Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A red 2020 Kia Sportage is parked on a dirt path with dust flying in the air.

A Close Look at the 2020 KIA Sportage

If you’re looking for a compact SUV, chances are you’re feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the moment. It’s okay; you’re not the only one feeling this. The market is currently flooded with crossovers, and for a good reason. The compact SUV marries the utility and power of a full-size SUV with the practicality, affordability, and fuel efficiency of a sedan. As a result, you have a vehicle that exists as the best of both worlds. That said, with the influx of compact SUVs, the options are various, and finding a standout model can feel rather overwhelming. One of the many vehicles to enter the crowded field is the 2020 Kia Sportage, a compact SUV with a lot of history under its belt.  The first Kia Sportage was introduced to the U.S. in 1995 and has had to stay relevant over the years, as it competes with an expanding field of comparable vehicles. And with the 2020 Kia Sportage just around the corner, we’re excited to feature what the current model has to offer. While the Kia Sportage is the senior on the block, there is no guarantee that this compact SUV can enjoy high-ranking based on experience alone.

A Bird’s Eye View

At a glance, the 2020 Kia Sportage is a uniquely styled crossover that threatens to break out from the competition based on design alone. That said, these great leaps that Kia has taken in styling can feel a bit polarizing for some. The strangely shaped grill and insect-like headlights may be off-putting for drivers who want something a little more traditional. Kia Sportage models of the past look quite different from the models of the present, and in many ways, we miss the rugged buggy appearance that was so popular during that era of cars.

That said, the latest Kia Sportage is bound to appeal to a certain kind of driver. A driver that likes being able to find their car in the parking lot, and appreciates head-turns whether they’re positive or negative. Beyond appearance, the 2020 Kia Sportage offers up three relatively unique trim options the LX, S, EX, and SX Turbo. The sticker price is pretty refreshing as well, starting at $23,990. With such a low price and such a unique styling, from a bird’s eye view, the 2020 KIA Sportage may appear to be the ideal crossover. However, we’ll have to look a little closer to determine whether or not the Sportage lives up to the original packaging.

A red 2020 Kia Sportage is parked in a lot with blue sky in the background,

Peeling Back the Hood

Compact SUVs are hardly ever known for their engine performance. This factor is a reoccurring gripe some drivers have with the compact SUV, stating exhaustion towards compromises like a smaller engine. That said, some designers have made up for the smaller size by either offering superior fuel economy, or a turbocharged option. This provides a significant boost to the degree of horsepower and torque; the Kia Sportage is one of these vehicles.

Base models of the 2020 Kia Sportage can seem disappointing for drivers looking for something with a little more oomph. Beneath the hood, you’ll find a 181 horsepower inline-4 engine, with a 6-speed automatic transmission. And with a base fuel economy of 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, this base model doesn’t try to satisfy all crowds but ends up falling somewhere in the middle.

Fortunately, if you’re in the camp of more power and less mpg, you certainly won’t be disappointed sitting behind the wheel of the 2020 Kia Sportage SX Turbo. The SX Turbo gets a 240 horsepower turbo-4 engine and the same 6-speed automatic transmission. At the same time, the SX Turbo gets an AWD drivetrain providing superior traction control. While the 2020 Kia Sportage SX Turbo is no rugged off-road excursion vehicle. The Sportage may be able to handle some light trail running and certainly would have no issue getting into your campsite or the trailhead.

Unfortunately, where the 2020 Sportage falls flat is in terms of towing capacity. While few other compact SUVs can haul heavy loads, the top towing capacity of 1,650 lb. can feel a little stilted. Although, drivers who want a heavy-duty hauler may want to look elsewhere, as the compact SUV form factor isn’t necessarily designed for that kind of driving.

Spacing for many compact SUVs is a reoccurring issue. Some manage it better than others, but most make compromises. The Sportage exists somewhere in the middle. While there are 30.7 cubic feet of cargo space, passengers in the rear seats may find themselves a little cramped during long trips. Fortunately, if transporting cargo is more of a priority than hauling people, you won’t be disappointed. The Sportage has an incredible 60.1 cubic feet of cargo space that can be found when you fold down the rear seats.

Not Quite Modern, Not Quite Outdated

An interior look at the 2020 Sportage, look at the front from a rear seat view.

If there is one word to describe the technology packed into the Kia Sportage, that word would be average. While other compact SUVs are decked out in next-level futuristic automotive tech, the Kia Sportage keeps things relatively simple.

Take the base model, which doesn’t have too much in the way of smart tech but can be fitted with AWD and automatic emergency braking for the right price. If you want intelligent safety features that bring the Sportage up to par with the competition, you’ll have to purchase the SX Turbo trim. This trim option comes with blind-spot monitors and automatic emergency braking.

Besides safety, the Sportage has some pretty middling infotainment and comfort technology as well. Base models come with power features and a relatively small 5.0-inch touchscreen. Although with a bit of extra cash, you can change out that small screen for a 7.0-inch Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible infotainment system. If you spend the money for the topped out SX Turbo, you’ll get to enjoy a Harman Kardon audio system, an Uvo infotainment system, cooled front seats, and a power tailgate.

Where Does the 2020 KIA Sportage Stand

When you viewed in totality, the 2020 Kia Sportage manages to fall right in the middle of the pack. It is by no means a paltry offering, especially considering the sticker price. The option of a beefier engine and AWD make for a worthwhile vehicle, that is bound to satisfy a wide range of drivers and SUV lovers. That said, it is far from topping the field, as features that are found standard on other vehicles. You’ll have to shell out a fair amount of extra cash for in the Kia Sportage for those features.

With the 2019 Kia Sportage showing to have been a great coward pleaser, we only imagined that the 2020 model would be as well. Of course, we were correct. With the 2020 Kia Sportage only being on showroom floors of Kia dealerships around the U.S. for a short amount of time, it’s already made many customers drive away with a smile.

Standing out in the compact SUV market is difficult, and the 2020 Kia Sportage doesn’t try to be something its not. It continues in a long run of SUVs, offering a widely configurable vehicle that can be tailored to fit the needs of the driver for the right price.