2013 Kia Sportage SX review:

Turbo makes the Sportage SX a power-mad SUV

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Stale cabin electronics
Coming from a recent review of the all-new Kia Cadenza, and having seen the next generation of the Soul at the New York auto show, the cabin electronics in the Sportage SX looked very tired compared to what is coming. The Sportage SX uses the same cabin tech suite as the EX I reviewed a few years earlier.

This model came optioned up with navigation, a solid, flash memory-based system with good response times and traffic data integration. The touch-screen LCD worked well for destination entry and showed useful graphics to explain upcoming turns. I like the clean look of the maps, but they show only in flat or plan view, with no perspective option.

When the system detected heavy traffic on my route, it brought up a dialog box asking me if I wanted to reroute. I found some of the routing suggestions questionable based on my knowledge of the area, but those sorts of problems are not isolated to Kia's navigation system.

2013 Kia Sportage
The navigation system's route guidance graphics are clear and easy to read. Josh Miller/CNET

The biggest problem with the navigation option is that it eliminates the standard UVO system, voice command that gives drivers control over phones and iOS devices connected to the car.

However, even with the navigation option, the Sportage SX included a Bluetooth system for hands-free phone calls. This system had a voice-command component that let me make calls by saying the name of a contact stored on my phone. The UVO system without navigation, which Kia calls UVO Powered by Microsoft, would have included more advanced voice control over music.

Another quirk of the Sportage SX's cabin electronics is its use of a Y-adapter iOS device cable. Kia mounts a USB and auxiliary input port for the stereo right next to each other at the base of the console. Plug in a USB drive, and the touch-screen stereo interface shows a file and folder structure for any MP3 tracks on the drive.

Plug in an iOS cable, and nothing happens.

Kia provides an adapter cable for 30-pin iOS devices with both a 1/8 inch and USB plug on one end. For newer iOS devices, I had to add a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter to the cable. With all adapters in place, the touch screen showed a full music library interface, with categories for artist, album, and genre.

2013 Kia Sportage
With music stored on a USB drive, the stereo shows this file-and-folder interface. Josh Miller/CNET

Along with USB drives and iOS devices as audio sources, the stereo supported Bluetooth audio streaming and satellite radio. However, it lacked HD Radio. New Kia cabin electronics, such as what I saw in the Cadenza, do not need a special adapter cable for iOS devices, and include HD radio.

The Sportage SX model comes standard with an upgraded audio system, using seven speakers. While short of audiophile quality, I liked the system's music reproduction. It did a good job with bass, using its subwoofer to deliver strong beats. Despite the bass response, there was no panel rattle in the car.

Mid and high audio reproduction was a little more mundane. Vocals sounded a bit hollow and highs lacked vibrance, typical with average audio systems.

Practical and powerful
The 2013 Kia Sportage SX exhibits all the practicality of a small SUV. It holds five easily and offers a little cargo space, which should be suitable for the needs of most families. Its size makes it easy to maneuver, while the six-speed automatic transmission and steering tuning lend to hassle-free driving.

The cabin electronics do a good job of covering the basics. Standard Bluetooth means easy phone connections with hands-free calls and music streaming. The navigation system makes a nice addition, although it is disappointing that Kia cannot offer it and the UVO voice command in the same package. Lacking in the cabin electronics is any sort of app-integration.

What really sets the Sportage SX apart from other Sportage trims and most other small SUVs is its engine. Direct injection and its turbo give it power almost beyond what the car can handle. Most people can probably live with the 2.4-liter engine in the other trims, but the power-mad will find no other choice but the Sportage SX.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Kia Sportage
Trim SX
Powertrain Turbocharged direct-injection 2-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 21.9 mpg
Navigation Optional flash memory-based with traffic data
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Bluetooth streaming, iOS device integration, USB drive, satellite radio, auxiliary input
Audio system Seven-speaker system
Driver aids Back-up camera
Base price $26,900
Price as tested $30,900

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