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2013 Kia Sportage SX (Review)

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The Kia Sportage was one of Kia's first models that it offered in the US, when it entered our market in the mid-1990s. That first Sportage was a small body-on-frame SUV that would eventually compete with small crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Almost 20 years later the Sportage has evolved into a stylish crossover that has moved to a unibody platform, but is also now offered with a powerful turbocharged engine. After two weeks with the 2013 Kia Sportage SX Turbo, we came away mostly impressed with Kia's latest Sportage. Here's why...

The 2013 Kia Sportage is offered in four trim levels: base, LX, EX and SX. All of the trim levels with the exception of the SX are powered by a 176 horsepower 2.4L engine. The base trim level comes standard with a five-speed manual, but the LX and EX models get a standard six-speed automatic transmission. The top-of-the-line SX is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L engine with 260 horsepower and 269 lb-ft. of torque. The SX also comes standard with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive is optional on all the trim levels with the exception of the base trim.

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The 2013 Sportage starts at $19,800 for the base model, which comes standard with features like 16-inch alloy wheels, LED accent lights and Bluetooth. Stepping up to the LX adds 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and remote keyless entry. The EX adds 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome body-side moldings, fog lights, the UVO infotainment system, a rear camera with a backup warning system and dual-zone climate control. The top SX trim gets unique 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, dual exhaust, push button start with smart key, leather seats and a supervision meter cluster. Our SX Sportage also had the navigation and SX Premium packages, which add a navigation system with SiriusXM traffic, heated front seats, a cooled driver's seat, a panoramic sunroof and heated mirrors.

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Over our long two weeks with the 2013 Sportage SX we praised it for its spacious interior, with its panoramic sunroof and unexpected features like the cooled driver's seat and power folding side mirrors. The Sportage easily fit five guys and a day's worth of shopping bags and gear. There were only a few things that could have made the interior even better. For one, why doesn't the front passenger also get a cooled seat? Some of the interior plastics were a bit hard and for some reason we couldn't get any of our iPhones or iPods to sync correctly with the infotainment system.

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Our drive from San Francisco down to Los Angeles and then back again gave us a chance to fully test out the Sportage's 2.0L turbocharged engine and how well the small crossover handles compared to other models like the Honda CR-V. With 260 horsepower on tap the Sportage SX has more than enough power to get you going. Our Sportage SX did not have the optional all-wheel-drive system, which would be an added benefit. 260 horsepower going only to the front wheels lead to a lot of wheel spin, especially if the roads were even a touch damp. The Sportage SX front-wheel-drive is rated at 21/28 mpg, which is only slightly down from the 21/30 mpg rating for the non-turbocharged 2.4L engine. The SX AWD is rated at 20/25 mpg. Throughout our drive we only managed to average around 22 mpg, which seemed a bit lower than we expected. The Sportage does also come with an ECO button, which helps drivers achieve the Sportage's mpg ratings.

The Sportage SX brings a new level of sportiness to the small crossover segment. It's turbocharged engine provides exhilarating acceleration and its six-speed automatic transmission also gets a sportmatic feature to let the driver control the gears. It would have been nice if the Sportage SX also featured a "sport" mode. While the Sportage SX's turbocharged engine bumps up the Sportage's "sporty" rating, it was a bit let down by the Sportage's numb steering. The steering was often too light and did not provide enough feedback, especially on twisty roads. Kia needs to ask Hyundai for it's new steering system that features three different driving modes. Even though the steering was a bit light, the Sportage's suspension is up for the task. The Sportage's suspension was tight, but not overly hard. The Sportage's brakes also kept everything under control on San Francisco's steep declines.

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Overall the 2013 Kia Sportage SX provides a great value and a unique level of style that could compete with even pricier crossovers. The Sportage SX has the right mix of sportiness to satisfy enthusiasts, but also has enough room for a weekend trip with the guys. If Kia were to fix the small minor details like the Sportage's steering and upgraded the interior's plastics, the Sportage SX would be hard to beat.

2013 Kia Sportage SX (FWD)
Price as Tested: $30,900


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