The first-generation of Kia Sportage, introduced to North American buyers in 1993, had a less than wonderful reputation. Despite featuring body-on-frame construction, with significant engineering input from Mazda, its various shortcomings almost finished this manufacturer's foray into SUV territory before it really got started.
After dropping it from its lineup altogether for a couple of years, the South Korean company persevered, however, reintroducing the Sportage in 2005. This version shared many components with the Hyundai Tucson and was based on that company's Elantra platform.
In 2009, it got another overhaul, which included a minor facelift and the addition of a new trim level: the LX with automatic transmission. For a base price of less than $22,000, you got a reasonably well-turned-out vehicle, with most of the bases covered.
Standard equipment included a manual five-speed transmission, power windows/door locks, cruise control, tilt steering, power side mirrors and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. A four-speed automatic transmission was optional.
There were two engine choices: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that developed 140 horsepower and a 173-hp V-6. You could also choose from front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive. Other extras included air conditioning, Sirius satellite radio, a power sunroof, leather interior, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, heated outside mirrors and roof rails.
The V-6 model was mated to the four-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manual shift feature only, and had either front-drive or full-time all-wheel-drive. With a front-wheel-drive bias, the AWD system sent power to the back wheels via an electronic differential.
All things considered, the V-6 powerplant was the better drivetrain of the two, as the four-cylinder model could be a little underpowered and a tad on the buzzy side, especially on the highway. That said, the four-banger delivered considerably better fuel economy: 10.3 litres/100 km in town versus 11.3.
This iteration of the Sportage sat five adults in relative comfort, and if you folded down the 60-40 back seat, you got a reasonably flat floor with 1,886 litres of storage room. One nice touch here: the headrests stayed put when you lowered the back seats, and the bottom cushion slid ahead automatically to accommodate the folded seat-back. By way of comparison, Kia's own Rondo proffered 2,083 litres of storage area, while the Honda CR-V was good for 2,064 litres and the Toyota RAV4 2,074 litres. In terms of overall storage capacity, the '09 Sportage was almost in a dead heat with Mazda's Tribute.
There are no safety recalls on file for this year of the Sportage, either with Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA, however, does show five technical service bulletins. Most of these are in the form of technical updates for service personnel: labelling issues, for example, but one advisory for possibly insufficient anticorrosion treatment for the rear floor panels is worth noting. Dealers will correct this no charge.
The 2009 Sportage does well in crash test results. According to NHTSA, it rates a full five stars for both front- and side-impact crashes, but slightly less in rollover protection. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is not as positive, rating it "acceptable" in an offset crash situation.
Consumer Reports likes this generation of the Sportage – sort of. While the 2007 model (which isn't that much different) gets its highest rating, the 2009 edition doesn't score as high. Still, it does well in most categories. Exceptions here include the climate control system, brakes and exterior paint and trim.
Despite the fact that the '09 version gets an "average" used-car prediction, CR gives this generation of the Sportage its "good bet" designation and rates it highly for reliability. Some comments from owners: "Handles winding mountain roads with confidence," "Towing ability not good for a six-cylinder" and "Poor gas mileage." It should be noted that the 2010 version of the Sportage was essentially identical to the '09, with few changes.
Prices for this vintage of the Sportage range from the mid-teen to high teens. The addition of AWD, for example, adds about $1,000 to the price tag, and the V-6 model is fetching some $2,000 more than the four-cylinder, depending upon options and equipment level.
2009 Kia Sportage
Original Base Price: $21,695; Black Book: $14,250-$17,225
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder/2.7-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 140 hp/136 lb-ft for four; 173 hp/178 lb-ft for six .
Transmission: Five-speed manual/four -speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.3 city/7.8 highway (four-cylinder with and 2WD); regular gas
Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mazda Tribute, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson