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2005 Kia Sportage Review

2005 Kia Sportage Road Test Review

2005 Kia Sportage Road Test

You drive by. You realize you haven't seen him for simply ages and here he is - no longer a cute kid but looking grown up and capable. Maybe he went off to prep school.

And so it is with the Kia Sportage. Absent from the market for three years it is back with a new persona. And like the kid up the block, its act seems stitched together. But then that is increasingly typical of Korean vehicles - quality and reliability way up, design values stronger.

Kia is the Korean car company you can actually pronounce, the one with the clever ads. Nearly half of the company is now owned by Hyundai, which no American can pronounce though rhyming it with Sunday comes close enough.

Because of their financial union the two can now share hardware and ideas, probably more willingly than sisters who wear the same size can share clothes. But each, according to company officials, will maintain distinct identities and a full line of products.

An immediate outcome of the relationship is the new Sportage bearing a resemblance in size and layout to the Hyundai Tucson. But then the Sportage is better. Well, at least I like it better. It seems more spirited, more light-hearted, better looking (though neither is more than not-bad in that department) and it is just generally more appealing. But all of those traits are subjective. Check them with your own meters.

Objectively the new Sportage is a well-built five-place compact SUV offering an impressive array of standard features in even its base-base model. For its return to market it is now a car-based (unibody) instead of a truck based (body-on-frame), which means it is more a street and highway vehicle than an off-road mountain goat. (There's no low-low gear either.)

The word "crossover" is sometimes used to describe such car-based SUVs intended to shine more in bad weather and on bad roads than in the backcountry. And why not? Fewer than 5% to 15% of SUV owners ever actually take their SUVs off-roading.

This Sportage is no longer the cute-ute it once was. (Prep school does that.) But it is more useful in its young-adult size with handy folding seats (even the passenger seat flops forward) and tucking places that not only allow you to tote a lot of stuff but to do the task in an organized manner.

2005 Kia Sportage Interior

And two things about those back seats (with their 60/40 split and their ample leg room): when folded flat they lock in place. And when upright they don't have to be upright. That's right, the backs recline up to 18%. Stop by the club, James.

The Sportage comes in two trim levels called LX and EX, but some optional mixing makes for close customization. And every Sportage at any level comes out of the factory with the following included: side-impact air bags; side-curtain airbags; traction control; stability control; four-wheel ABS (anti-lock brakes) with electronic distribution of the braking force on four-wheel disc brakes; cruise control; privacy glass; roof rack; 16-inch alloy wheels. Notice I did not say air-conditioning. No A/C? Whattha? …Just hold your horses.

Kia offers an LX model for $16,490, thousands less than the starting price of its perceived competitors (Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Honda CR-V). A $16,490 Sportage comes with the splendid equipment listed above and a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission. But no A/C.

Think of this as the northern-tier-of-states model. Lots of people in cooler climes survive quite well without A/C. And some don't want the extra weight and bother. Anyway, relax. If you want A/C in the LX you can have A/C for $800 extra. (A/C is standard in the EX). And you can opt for four-wheel drive, and an automatic instead of the five-speed manual. But there is no automatic with 4WD in the 4-cylinder LX. You'll have to shift for yourself, which is just the way some buyers want it. They are beaming at this Sportage LX manual with 4WD...and optional A/C.

If the 16-valve four-banger with its 140 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque is not strong enough for you, even with the manual to customize the power curve to your needs, then choose the EX and its V6. (An engine not offered in the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-X doesn't offer. The Jeep Liberty does with a segment-leading 210).

The engine in the Sportage EX is an all-aluminum, 2.7-liter V6 making 173 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Dual exhausts at the back announce its presence. The V6 is teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission. No manual is available with the V6 but thankfully there is a manual element in the automatic. These days, four-speed automatics simply seem deficient. The "manumatic" helps mask any shortcoming.

2005 Kia Sportage Standard Features

The EX has more standard features including a power sun roof, heated exterior mirrors, remote keyless entry, security cover for the cargo area and a illuminated circle around the ignition switch. A Luxury package adds leather seating, heated front seats, automatic headlight control, upgraded audio system and a Homelink transmitter that can open your garage door and turn your house lights on from the car. Oh, yes body-colored bumpers, a step up esthetically. And, get this, we are still around $24,000.

The 4WD system in the Sportage leaves it a primarily front-wheel drive vehicle until those leading wheels lose traction then the rear wheels offer their support. At crawling speeds, (under 20 mph) a 50/50 power split can be locked in by pushing a button on the dash. This can bring some really slippery surfaces to heel. Overnight snow? The Sportage ground clearance of 7.7 inches helps keep you well elevated even if the plow is late.

Another car-like feature in the 2005 Sportage is all around independent suspension. This is another certainty that the 2005 Sportage is skewed toward maximizing the road experience. The proof is in the pudding.

The 2005 Sportage I drove, a 4WD V6, is far more car-like than the cute-ute of old. Any roll in the tight and twisties is like that of a car, not a truck. It feels lower to the ground than it is and actually has a sporty flair. It feels secure and responsive. It is in short fun to wheel about.

The vehicle's utility is good. Access to the cargo area is a hatchback hinged at the top. The back window flips up separately to access on-top items. The spare tire is now indoors under the cargo floor.

The seats are remarkably easy to fold totally flat. The folded down back on the front passenger seat is at a slightly different level but it still affords uninterrupted space for something big and long from dashboard to rounded hatchback. A kayak perhaps, but certainly any household stepladder. Golly a third-grader superglued to stilts is even an possibility, if it comes to that.

The 2005 Kia Sportage has replaced added utility and increased value for cute. Kia's strength has always been in lower prices. Now that can be read as greater value for the money. This belongs on your look-at list.

For More Information Click: Kia Sportage
For the Kia 2005 Model Guide : Click Here