What do the Kia Sportage SX and Taco Bell Have In Common?

If it is true that we are the only obstacle to achieving our own life goals, then could the only thing wrong with a Kia be its history in the Americas? I took to the streets of Arlington, Va., in a 2017 Kia Sportage SX to find out if Kia can overcome Kia.

After the South Korean-based automaker arrived in the United States in 1994, it quickly developed a reputation for its build quality and reliability with its debut of the 1995 Kia Sportage and Sephia.   However, over 20 years later Kia has still not overcome its poor reputation, despite producing some of the most reliable and high quality cars on the market today. We brought you coverage of the Optima and Sorento, both of which we really liked; as well as the Soul EV, which we mostly liked.

Kia helped me out by giving me the 2017 Kia Sportage SX for a week of testing, with a full tank of gas and insurance.  Thank you Kia, my Toyota Previa has 205,000 miles, so any break I can give it is appreciated.  Take a look at the video and find out what the Sportage, soccer moms, iced coffees, and chalupas have in common!

The 2017 Kia Sportage SX is a brand new design and it looks the part with Kia changing every body panel on the car. Kia updated the suspension, stiffened the structure, added new safety features, and gave it a cutting-edge design. Kia even is offering Android Auto and Apple Car Play for the first time.

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At Right Foot Down we care most about putting the pedal to the metal, so let’s cover  that first.  The 2017 Kia Sportage SX is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. I must say that I was impressed with the little 2.0-liter engine. It was full of character and had a flat torque curve, which made it great for city driving. It did seem like the engine and transmission did not speak the same language at times; often I would find myself in the wrong gear, or engine speed.

Although it wasn’t always communicating properly with the engine, the six-speed automatic transmission worked well.  Kia wanted the Sportage to be “sporty”, so Kia even added paddle shifters to the steering wheel.  I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy paddle shifters, read here for proof, but in a compact sport-utility-vehicle (SUV) it doesn’t really make sense, nor did I ever use them.

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Despite the useless paddle shifters on the flat-bottom, leather-wrapped steering wheel, the interior was an excellent place to spend time.  I had plenty of head room, even with the panoramic sunroof.  The heated and cooled seats were supportive and highly adjustable. The driving position gave me great visibility, and the blind-spot monitoring system was helpful at just the right times.

A major update for 2017 was the addition of Android Auto and Apple Car Play. This is a smart move because it keeps the infotainment system consistently up-to-date. The stereo and climate controls were all intuitive and easy to use. I never found myself searching for any buttons and, within a day of use, was able to navigate my way through the 7-inch interface with ease.

While everyone will love the interior, the exterior is more like Donald Trump — you either love it or hate it.  The head designer was Peter Schreyer, who was actually responsible for one of the best automobile designs ever, the first generation Audi TT.  I happen to be one of the people who like this redesign. I think it looks like the Subaru B9 Tribeca, especially from the rear. My favorite design feature was be the”ice cube” fog lights, that looks exactly like a group of four ice cubes, but function as fog lights. They should be on all cars.

Kia is calling the color of this car “Burnish Copper,” my friends on Facebook don’t seem to think fondly of the brown. Of course, the color is always changeable.  

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What you can’t change are the driving dynamics thankfully, despite the engine and transmission communicating in two different languages, this little SUV can handle.  If you’re ever late to pick up your kid at soccer practice, the Sportage will tear up those backroads to make up lost time.  And despite being front-wheel drive and having 260 lb-ft of torque, there is little torque steer.  The Ford Focus ST needs to take notes.

All-new for the 2017 Kia Sportage SX are a host of safety features: Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Lane Change Assist (LCA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Front & Rear Parking Assist, Bi-HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Light (DBL) and High Beam Assist (HBA) technology.

So yea, that’s a serious list of new safety technology.  But what does that all really mean and is any of it helpful? What it means is that Kia, like all other car companies, is jumping on the “safety/autonomous technology” bandwagon.  And most of it is not helpful and is actually quite annoying.  The only safety feature that actually works and I actually found helpful was that blind spot detection.  

The rest of the safety technologies you can just throw in the garbage. The entire week driving the Sportage, I had so many different sensors and alarms going off I had to shut it all off.  And I’ll keep it shut off until car companies completely bake these technologies a bit more.

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Despite the glitches, can Kia overcome Kia? Heck, yeah! For all the people who have a memory of what Kia used to be in the 90s, it will be hard.  But those those of you who grew up thinking Facebook is for old people and only use SnapChat, you’ll have no issues settling into a new Kia Sportage. 

Oh yea, and to answer my question from above.  What do the Kia Sportage SX and Taco Bell have in common?  It’s that soccer moms equally love them both.

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