2012 Kia Sportage Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 13, 2010

Like this Review

2012 Kia Sportage Buying Advice

The 2012 Kia Sportage is the best compact crossover for you’re shopping for your first SUV and want one that’s flashy, affordable, and fast.

The 2012 Kia Sportage represents the sophomore season of an all-new Sportage design that bowed in model-year 2011. This will also be the first full model year for the turbocharged Kia Sportage SX. To the 2012 Sportage’s aggressive styling, good handling, and competitive pricing, the SX adds 270-plus horsepower to put you at the wheel of one of the quickest ride in the class.

Should you wait for the 2012 Kia Sportage or buy a 2011 Kia Sportage? Little point in waiting, really. The Sportage SX was set to join the model-year 2011 roster in February 2011. And the 2012 Sportage lineup isn’t likely to change in any way worth waiting for. The exception might be addition of a super-fuel-miser model, but that’s mere speculation and wouldn’t quite be high on the check list of the optimistic urban males Kia says are Sportage’s target audience. The automaker pictures these buyers settling into careers and ready for a vehicle “to help them navigate new roads ahead.” Kia tabs this life stage “Adulthood 2.0,” and it asserts the Sportage is that vehicle.

2012 Kia Sportage Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Kia Sportage styling won’t change. It’ll keep a beltline that’s fashionably high, a roofline modishly low, and a grille and headlamps that form a scowling expression. It’s a look Kia admits appeals to men more than to women. We find the chiseled lines more appealing than the roiling-surf styling of Sportage’s underskin twin, the Hyundai Tucson from Kia’s parent company. The 2012 Sportage will retain a relatively generous 103.9-inch wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) so it’ll easily accommodate four adults, five if the rear seaters get cozy. Sportage’s overall length, however, is among the shortest in the class. That helps create an athletic stance and aids close-quarters maneuverability but reduces cargo volume to well below that of such competitors as the Honda CR-V. The core 2012 Sportage lineup will return with Base, LX, EX, and SX models. Visual differences run to such things as additional exterior brightwork and larger wheels as you ascend the lineup. And hard to ignore is the half-necklace of LED daytime running lights. They’ve been exclusive to the Sportage EX model so far. Kia had not revealed Sportage SX styling in time for this review, but the LED running lights would seem appropriate for that model, too. Sportage is a crossover because it blends SUV cues with car-type unibody construction. This is in contrast to the heavier-duty design of truck-type body-on-frame SUVs such as the Toyota 4Runner. 

Mechanical: The 2012 Kia Sportage will again be powered exclusively by four-cylinder engines and offer a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). Base, LX, and EX versions will return with a 2.4-liter rated at 172 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force behind acceleration, horsepower as the energy behind momentum.) Full specs on the Sportage SX weren’t released in time for this review, but it’ll use the same turbocharged 2.0-liter that’s rated at 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque in the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T. The 2012 Sportage Base model is intended as a price-leader and will likely remain limited to front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. All other 2012 Sportages will offer front- or all-wheel drive and come with a six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic’s floor shifter can be toggled to approximate manual shifting, and the SX could add steering-wheel paddles that perform the same function. In standard crossover fashion, front-drive Sportages place the bulk of the drivetrain over the tires that also propel the car for decent wet-weather grip. Sportage’s AWD system is also mostly crossover-typical. It normally operates in front-wheel drive but automatically shuffles power to the rear wheels in slippery conditions, then returns to front drive when traction is restored. Sportage isn’t designed for off-roading, but does give the driver a dashboard button that locks in a 50/50 front/rear power split for extra low-speed bite. And the system, which Kia dubs Dynamax AWD, also subtly aids dry-road handling by apportioning power front-to-rear to help reduce noseplow and fishtailing.       

Features: The 2012 Kia Sportage walks the Hyundai/Kia line by including as standard lots of features that cost extra on rivals. Thus, every 2012 Sportage will again come with alloy wheels, power windows, mirrors, and locks, illuminated glovebox, overhead console, and cruise control. A height-adjustable driver’s seat, a 60/40 split/folding rear seat, and three 12-volt outlets also will again be standard. These South Korean carmakers are leaders in providing popular infotainment connectivity as standard, too, so all 2012 Sportages will again be equipped with Bluetooth hands-free phone linking, satellite radio, and both a USB iPod interface and an audio auxiliary jack. All will come with steering-wheel buttons to control the Bluetooth, audio, and cruise systems. Also returning is an enhanced phone/audio connectivity system Kia calls UVO, for “Your Voice.” Co-developed with Microsoft, UVO allows easy music downloading, storage, and playback from a variety of digital sources. It also simplifies voice-command access to stored phone numbers. It does not include navigation functions or provide turn-by-turn directions. UVO probably will again be optional on the Sportage LX and standard on EX and likely on SX models. It hadn’t been available in tandem with the conventional voice-activated navigation system. That system, which includes a reverse camera and real-time traffic info, will likely return as an option for all but the 2012 Sportage Base model. Leather upholstery, keyless ignition, a dual-pane panoramic glass roof, and heated front seats will be back as 2012 Sportage options, depending on model.

2012 Kia Sportage Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Kia Sportage won’t be released until shortly before the vehicle goes on sale, but Kia will shoot for the same sort of numbers that positioned the 2011 Sportage as a compact SUV easy on the wallet.

This suggests a base-price range of roughly $19,000-$27,500. (Estimated base prices in this review do not include options but do include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Kia’s fee for the 2011 Sportage was $695.)

Estimated price for the 2012 Kia Sportage Base model is $19,000; Kia says it accounts for less than 10 percent of Sportage sales. Kia says the LX model is 70 percent of sales and the 2012 Sportage LX will again add to the Base model such standard features as automatic transmission, remote keyless entry, mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators, and rear privacy glass. Estimated base for the 2012 Sportage LX is $21,000 with front-wheel drive, $23,000 with AWD.

Expect the 2012 Sportage EX to start around $24,000 with front-drive, around $26,000 with AWD. It’ll again build on the LX with such standard features as automatic climate control, power driver’s seat with power lumbar, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that telescopes as well as tilts. The EX also comes with 18-inch wheels and tires versus standard 16s for the Base and LX models or optional 17s for the LX.

Kia had released little information on the performance-oriented Sportage SX model at the time of this review. It’s likely to feature some unique trim items inside and out, maybe extra-supportive front bucket seats, and perhaps special suspension tuning and tires. Estimated base price for the 2012 Sportage SX is $26,000 with front-wheel drive, $29,000 with all-wheel drive. 

Kia’s value proposition also includes the company’s generous warranty coverage of 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and roadside assistance and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain.

2012 Kia Sportage Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage estimates for 2012 models had not been released in time for this review, but 2012 Kia Sportage fuel-economy ratings should mirror those of the 2011 models.

That means a 2012 Sportage Base model with its mandatory manual transmission and front-wheel drive will be rated 21/29 mpg city/highway. Expect the 2012 Sportage LX and EX models to again be rated 22/31 mpg with front-wheel drive, 21/28 with AWD.

The Sportage SX’s extra turbo power could be expected to exact a small toll on fuel economy, so figure ratings of 21/30 mpg with front-drive, 20/27 with AWD.  If Kia does match Hyundai’s special fuel-saver Tucson “Blue” edition with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas sipper of its own expect ratings around 25/33 mpg city/highway.

2012 Kia Sportage Release Date back to top

The 2012 Kia Sportage should be in showrooms by mid 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Kia Sportage back to top

Barring possible addition of a high-fuel-economy model, the Kia Sportage won’t be altered significantly for several years. New colors and perhaps adjustments to interior trim are likely running changes. While Hyundai is apt to add a gas-electric hybrid model to its Tucson lineup, a Sportage Hybrid doesn’t fit Kia’s brand image at this point.

2012 Kia Sportage Competition back to top

Ford Escape: Credit high-volume purchases by fleet buyers such as rental agencies and taxi outfits. Recognize handsome styling, attractive options, and aggressive pricing. Whatever the reasons, Escape climbed to the top of the compact-crossover SUV sales charts in 2010. Such popularity finally will be fully justified for model-year 2012 when Ford replaces the creaky model-year 2000-vintage Escape with an all-new version bred in Europe and promising advanced styling and great road manners. Ford’s expected to also maintain class leadership for tech-gizmo and infotainment features, as well. So the redesigned 2012 Escape shapes up as a world-class crossover and a formidable force in this class. No excuses needed.

Honda CR-V: The all-new 2012 Escape won’t be the only redesigned compact crossover making headlines. Sportage and every other SUV in this class will find itself competing with a brand new CR-V. Honda hopes to retake the No. 1 compact-crossover sales spot with a fully re-engineered CR-V that promises greater refinement, more features, and higher fuel economy. Brand loyalty and pent-up demand from patient owners of older CR-Vs will fuel demand. But this fourth-generation CR-V also will need livelier styling and better performance if it’s to really make a mark in this rapidly expanding and highly competitive segment.

Subaru Forester: The sensible shoes of compact crossovers, this four-cylinder five-seater is actually capable of some pretty fancy footwork. Credit its relatively low center of gravity with providing class-topping handling, its sophisticated standard AWD system with delivering great traction, and Subaru’s brilliant packaging with furnishing more passenger space and nearly as much cargo room as most any direct competitor. Stick with the base-engine Foresters to stay in the heart of Sportage’s price range and look to turbo versions in the high $20,000s as Sportage SX alternatives.

2012 Kia Sportage Next Steps