Back to the Future – 2017 Kia Sportage

24 Mar

Did you know that the Kia Sportage is the longest-running nameplate in Kia’s lineup? That’s right: the company known for its award-winning Optima sedan and its hamster-moving Soul has stuck with the Sportage through thick and thin, and Kia’s elder statesman is about to debut its fourth generation.

So how will the new Sportage, which more closely resembles a Porsche Cayenne than any SUV on the market when it first debuted, be different from the 1995 model that introduced North American to Kia SUVs? Let’s put it this way: if you want an example of how far Kia has come as a company, you need look no further than the specs of its longest-running model.

In 1995, the Sportage generated 95 horsepower. The fourth-generation Sportage starts at 180 horsepower, almost double its first-gen counterpart, and an optional upgrade can increase that figure to 260 horsepower.

The first Sportage to grace American roads sported 114 pound-feet of torque. The 2017 Sportage starts at 176 pound-feet of torque, and works its way all the way to 269 pound-feet.

And then there’s the styling; while the lines and contours of a vehicle are much more difficult to quantify than hard numbers like horsepower and miles per gallon, a quick glance at the first Sportage next to the new model tells the story of Kia’s rise to prominence: where once Kia focused on bringing low-end, reliable models to market, they now specialize in making stylish, powerful driving machines at an attractive price point.

What a difference 20 years can make.