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Red-hot Sportage CUV has cool looks with great warranty, price

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When you start to talk about great-looking crossovers that have a base price of $23,600 and the world-class Kia warranty of 100,000 miles, well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where value may be most easily garnered.

CUV SPORT

The segment that is called the Compact Utility Vehicles (CUV) have been extraordinarily popular the last few years and the Kia Sportage is probably one of the most unique in terms of the exterior style and incredible list of standard equipment onboard the base models.

The 2018 Kia Sportage is a cute, value-minded vehicle that doesn’t try too hard to set itself apart from the mainstream of exterior styling – though it does manage to impress with its distinct tiger-nose grille and gorgeous lens wrap showing off the three-layer lamp treatment.

EXTERIOR STYLE

Jumping out are the wheel wells and signature hood lines that seem to make the exterior presence bigger than the smallish CUV requires. The Sportage’s roofline peaks above the driver and steeply flows down in a sleek, athletic profile. I’m a fan of this look and it says speed and athleticism, even if Sportage is only capable of a little of each.

Base Sportage models start with 17-inch aluminum rims and graduate up to 19-inch options for the top-end of the trim level. My tester featured the 19-inch variation and it really does add another level of exterior attitude to the Sportage.

POWER

The entry-level Sportage features the 2.4-liter inline-four that is identical to the Optima and Sorento. That powerplant delivers 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Move up to the top-of-the-line turbo and you get a 2.0-liter turbo-four that puts out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

Sportage engines are mated to an outstanding 6-speed automatic transmissions that drive either the front wheels or all the wheels.  My tester featured an impressive response that is equal or better than in Optimas I have tested. It’s a great pairing. Kia estimates the 2.4/FWD combination will return 22 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.

The Sportage comes with Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes, and while suspension dynamics don’t change between the settings, throttle response and steering weight are altered.

ALL WHEEL DRIVE

My tester featured the AWD system. The Magna Dynamax all-wheel-drive system electronically senses the road and anticipates slide events and can brake individual wheels to prevent or mitigate traction loss. The system can push as much as 100 percent of the power to front or rear wheels as needed, and there’s even a 50/50 locking differential.

CABIN

The Sportage offers handsome interior styling incorporating the necessary emphasis on technology. This does not take away from the driver’s visibility, capability to control all aspects of the drive experience or climate controls.

My tester was a comfortable environment that had little road or engine noise and featured the upgrade leather seats and extra lumbar and side bolstering. Legroom is pretty nice for full size adults up front and just slightly snug in the rear seats. Long trips are easy for both rows. Vertical storage options in back add flexibility.

The Kia 100,000-mile warranty is a big selling point that gets a lot of attention, but with a starting price for the base LX model of $23,600, and a wonderful drive experience in store for buyers, CUV enthusiasts have something for their short list.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication