Pre-Owned: 2011-2015 Kia Sportage
Brand-new Kia vehicles are making a greater impact on the automotive landscape than ever before. That success has also endowed pre-owned Kia models with an aura of desirability. The ’15 Sportage compact crossover was even named 2017’s fastest-selling used vehicle in Britain. The same thing happened the previous year with the ’14 model.
The Sportage is similarly popular on this side of the Atlantic, and the version that really cemented it as a serious contender against rivals like the Toyota RAV4 is this one, the third-generation. It’s the model that came with the current Kia corporate grille, styled under the direction of Chief Designer Peter Schreyer, who will always be famous as the guy who created the original Audi TT.
It isn’t just looks that brought a new credibility to the Sportage name—there’s plenty of cake underneath that icing. An all-new body used more high-strength steel than its predecessor, improving noise, vibration, and harshness and providing extra protection in the event of an accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave this generation its “Top Safety Pick” accolade.
Introduced in base, LX, and EX trim levels, standard equipment included 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, power accessories, Bluetooth, and even satellite radio. The LX added keyless entry, LED turn signals, power-folding side mirrors, and tinted glass; EX trim brought a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with both tilt and telescope adjustment), 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding rear seats, illuminated vanity mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, ionized filtration for the air conditioning, and roof rails. Among the options were navigation, panoramic sunroof, pushbutton start, rearview camera, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, and a ventilated driver seat.
The basic engine is a 2.4L I-4 making a respectable 176 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. With front-wheel drive, average fuel consumption is 25 mpg. Later in this debut year came the top SX trim with a turbocharged 2.0L engine with direct injection (GDI), which produced 260 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive versions are estimated to average 24 mpg. The SX also has an adjustable suspension for greater comfort and control.
A six-speed stick shift is the standard transmission, with a six-speed automatic as an option. Front-wheel drive is the default setup, while all-wheel drive is also available. It’s a pretty good system for a bread-and-butter compact crossover, allowing the driver to lock a 50:50 torque distribution between the front and rear axles should conditions become really slippery. This feature works up to 25 mph.
Towing capacity is 2,000 pounds with either engine, regardless of how many wheels are driven.
The ’12 model year brought some improvements in the suspension and more noise reduction measures. The 2.4L engine was upgraded in ’14 to develop 182 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, but fuel consumption worked out the same.
The Sportage has not been the subject of many gripes, although some have mentioned weak headlights. And this period of Kia construction can sometimes bring seat cushions that are slightly too short, so pay particular attention to this aspect on a test drive, making sure there’s enough under-thigh support. Bigger wheels have a detrimental effect on ride quality, but that’s the case with virtually every vehicle.
The few recalls involve faulty brake lights and incorrect tire pressures printed on a label. There have been some engine problems, mostly with the ’12 model year, but don’t let that be a deal-breaker. As well as an original 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles come with unlimited 24/7 roadside assistance for 10 years, which is a good indication of the confidence Kia has in its products.
Naturally, go for the youngest model the budget allows, think seriously about a CPO version, and have an impartial expert give any possibles a thorough going-over. But this is one of the easier vehicles to recommend, especially once the upgraded engine comes in for ’14.
Such an example—with front-wheel drive, automatic transmission, in EX trim, with around 60,000 miles and in good condition—is valued at $14,564 when bought from a private party. A comparable Hyundai Tucson SE (which shares a platform with the Sportage) is expected to fetch $12,597, while $14,025 should buy a ’14 Nissan Rogue SV.
2011-2016 Kia SportageBody type: 4-door crossover/SUV
Drivetrain: Front engine, FWD/AWD
Airbags: Driver, front passenger, front side, side curtain
Engines: 2.4/176hp DOHC inline-four (2011-2013); 2.4/182hp DOHC inline-four (2014-2016); 2.0/260hp DOHC turbocharged inline-four
Brakes, f/r: Disc, disc, ABS
Price range, whlsl/retail (KBB): $4,482/$8,442(2011, FWD, 2.4 base); $18,258/$22,978 (2016, AWD, 2.0 SX)
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/fr pass: Five stars/five stars