The Kia Sportage was into its third overhaul in 2012, including a major facelift and a larger four-cylinder engine.
The first generation of Sportage, introduced to North America in 1993, had a less than stellar reputation. Despite featuring body-on-frame construction, with significant engineering input from Mazda, its various shortcomings almost finished Kia’s foray into SUV territory before it really got started.
But after dropping it from its lineup for a couple of years, the Korean company persevered and hit the ground running in 2011-2012.
For a base price of just under $22,000 in 2012, you got a reasonably well-turned-out vehicle, with most of the bases covered. Standard equipment includes a manual six-speed transmission, power windows/door locks, cruise control, tilt steering, power side mirrors and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional.
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The base engine is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder that developed 176 horsepower. You can also choose from front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Other extras include air conditioning, Sirius satellite radio, a power sunroof, leather interior, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, heated outside mirrors and roof rails.
With a front-wheel-drive bias, the all-wheel system sends power to the back wheels via an electronic differential. All things considered, this four-cylinder engine can be a little underpowered and a tad on the buzzy side – especially on the highway. That said, it delivers considerably better fuel economy than its predecessors.
This iteration of the Sportage sits five adults in relative comfort, and if you fold down the 60-40 back seat, you get a reasonably flat floor with 1,546 litres of storage room. One nice touch here: the headrests stay put when you lower the back seats, and the bottom cushion slides ahead automatically to accommodate the folded seat-back.
By comparison, Kia’s Rondo of this vintage offers 2,083 litres of storage area, while the Honda CR-V is good for 2,064 litres and the Toyota RAV4 has 2,074 litres. And in terms of overall storage capacity, the ’12 Sportage is almost in a dead heat with the Mazda Tribute.
There are a few recalls on file for this year of the Sportage from Transport Canada and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. These seem to be mainly regarding the engine: premature bearing wear, cooling issues, fuel leaks, oil leaks and even a potential engine fire are among the problems reported.
The 2012 Sportage does quite well in crash test results. According to NHTSA, it rates five stars for front and side-impact crashes but slightly less for rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the States isn’t quite as positive, rating it “acceptable” in an offset crash situation.
Consumer Reports is lukewarm about this generation of the Sportage. Still, it rates it reasonably well in most categories. Exceptions include the climate control system, brakes, engine reliability, and exterior paint and trim.
Despite the fact that the ’12 version gets an “average” used car prediction, CR gives this generation of the Sportage its “good bet” designation and rates it about average for reliability.
Some comments to CR from owners:
- “my wife loves it”;
- “poor gas mileage compared to engine size”;
- “the ride is not nearly as smooth as our Outback.”
It should be noted that the 2012 version of the Sportage was essentially identical to the ’11.
Prices for this vintage of the Sportage range from the low-teens to just under $20,000 for a fully-loaded LX. The addition of all-wheel drive adds $500 to $1,000 to the price.
2012 Kia Sportage
Original base price: $21,995
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 176 at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 168 foot pounds at 4,000 rpm|
Transmission: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.4 city and 6.4 highway, with regular gas
Some alternatives: Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-7, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mitsubishi RVR
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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