2021 Kia Sportage

Updated: November 11, 2020

2021 Kia Sportage

The 2021 Kia Sportage is a handsome front-wheel-drive compact crossover SUV with clean lines and a sharp interior. It seats five passengers but is only comfortable for four, and has more than 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row.

The base engine is a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 181 horsepower and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, with front- or all-wheel drive. The powertrain isn’t quick, but it’s ample for the Sportage’s runabout duties.

The SX Turbo model aims for something more than that. It’s powered by a much more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 240 horsepower; it’s faster but naturally more thirsty. All-wheel drive is optional on that version, too.

The EPA rates the 2021 Sportage at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined with front-wheel drive, or just 22/26/23 mpg with all-wheel drive.

The more powerful 2021 Sportage SX gets 20/28/23 mpg with front-drive or 19/24/21 mpg with all-wheel drive.

In safety, the NHTSA gives the Sportage five stars overall, with four stars for frontal crash protection and rollover prevention. The IIHS gave the Sportage a Top Safety Pick award in 2020 thanks to its top “Good” ratings on all its crash tests.

Every Sportage is equipped with automatic emergency braking and active lane control. Blind-spot monitors, parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control are optional.

Model Lineup

The 2021 Kia Sportage comes in LX, S, EX, and SX Turbo models.

The Sportage LX costs more than $25,000 including destination, and comes with 17-inch wheels, power features, cloth upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and the active safety equipment.

The Sportage S adds blind-spot monitors and better upholstery.

The 2021 Sportage EX gets 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, an extra USB port, keyless ignition, and dual-zone climate control. With all-wheel drive, a Sportage EX costs about $30,000.

The Sportage SX Turbo with the more powerful engine costs at least $35,000, with that same equipment.

A $4,500 option package can add navigation, a power-adjustable passenger seat, leather upholstery, premium audio, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charger, parking sensors, and cooled front seats.

Kia’s 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is the best in the business.


The Sportage’s short overhangs and long wheelbase give it a poised, athletic stance. It’s due to be redesigned soon, but it doesn’t look dated, it still looks just fine.


The cabin is calm and distinctly continental, with a clean design and reasonably soft-touch surfaces. The base cloth seats are comfortable; the EX and SX Turbo get leather. The front seats are supportive and power adjustable in top trims, but a little thin. An 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment is fit into the instrument panel, rather than perched on the dash, and it looks nice.

Passengers in the rear get 38.2 inches of leg room, which is adequate for most long-legged riders. Because the Sportage is a bit small for its class, three across the back bench is pushing it, but two will be comfortable.

Behind the second row, the Sportage holds 30.7 cubic feet of cargo that expands to more than 60 cubic feet with the second row folded.

Mostly, the Sportage is quiet, but the engine can sound strained and raspy when it’s being pushed.

Driving Impressions

The Sportage LX, S, and EX models get a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 181 hp and 175 pound-feet of torque that drives the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive doesn’t significantly affect performance but it cuts gas mileage by 3 mpg, which is a lot. This base engine is strapped for power and not particularly refined, but that doesn’t intrude too much into the driving experience.

The SX Turbo gets a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, mated to the same 6-speed automatic transmission. The problem isn’t exactly that that’s too much horsepower, the problem is the big jump from the base engine. Power-wise, the Sportage offers two sizes, Small and Large, and there should be a Medium.

Every Sportage handles and steers well, but the S and SX get suspension and steering tweaks that make the Sportage almost almost sporty.

Final Word

The 2021 Kia Sportage blends its small footprint with big power, in the case of the Sportage SX. There’s a big gulf between it and base versions in acceleration, but all Sportages get a great warranty and lots of standard features, including some of the easiest-to-use infotainment gear available.


—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection