The 2021 Kia Sportage isn’t the most fuel-efficient compact crossover out there, but it scores high marks for style and sportiness. Sandwiched between the larger Sorento and smaller Seltos in the Kia showroom, the Sportage competes in a crowded segment that includes standouts such as the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V. This ute has a handsome interior and generous passenger space, even if its luggage capacity is subpar. While every Sportage is entertaining to drive and provides a refined ride, the top-of-the-line model comes with a seriously quick turbocharged engine. Buyers will also appreciate the Kia’s roster of standard driver assists and infotainment features.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, the only change to the Sportage lineup is the newly introduced Nightfall Edition and Nightfall Edition Premium options. Reserved for the S trim level, these appearance packages replace last year’s Sunroof and Premium packages and feature 18-inch wheels with black center caps and myriad other black exterior accents. They also bring a new Sportage badge that spans the rear liftgate.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While we love the speedy turbocharged model, it’s hard to justify its price given that the less powerful engine is still enjoyable to drive. Depending on what trim level you choose, the bottom line will increase by $1500–$1700 when you add all-wheel drive. We think the EX trim combines the best features at a reasonable price. Every Sportage includes dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, passive entry, and a power-operated liftgate. For those who want a more luxurious experience, we’d recommend adding the EX Technology package for its adaptive cruise control, leather surfaces, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, upgraded audio system, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, and more.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Compact crossovers don’t get much quicker than the turbocharged Sportage. The last front-drive Sportage SX Turbo we tested had surprisingly speedy acceleration and ranks among the quickest in this class. As for the base powertrain, a trusty six-speed automatic transmission and a sedate yet effective nonturbo four-cylinder will satisfy most buyers’ needs. There’s not a night-and-day difference in driving enjoyment between the engines, although the aggressive SX Turbo can turn mundane milk runs into rollicking rides. All Sportages have above-average handling characteristics.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
In its segment, the Sportage lives near the bottom of the fuel-sipping hierarchy, well below what the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V achieve. The nonturbo Sportage earns 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, according to the EPA. Those numbers drop by 2 and 5 mpg, respectively, when all-wheel drive is added. The turbo model has EPA estimates of 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, but those figures drop to 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with all-wheel drive. The front-drive SX Turbo we tested returned 27 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Some editors have compared this Kia’s interior to those of Audi products, which means that Kia is doing something right. The Sportage’s cabin is well executed and filled with a pleasing mix of quality materials and nifty, functional features. It’s a spacious enough environment for passengers but not cargo. The rear-seat accommodations will fit adults, but you might hear some complaining about the low placement of the seat cushion. Cargo space is limited for the class and storage room for smaller items is lacking, but its seats-down carry-on-luggage capacity and adjustable load floor make up for some of that.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every model is fitted with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The system is easy to use thanks to physical knobs and buttons, but its menus have small icons, and the design doesn’t look as sophisticated as the rest of the interior. Desirable options are wireless device charging and built-in navigation.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Sportage earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the mechanically identical 2020 model a Top Safety Pick. The Kia offers an assortment of standard driver-assistance technology as well as a couple of options. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia offers a significantly better warranty plan than its competitors, but rivals such as the Chevy Equinox and the Toyota RAV4 include complimentary scheduled maintenance whereas this ute doesn’t.
- Limited warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
More Features and Specs