2006 Kia Sportage 4x4
The Good :)
Versatile and affordable. Solid ride and automatic four-wheel drive.
Stability control and six airbags standard.
The Bad :(
Engine and transmission needs to be more responsive and powerful. Lacks fun
feeling. Front end needs to be restyled. 0-60 in 12.45 seconds.
Apple QuickTime viewer here.
Watch the Kia exterior, interior, and driving style.
Right click and 'save link target as' to Download a full version of this review for iTunes
The Kia and Hyundai partnership has
translated into a major upgrade for Kia Motors and the result is better
designed and built vehicles, inside and out. Hyundai has improved upon the
old Sportage by offering Kia the guts of a Tucson, changing from the old
truck like system to a more car like underbody. Using the Elantra sedan
foundation to construct the Sportage, the idea was to build a vehicle more
like a car than a SUV.
The Sportage is available in either a LX or
EX trim. Both levels can be ordered with 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive and
the LX trim can be ordered with a four cylinder or a six cylinder engine.
The EX trim is only available with a six cylinder engine. Our model tested
here is the LX with the V6 engine.
The exterior of
the Kia Sportage leave us with something to be desired. In a standard SUV
package the Sportage looks a bit wimpy with lights and a grill that imitates
a Honda CRV. Body cladding is long outdated with clean flowing designs
leading the way. From the front end you notice the large single beam
headlamps that are just oddly shaped. A fog lamp system does give it more
off road SUV looks but the bumper it is placed in is a flawed design. The
two-tone paint scheme used on our Sportage was a nice touch however it
should have been carried through to the rearview mirrors and door handles as
well which are black plastic.
The rear end of
the Kia Sportage is styled quite differently offering a more sporty and
stylish appearance. It seems as if two different persons designed this
vehicle. The rear bumper is smooth showcasing a built in dual outlet
exhaust with square chrome tips. The recessed glass borrows from a look we
have seen in the Volvo XC90. A large KIA logo on the back takes the fizzle
away. The Sportage has the height to conquer off road challenges. Also
stylish are the wheel designs, at least you are not getting wheel covers. A
simple yet stylish roof rack completes the off road look. The long
103.5-inch wheelbase, overall width (70.9 in.) and modest overhangs push the
Sportage's wheels toward the corners for improved stability.
The interior is where you will be impressed
at the level of quality from a Kia. There are huge improvements in style,
fit and finish. We immediately liked the overall flow from right to left.
Dashboard materials and upper door panels are made to look like leather and
are similar to that found on German makes. There is a nice leather wrapped
steering wheel and shift knob, a very important part of driving. Aluminum
like trim is found on the center stack, gear shift gate and grab handle on
the passenger side. What is amazing is that while the trim on the grab
handle is real, the console and dash trim is not, but looks darn good. The
only way to tell is by seeing what warms up in the sun.
Seats are not just one material either: a
soft checkered fabric is in the center portions and vinyl is on the side
portions. We liked that attention was paid to putting rubbery leather like
material on the front center armrest, which raises by the way to better
accommodate you, as well as on the door arm rests. Roof material is still a
fuzzy fabric when most vehicles use a checkered cloth that adds more depth
A simple instrument cluster does the job
well and offers a dual trip distance calculator. We would like to see a
real trip computer that computes gas mileage. The stereo is useful with a
cassette deck built in, which is often forgotten, but lacking is a simple
auxiliary input for an Ipod device. The CD player can also play MP3 files
so you can make your own CDs and play them in the car. Speaker quality is
good and you should not need to change this system unless you are an
The climate control system is a manually operated one with three dials to control fan speed, temperature, and air direction. All knobs feel solid with rubbery grips on each dial. The air direction dial is a electronic system so you do not have the feeling of actually turning a vent inside the dash when you turn the knob. Air filtration is standard on all models.
Ample storage is available in
the floor console up front however we thought it was a bit too deep giving
it a retro feeling. It just felt like driving a car from 1980 rather than a
modern sleek automobile of 2006. All storage spaces have rubbery non-slip
floors and the armrest storage is lined in velvet. Doors have larger bottle
holders up front and plenty of space to throw your belongings. Only the
driver's window is automatic for up and down functions and it would be nice
to have all four windows with an automatic feature.
Both front seats are manually controlled.
We did not like the dial used to adjust seat height and angle on the
driver's side, it was quite difficult to turn. The front passenger seat
back can fold down flat to make room for long items and form an ottoman for
someone who wants to be driven rather than drive. Kia calls it a table.
The rear seats are 60/40 folding and also recline for a more comfortable
angle. Seats easily drop down without removing the headrests and the bottom
cushion moves forward and down into the rear foot well area automatically,
allowing the seat backrest to be folded completely flat and onto the same
level as the trunk floor.
The fabric used throughout is
better than most for keeping off pet hair. We would rather have a
leatherette material or real leather which cannot be that expensive in Korea
and China. The design of the doors in back is nice with a downward angle to
better fit your arm however a grab handle is lacking which would enable you
to hold onto the Sportage when driving quickly.
Unique in the rear trunk is a under floor
storage space that is nicely segmented. With a clean appearance and mostly
hard plastic lining the sides, cleaning is made faster. A cover stretches
in two ways and is placed in the middle of the rear cargo area so that the
rear seats can recline while you keep your cargo private. The rear glass
also opens separately for carrying longer items as well. All this makes the
Kia a versatile vehicle.
The 2.7 liter V6 engine on our Sportage
makes 173 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque, both low numbers for a V6.
A full time electronic control on demand four-wheel drive system sends power
to the wheels. A simple lock button on the dash enables you to lock the
system in four-wheel drive mode. A four speed automatic transmission is
adequate and smooth shifting though a five speed should be standard. A four
cylinder engine making 140 horsepower and 136 lb.-ft. of torque is also
available but we would not recommend, as it's hard enough moving the
Sportage quickly for passing with the V6 engine.
An all-steel unibody with independent front
and rear suspension keeps the vehicle moving along smoothly, even on rough
roads. Use of stabilizer bars in front and back keeps body lean to a
minimum and at levels you would expect for a SUV. The steering is sharp and
gives the driver good feedback while driving.
Behind the wheel the Sportage feels like a
small SUV. The seats are small and not made for larger adults. The
Sportage feels narrow and passengers get the sense of a confined space.
Driving at night we found the headlights to be very good, in low beam with
fog lamps and while using the high beams, they impressed us a great deal.
The delivery of power to the wheels is not
as quick and smooth as we would like. The Sportage feels sluggish when the
pedal is pushed to the metal. The engine just was not free flowing as we
have found in other low horsepower engines made in Germany. The engine when
asked to wake up, just drops out of bed. We found the manual shifting mode
to be useless in keeping the vehicle in the gear we wanted it to stay in.
At full acceleration the vehicle shifted from 1st to 2nd
and quickly by itself to 3rd, and did not stay in 2nd
up to redline. This resulted in some very poor 0-60 mph times.
The four-wheel drive system detects when
front wheels loose grip and send up to 50 % of the power to the rear
wheels. It operates without any need to push a button or do something
else. Only a button to lock the system at low speeds is available, and when
you reach 20 mph the system changes to front wheel mode by itself.
What is best about the Sportage is that
electronic stability control is standard. A feature that needs to be
standard on all cars has finally made it here in a low priced vehicle. This
will truly help you while you are driving in everyday situations and is a
feature you cannot live without. Also standard is ABS braking and traction
control to avoid wheel spin at takeoff. A tire pressure monitor is standard
in the EX trim levels.
To help protect
you in the event of a collision, all Sportage models offer standard six
airbags: front and rear side curtain airbags, front seat mounted side
airbags and dual advanced driver and passenger front airbags.
A great warranty of 10 years and 100,000
miles on the powertrain with 5-years and 60,000 miles on everything else is
what you get when you buy a Kia. Roadside assistance is offered for
5-years. A 1-year tire and road hazard protection warranty is offered,
something no one else does. This is one of the best warranties available in
The base price of our Sportage is $21,045.
Added to this are optional items such as the Sport Package for $900 which
offers a black mesh grille, exterior cladding and flairs in the bumper
color, special instrument gauge faces, a AM/FM/Cassette/CD/MP3 player,
aluminum trim on the dash handle, keyless entry and alarm, fog lamps, a
leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and a cargo cover. This is
something you cannot live without. Carpeted floor mats are $85. A rear
spoiler black and unpainted is also included. This brings our total to
$22,030 and with $595 of freight charges the grand total is $22,625. Most
buyers will likely pay much less with incentives and dealers selling close
to invoice price. The US/Canadian part content is 2% with Korea supplying
92% of parts. The final assembly point is Korea with engine and
transmission also coming from Korea. EPA fuel economy is rated at 19 city
and 23 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Kia Sportage is a SUV in a competitive
market with a good amount of choice offered and new small SUV's being
introduced recently. More improvements in style are needed as buyers are
young and hip seeking a elegant and stylish vehicle to dive. While the
drive is fine for city commuting, the Sportage is not a long range cruiser.
Even though young buyers will be seeking out the Sportage most of the time,
we think they deserve more style and a better driving experience for their