Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Review: Kia Sportage, 2011-2015


Kia Sportage

Vehicle Type


Owners commonly praise a smooth ride, refined powertrains, heaps of power with the turbocharged engine, and the Sportage’s upscale looks.


Selection and value culminate in the latest generation Kia Sportage, which launched for model-year 2011 on our shores with two or four-wheel drive, four-cylinder power, and numerous grade levels and option packages to suit a variety of needs and tastes.

A compelling blend of reasonable pricing and generous feature content attracted many shoppers to Kia showrooms for a test drive, with good all-around dynamics, a confident driving position and plenty of flexibility helping to seal the deal.

Depending on the year and model selected, feature content included climate controlled seats, Bluetooth, and a full suite of power accessories. A back-up camera system, Kia’s award-winning voice-activated UVO infotainment system with advanced multimedia compatibility, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, HID lighting, a heated steering wheel, push-button start and an Infinity audio system could also be specified.

Look for folding rear seats, a generous cargo area, and plenty of at-hand storage to round out the package. Cross-shopping test drives in the used market should include the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Dodge Journey and Mazda CX-5.


At launch, Sportage offered Kia’s new 2.4L four-cylinder engine, direct injected for 172 hp. From 2012, a 2.0L four with turbocharger and direct injection was offered, packing 260 hp. Most used models will offer a six-speed automatic transmission, though a six-speed manual was available with basic, front-drive units.

Notably, Sportage’s Dynamax AWD system was co-developed by Kia Motors Corporation and Magna International, was advanced and fast-acting and even engaged four-wheel traction pre-emptively when the vehicle came to rest, and sent plenty of power to the rear axle when needed, quickly. The system also allowed drivers to dial in a ‘lock’ mode below about 40 km/h, dialing up traction ahead of use in extra slippery situations.

Trim grade nomenclature saw Sportage, Sportage LX, Sportage EX and Sportage SX filling the model range from basic to loaded, with the turbocharged engine available solely on top-grade models.

Note that newer used Sportage models will be covered by Kia’s five year or 100,000 kilometer powertrain warranty.

What Owners Like

Owners commonly praise a smooth ride, refined powertrains, heaps of power with the turbocharged engine, and the Sportage’s upscale looks. The powerful up-level stereo and media inputs are highly appreciated, as are the Sportage’s largely car-like handling and maneuverability characteristics. Many owners report that the Sportage feels safe and secure in inclement weather, too.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners complain of disappointing fuel economy from the Sportage Turbo, cheap interior plastics and trim, and higher-than-expected levels of road noise at speed.

Here’s a look some owner reviews.

The Test Drive

Start a used Sportage test drive with a check of the paint finish outside of the vehicle, as some owners have reported disappointing durability from the paint-job on their vehicles. Check the condition of the Sportage’s seats, carpeting, and the body and paint around door openings and the cargo hold. Call any excessive wear and tear you notice into pricing negotiations.

As the Sportage you’re considering has likely appealed to you with a generous list of fancy features, confirm that they all function properly. Navigation, chilled seats, the heated steering wheel, Bluetooth, the panoramic sunroof, and all steering-wheel mounted controls should all be run through their paces.

Note that a rattle or squeak coming from the front doors could be caused by an improperly lubricated weather seal. Without lubrication, small window movements are transferred through the weather seal to the door structure, causing parts to contact and rattle. Fixing this rattle is as simple as applying a little spray of silicone lubricant on the door seals from time to time.

Here’s a discussion about the importance of keeping the Sportage’s electrical system happy. Battery crud buildup, lose connections to battery terminals or corrosion on grounding points can cause a world of issues, including difficulty or failure to start the engine, sporadic alarm activation, and an assortment of niggling and frustrating electronics issues. Solution? Pay extra attention to your Sportage’s battery and terminals, keeping them clean and lubricated, and ask a mechanic to inspect and lubricate any electrical grounds he can find from time to time.

Though relatively unlikely, be sure to check the Sportage’s rear spoiler for signs of separation from the vehicle body, or for signs of cracking or splitting. The culprit could be cold temperatures, or use of a high-pressure car wash with spinning brushes.

Pay attention to the transmission on a test drive, noting that some owners have reported issues relating to hard shifting, failure to respond with a downshift, or random clunking from beneath the vehicle during shifts. Though somewhat inconclusive, these issues may be software and sensor-related in nature, possibly caused by a bad vehicle speed sensor, or a bad temperature or pressure sensor within the transmission. Some owners have had success with having new software installed to the transmission control computer, or having that computer reset.
Some more reading here.

Note that if you purchase a Sportage near the end of its powertrain warranty, be sure to have a dealer document any warranty-qualifying issues like these as they come up, which could make future warranty claims easier, if required.

Speaking of warranty, here’s a discussion on performance chips, commonly used by owners of turbocharged vehicles to turn up the boost for added performance and horsepower. Note that use of a device like this on a model like the Sportage Turbo can void your vehicle’s warranty, blow its engine, or adversely affect reliability of other driveline components, so most used-car shoppers should avoid a used Sportage Turbo that’s had its engine and turbocharger management parameters modified.

Finally, check the Sportage Turbo for unwanted rattling or jingling noises from under the hood when starting the engine cold. Noises like these could be coming from the turbocharger wastegate, and are typically fixed with a slight adjustment to a retaining bolt, and / or a software update.

Other checks should include the cruise control system, both headlights (especially if equipped with HID lights, which are pricier to replace when burned out), and a good listen for clunks, pops and rapping sounds from beneath the Sportage’s floor, which typically indicate a suspension-related issue.

The Verdict

Generous flexibility and equipment levels, lengthy warranty coverage and decent used vehicle pricing make the Kia Sportage a compelling used crossover buy. Common issues should be easy to identify, while newer units with lower mileage will benefit from plenty of remaining warranty. A quick pre-purchase check-over by a Kia mechanic should provide sufficient peace of mind ahead of your purchase.

A few recalls.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2013)
NHTSA: 4/5 Stars (Front Wheel Drive), 5/5 stars (All Wheel Drive)