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A red 2020 Kia Sportage is shown parked from the rear while waiting for a comparison on the 2021 Kia Sportage vs 2020 Kia Sportage.

Comparing the 2021 Kia Sportage with the 2020 Kia Sportage

It might still be early in 2020, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start looking at upcoming 2021 models. The Kia model release is a bit all over the place. Most of these vehicles are first released in Korea before making their way over to North America. Additionally, the vehicles don’t typically drop at the same time. While one model might hit dealerships in early spring, other models do not come until late fall. And sometimes, there are specific trims or engine options that do not come out until later. One vehicle you can expect to come sooner in the year rather than later is the 2021 Kia Sportage. The crossover is generally more popular in the United States than in Korea, so the release comes sooner in the States. This is great news for Sportage lovers. But just how much better is the 2021 Sportage over the previous year? The best way to find out is to have an all-out throw down between the 2021 Kia Sportage vs 2020 Kia Sportage models.

Possible Specs

Before diving too far into the comparison, we do want to point out that some of these 2021 Kia Sportage specs are based on what we believe to be coming. Kia hasn’t officially announced what the 2021 model will include in the United States. However, based on what other crossover SUV models have received in upgrades as well as what we’re seeing in South Korean releases, we are able to make what we believe to be accurate assumptions on the upcoming model. With that said, though, it is always possible for some tweaks and slight adjustments to be announced between now and when it arrives on showroom floors. So make sure to check back for additional updates regarding the 2021 model.


Currently, the 2020 Kia Sportage has a starting MSRP of $23,990. Kia has not officially announced any kind of price points for the 2021 Sportage. However, because it is not a new generation release and it did not receive a mid-gen facelift, we can’t imagine the price to be all that different. So chances are it will be right around that $24,000 mark for its entry MSRP. Kia should announce more information and trim price points in the next few months.

A man is loading his surf board into the back of a blue 2020 Kia Sportage at the beach.

Design Differences

Some slight design changes are coming on the 2021 Sportage over the 2020 model. The most notable will be found on the front. The 2020 Sportage used blocky LED headlamps that looked almost like ice cubes sitting in a blackened cooler. The 2021 model, though, replaced this with a slender, rectangular shape (instead of the bulb-look, which seemed to take some design notes from Porsche). This shape splits into two, where the horizontal split will slide right up against the air intake along the grille.

Speaking of the grille, you’ll find both the air intake on the center and also imitation air intakes along the side to help continue the cosmetic look. The grille will also feature what Kia refers to as the “tiger-nose” look (it comes to a rounded point, and there is a subtle split between the larger portion of the grille and a smaller portion underneath the split).

Possible Engine Comparison

Kia gave the Sportage a generation upgrade not long ago, so the overall appearance will remain more or less the same (there will be some minor tweaks here and there, but for the most part, it will look the same as the 2020 edition). Kia generally doesn’t get too crazy with its engine updates, either. Outside of new generations or occasionally the mid-gen facelift, you usually will find the same engines from one year to the next. So we’re expecting the same engine options for the 2021 model.

The base engine in 2020 was a 2.4L I4 that produced 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Chances are you’ll find the same kind of performance numbers on the 2021 edition. Now, torque could change slightly depending on some other design factors, but realistically the numbers will not be drastically different.

A closeup of the 2020 Kia Sportage's turbo GDi motor is shown.

We expect there to be a 2.0L Turbo I4 as well. This engine came standard, starting with the SX Turbo trim on the 2020 model. It is possible Kia will decide to put the engine into the EX as well (sometimes manufacturers will add previously “upper-tier” trim features in lower trim packages to help boost interest in some of the entry-level trims). The I4 engine found in the 2020 edition produced 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers should be expected again for the 2021 edition.

One thing that is new for the 2021 year though, is a hybrid edition. Currently available in Europe, Kia offers an Eco Dynamics hybrid system on a number of its new releases. The Euro model uses a diesel engine combined with a 48-volt electric motor. Typically hybrid models are first released in Europe and then, if sales are strong, are later released in the United States. Now, with the continued push for hybrid and electric vehicles in the States, the timetable has been sped up. Due to this, there is a good chance the hybrid version will come to North America for the 2021 edition, although if it does, it probably will not be available at launch. It most likely will be available at the back end of 2020 (or even into early 2021). Should the hybrid version make it to the United States. However, we’d bet strongly that it uses a standard gasoline engine and not a diesel engine (while diesel has picked up some ground here, the engine options will likely never be as popular as the diesel versions in Europe).

Possibly The Last Model Year?

We have no guarantees this will be the case, but we wouldn’t be shocked if 2021 is the final year of the Kia Sportage. Why? Because the Kia Seltos is in the same vehicle space as the Sportage. The Seltos is newer with a fresher design, so we’re not fully sure if Kia plans on selling two SUVs that will essentially compete against one another. So, depending on sales for the next year, the 2021 Sportage may either receive a slight model size change for its fifth-generation (either larger or smaller), or Kia might decide to move forward with only the Seltos as its mid-size SUV offering.

Minor Upgrades Coming With the 2021 Kia Sportage

Kia hasn’t fully announced everything that will be on the 2021 Kia Sportage. However, we’re not expecting ground-shaking changes. Of course, if the hybrid version does make it to the U.S. for the 2021 model year that will represent some solid new features that haven’t been available in the past. For the most part, though, we’re expecting it to be business as usual with the slight updates on the grille and possibly some snappier infotainment response times. We’ll have to wait and see what Kia has up its sleeves, though. If you are a current Sportage owner, what would you like to see coming with the 2021 edition? And if the hybrid model does make it to North America this year, would it make you more likely to buy one? Let us know.