When the deliveryman dropped off the 2018 Kia Sportage EX, I did a double-take. The compact SUV looked like my previous Ride Me test subject, which the same driver was taking back to his workplace, only smaller.
Each even had similar shades of red paint jobs. Kia calls its “Hyper Red,” which I believe was Ricky’s nickname for Lucy.
Sliding across the leather-trimmed seat and grabbing the leather-wrapped steering wheel–each matching the rest of the black interior–I noticed the dashboard’s instrument layout and 7-inch touchscreen also resembled the previous SUV from another automaker, only the Kia’s version was slightly smaller, like a younger sibling.
A closer comparison revealed the Kia gets better gas mileage, produces less smog and, based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of each SUV, costs $9,000 less.
That gives an idea of what type of buyers would be attracted to the Kia: a value-minded family or lone driver who needs extra seating or cargo spaces. (There are 60/40 split folding and reclining rear seats.)
Despite the compact size, new owners will not be disappointed. My week with the Sportage was mostly spent driving back and forth to Newport Center for a different writing assignment, and I found the front-wheel drive SUV a pleasure to drive, roomy behind the wheel, comfortable on my backside, easy to park and plenty powerful.
For that kind of driving (a.k.a. normal commuting), I found the 2.4-liter, Gas Direct Injection (GDI), four-cylinder engine was no dog. The Sportage EX has six-speed automatic transmission, and there are adjustable driving modes (eco, sport, normal).
Best of all, over that week, I never had to pull into a filling station because of the aforementioned gas mileage. Which reminds me: The government’s fuel economy ratings show my test vehicle gets 22 miles to gallon in the city and 29 on the highway for a combined 25 mpg, with annual gasoline costs pegged at $1,450.
The Kia gets 5s on government 1-10 ratings (with 10 being best) for smog and fuel economy & greenhouse gas. Government 5-Star Safety Ratings were not yet available on this particular Sportage.
The compact SUV did not have all the bells and whistles one reaches for after test driving a wide variety of rides in all price classes. I am thinking here specifically of a button to push on the cargo door frame so it automatically closes, like the bigger SUV I had just given up had.
Is someone spoiled or what?
A couple things about that:
- If I am actually buying a new car, as opposed to getting one gratis for a week, I’m the type of person who would ditch conveniences you pay extra for in favor of a lower MSRP. In fact, car salesman have a name for people like me: tightwad.
- Speaking of the cargo door, look at all the storage space in the photo above. Impressive, no? And that’s with the back seats up!
Indeed, I would gladly take the money I would save from an automatic cargo door closer to help pay for the $1,700 EX Premium Package, not so much for the LED interior lighting, heated steering wheel and auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, which can be used to program your garage door opener. Sure, those options are swell, but what really makes the package worth it is the panoramic sunroof with power sunshade.
Just after the sun went down early one evening atop the parking structure next to Fashion Island, I was so taken by the cool looking sky visible through the sunroof, I snapped photos of the glass ceiling for this review. Unfortunately, it made for a boring image so I did not post it here. I should have driven around until I found the moon or stars or a UFO to spice it up. Trust me, it was a stunning view in person.
Truth be told, the 2018 Kia Sportage EX does include as standard features many bells and whistles. Wouldn’t it be great if those bells and whistles were actual bells and whistles? Flying down the highway, windows rolled up, music cranked to 11, clanging bells and blowing whistles. A pox on everyone who just said, “Oh, he blows alright.”
Among the standout standard features are: steering wheel controls; leather-wrapped shift knob; USB and auxiliary input jacks; push-button start with smart key; power windows/door locks extending to the outside mirrors; the dual-zone automatic climate control coming with an automatic defogger; and heated front seats and power adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support.
Also standard is the AM/FM/MP3/satellite-radio player (with the first three months of SiriusXM covered) and a camera to display the rear view on the 7-inch touchscreen, which also accesses controls for the subscription-free UVO eServices infotainment system that accommodates hands-free navigation, smartphone calls, vehicle diagnostics and music streaming.
The rear-view camera can also be considered an included safety feature, as can: anti-lock braking; blind-spot detection; rear cross traffic alert; dual front advanced airbags; front seat mounted side airbags; tire pressure monitoring system; and traction, electronic stability and downhill brake/hill-start assist controls.
Standard exterior features include: roof rails; fog lights; 18-inch alloy wheels; automatic on/off projection headlights; privacy and solar glass; and power-folding heated mirrors with LED turn signals.
Kia provides a 10-year/100,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited powertrain warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty with five years or 60,000 miles of roadside assistance.
If you don’t include the aforementioned EX Premium Package, the base MSRP for the 2018 Sportage EX FWD is $26,300.
With the $1,700 options package, a $95 cargo mat, $135 carpeted floors and a $150 cargo cover, the MSRP rises to $28,380.
My test ride had those and an $895 inland freight and handling charge for a total MSRP of $29,275–making this the rare Ride Me vehicle that does not come in in the $34,000s.
I’d say that makes it a solid value, because none I can recall in the $34,000s was that much better overall.
So go out and paint the town Hyper Red!
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.