four-cylinder Sportage isn't quite as mighty as it used to be, as the SUV has dropped 17 ponies and 9 lb-ft of torque in the pursuit of frugality at the fuel pump. The effort brings mixed results, as that more modest tune and improved cam phasing for the turbo sees fuel economy improve to 11.9 L/100 km in the city (compared to 12.6 L/100 km before) but the highway figure has actually nudged up a half-litre or so to rest at 10.2 L/100 km. There's a similar city-focused improvement on-hand for the entry-level engine too, which is rated at 10.4 L/100 km around town and 8.0 L/100 km during highway cruising.

A six-speed automatic transmission remains the sole gearbox for the 2017 Kia Sportage, but ratios and shift management have been reconfigured as part of the efficiency play described above. If you want all-wheel drive, the SUV will happily oblige, making it optional on all trims with the 2.4-liter motor and standard with the range-topping SX and its 2.0-liter turbo. The system is supplied by Canadian parts giant Magna, and while it sends 95-percent of torque to the front wheels during normal driving it can shift everything its got to either axle should traction conditions warrant.

2017 Kia Sportage

On the road the 2017 Kia Sportage is phenomenally quiet for a vehicle at its price point, which is no accident as the automaker has invested significantly in soundproofing the compact SUV. A stiffer chassis also contributes to the vehicle's more composed character, and several drive modes - Eco, Normal, and Sport - shape the Sportage's shift points and steering feel (with the SX model gaining paddle shifters behind the wheel). Turbocharged versions of the Kia hauler are respectably quick, even with the power drop, while the naturally-aspirated motor delivers acceleration and responsiveness that's in keeping with similarly-sized engines offered by the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.

Pleasant to drive, affordable to own, and easy on the eyes, it's clear that Kia has figured out a winning formula for attracting the compact crossover SUV crowd. It doesn't hurt that the brand offers one of the best warranties in the business, and with a starting price of just $24,795 the 2017 Kia Sportage also happens to undercut almost every one of its chief competitors, some by a few thousand dollars. Don't think that Kia's decision to position the Sportage as a bit of a bargain has anything to do with the quality of what's on offer. Rather, consider it the end game of a strategy that has seen vehicles like the Kia Sportage become more difficult to dismiss without a long, hard look when it comes time to park something new in the driveway.

 

2017 Kia Sportage

 

ENGINE

2.4-liter 4-cylinder & 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo

OUTPUT

181 hp / 175 lb-ft & 237 hp / 260 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

6-speed automatic

0-100 KMH

7.5 Seconds

TOP SPEED

N/A

FUEL ECONOMY

10.4 City / 8.0 Highway (2.4 FWD)  11.9 City / 10.2 Highway (2.0 AWD)

WEIGHT

1,503 kilograms

SEATING CAPACITY

5

CARGO VOLUME

1,701 litres

BASE PRICE

$24,795

AS-TESTED PRICE

$24,795

 

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