kia sportage in evolutionary lineup

Family Tree: The Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage Models and Generation History

We’re starting a new featurette on the Friendly Kia Blog today called Family Tree. In this segment, we’ll attempt to dive into the history of the current Kia lineup, showing how a model has evolved and changed since it began. With many Kia models now having over 10 years under their belts, and Kia having changed significantly in the last decade, we think it will be an interesting time.

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We think there is some incredible value is showing how Kia has also evolved along with its models. Oh, we’re no strangers to the former reputation Kia carried as a brand strictly focused on being the lowest price in a given segment. Modern Kia models, however, have some of the best technology features, lead the pack for safety awards and carry an industry-best warranty that betrays their sterling reliability.

We’re going to kick-off our segment with the Kia Sportage – a compact SUV with plenty of personality. Has the Kia Sportage always been a fun alternative to a class solely focused on practicality? Let’s find out together!

First-Generation Kia Sportage

Years on the market: 1993 – 2005

We extensively covered the first-generation Kia Sportage (known as the NB-7) in our Flashback Friday post a few months ago. You can view that here. Available from 1993 through 2005, the earliest Kia Sportage brought off-road fun, some roguish style and a low price to the blossoming SUV market all the way back in the 1990s.

Three things to know about the first-generation Kia Sportage:

  1. Three engines and two transmission
    1. 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
    2. 2.0-liter 4-cylinder DOHC – rated at a whopping 130 horsepower
    3. 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel
    4. 4-speed automatic transmission
    5. 5-speed manual transmission
  2. A true SUV
    1. Body-on-frame construction (like a truck)
    2. RWD bias
    3. Locking 4WD system
  3. Convertible body
    1. Available in certain markets as a two-door convertible

first generation kia sportage from front three-quarter angle

first-generation kia sportage convertible

Second-Generation Kia Sportage (JE or KM depending on market)

Years on the market: 2006 – 2010

Building on the success of the first-generation Kia Sportage, the 2006 model year was the first Kia Sportage to feature unibody construction (with which it continues today) and front-wheel-biased AWD replacing the locking 4WD system.

The second-generation was the first to follow Kia and Hyundai’s mutually-beneficial and totally-confusing semi-merger.  It sought to balance the off-road abilities of the previous generation with a road-friendliness that was obviously absent on the first-generation Sportage’s design brief. This was also the first model that saw Kia really put forward an effort to impress with interior fit and finish – a trait the brand has built their identity around today.

Three things to know about the second-generation Kia Sportage:

  1. The first Sportage crossover
    1. Front-wheel-drive bias and AWD replacing RWD and 4WD
    2. Unibody construction for improved handling and fuel efficiency
  2. An award-winning model
    1. Featured with high marks in Consumer Reports’ 2009 Reliability Survey
    2. Five-star winner from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    3. Number 2 in’s 20 Least Expensive Vehicles to Insure report
  3. V6 power and new transmissions
    1. 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
    2. 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine (not for the United States)
    3. 3.7-liter V6 engine – rated at 173 horsepower

exterior of 2007 kia sportage

interior of 2007 kia sportage

Third-Generation Kia Sportage (SL)

Years on the market: 2011 – 2015

By the introduction of the third-generation Kia Sportage, it had become clear that crossovers were here to stay. The meteoric rise of the small crossover segment was due in large part to its constituent members’ ability to balance smooth daily-driving acumen, robust capability, and a safer ride height. Leading this charge, the third-generation Kia Sportage saw the model improve refinement, fuel efficiency and add a ton of technology for maximum comfort and convenience.

The third-generation Kia Sportage may look familiar. Its side profile is much more similar to that of the modern fourth-generation Kia Sportage than its predecessors. It also introduced new powertrain options which helped make it the perfect vehicle for an individual driver rather than a one-size-fits-most model like competitors were pushing during these years.

Three things to know about the third-generation Kia Sportage:

  1. New powertrains, drivetrains and transmission options
    1. New 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with CVVT (176 horsepower)
    2. New 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine (270 horsepower)
    3. New Dynamax™ all-wheel-drive system
    4. 6-speed manual transmission
    5. 6-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic®
  2. Sportier platform
    1. The third-generation Kia Sportage was longer, wider and lower than the second-generation
    2. Similar proportions are still employed by the most recent Kia Sportage
  3. First model with UVO infotainment technology
    1. Featured Bluetooth® wireless tech for phones and audio
    2. Voice-command receipt and sending of text messages
    3. HD Radio® and Sirius® satellite radio

2011 kia sportage from exterior

interior of 2011 kia sportage

Fourth-Generation Kia Sportage (QL)

Years available on the market: 2017 – Present

And at last, we’ve arrived. The fourth-generation Kia Sportage debuted only three model years ago and features a brand-new, personality-driven take that has become truly one of the most interesting models in the crowded compact SUV segment.

The fourth-generation Kia Sportage debuted in 2017 and was the product of Kia’s evolution into an up-market brand. It featured a stiffer structure, potentially-life-saving active safety features, cutting-edge design that calls to mind luxury badges and an interior that is positively decked out in the most advanced technology on the market.

It’s a striking model that goes head-to-head with some of the most popular models on the market and wins every single time.

Three things to know about the third-generation Kia Sportage:

  1. Brand-new technology
    1. First model with UVO3 featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    2. Advanced active safety features like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Blind Spot Detection (BSD)
    3. New 32-bit ECU for faster processing and more connected driving
  2. Powertrain and drive refinements
    1. Horsepower up from third-generation’s base engine (176 horsepower vs. 181 horsepower)
    2. Better fuel efficiency
  3. Luxurious interior and exterior design
    1. Exterior features juxtaposition between smooth curves and sharp creases
    2. Larger, more aggressive “tiger’s nose” grille
    3. Sharply-raked rear window
    4. Interior experience that matches and surpasses luxury vehicle interiors

2020 kia sportage exterior

interior of 2020 kia sportage

The Sportage’s Legacy is One of Listening to Drivers

As we can see above, the Kia Sportage’s path represents Kia’s best quality – the brand’s ability to create and curate their lineup based on what drivers want. It’s the reason the 2020 Kia Sportage has arrived with standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality, a feature that wasn’t even on the map when the last generation came out.

It’s also the reason the Sportage is the best Sportage that has ever been made.

For more information on the current iteration of the Kia Sportage or to schedule a test drive, contact us today!

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