Just because the 2012 Kia Sportage is a cute-ute or compact crossover, it doesn't make it an ideal family vehicle. Maybe I'm just getting old (gasp!) or my expectations were set a little too high, but despite its cool factor inside and out, the Sportage disappointed with its lack of cargo space and visibility issues.
It pains me to admit that I didn't find the Sportage to be more of an ideal car for my small family of three. It's good looking and offers some great features for its sticker price; the bottom line is the three of us got along OK inside it.
My driving-enthusiast husband kept scratching his head at my indifference toward the Sportage. I think it would've been a much better car for me years ago — either when I was in college and only needed a car's cargo area to hold a few beach towels and a chair or during my honeymoon period when the husband and I would take off on spontaneous road trips.
To further support my hunch that this crossover will hit the sweet spot for a different demographic than my familial one, the available turbo four-cylinder engine will be sure to add a little more fun to a drive. I definitely felt some zip when driving it, but the overall driving experience was another area where the Sportage fell flat for me.
The 2012 Kia Sportage starts at $19,300, including an $800 destination charge, but my top-trim SX test car with its turbo engine, optional SX Premium Package and navigation system cost $31,015.
The 2012 Sportage is definitely attractive. It manages to come off as hip and youthful, making the more seasoned crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 look downright dated. My husband was enamored with the Sportage's looks. While I can admit it was attractive, something about the rear just didn't look finished.
The Sportage sits at a great height for loading kids into it, especially if they're in child-safety seats. For kiddos who are big enough to independently get in and out of the crossover, it shouldn't be a strain, either.
I found the cargo-area access to be awkward. There's not a traditional handle on the cargo door, which keeps the design clean-looking, but it was strange to keep reaching all the way under the cargo-door lip to open it. It was a little thing that kept irking me throughout my test drive. Because I'm always accessing the cargo area for my stroller, groceries and whatever toys my toddler has chucked back there, it would probably bother me more than most. There was no power liftgate on my upgraded test car either.
The surprising part about the Sportage was how small the cargo area seemed to be. You expect a crossover to be able to haul a bit more than a traditional sedan, but I didn't find that to be true with the Sportage. Fortunately I was able to fit my stroller in it, but it took up most of the space and required me to remove it when heading to the grocery store. It would've held our luggage if the mister and I were headed on a weekend getaway, but now that we have a toddler in tow we usually have a greater demand for cargo space when heading out on an adventure. You can use the 60/40-split second row to increase your storage space, but of course, if you've got more than one backseat passenger, it's not an option.
Most Sportages have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower, but my SX trim level has a standard 260-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder gets an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg city/highway, and the turbo four-cylinder gets 22/29 mpg. Both engines use regular unleaded gasoline. Perhaps my lead foot is partly to blame (or too much stop-and-go traffic in Los Angeles), but I didn't come near those numbers during my weeklong test drive.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): More than Fair/Less than Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The Sportage's interior is sleek and sporty. Design aficionados will appreciate the modern details and be even more pleased with them considering the Sportage's price point. I especially liked the easy-to-use multimedia system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, and my ventilated driver's seat on warm days (the front passenger had to go without the feature — even at the top trim level, you'll only score one of those seats).
However, as much I enjoyed the inside, I couldn't help feeling cramped in the cabin. I attribute that to the high windowsills, making the doors seem too tall and high to see out of. That was my biggest issue with the Sportage: visibility was compromised by its design. Again, someone outside of my demographic may give the Sportage a little more slack. I also had a hard time with the small rear window, making visibility limited there as well.
The Sportage is a five-seat crossover, but it's better suited for four passengers. Two child safety seats did fit in the backseat, and there was sufficient legroom for my front seat passenger with a rear-facing seat behind them. The Sportage has two cupholders in the front row and two in the backseat; there also are bottleholders in the doors.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): More than Fair/Less than Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): More than Fair/Less than Ample
The 2012 Sportage has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this status, a car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2012 Sportage received an overall score of four stars out of five. It earned four stars in the rollover crash test and five stars in the front and side crash tests.
There are two sets of Latch anchors in the Sportage's backseat. The anchors were some of the easier to access, and installing my daughter's child-safety seat was a simple process. I may not have found the Sportage to be the ultimate family car, but easy car-seat installation will always earn bonus points in my book. Find out how the 2012 Sportage performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
The Sportage has standard front-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. A backup camera and rear parking sensors are available on lower trims, but standard on the EX and SX trims.
Get more safety information on the 2012 Kia Sportage here.
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