What to Look for in a Used Kia Sportage

March 8th, 2024 by

A blue 2021 Kia Sportage parked at a used Kia dealer.

For going on 30 years now, the Kia Sportage has been one of the most popular and affordable SUVs on the road, making it a favorite for many drivers. That’s a remarkable pedigree, but it also means that looking at used models can become overwhelming since you have so many to choose from. While we wouldn’t suggest looking for models from the late 1990s at your favorite used Kia dealer, you can do well with a Sportage from the last few years—or go back even further—to save money while still getting a great vehicle.

Knowing what you want and what to look for can make your car-buying experience a lot easier, which comes down to recognizing which model years and generations will work best for you. With so many terrific Kia Sportages available, we have customers come to us feeling uncertain of where to even start—but don’t worry because we have you covered. Let’s take a look at the Sportage throughout the years as we suggest which models to look for and some of their important features that’ll help you narrow down your options.

The 2011 Kia Sportage: Start of the Third Generation

In general, when we look at used vehicles for our customers, we don’t typically go this far back, but we thought it was a good starting point. With the 2011 model year, Kia kicked off the third generation of the Sportage with a full redesign that helped modernize it and brought a wide range of great features along for the ride. This redesign helped ensure the 2011 Sportage looks great, and while no one will confuse it with a sports car, it gets attention and has bold looks from front to back.

Powering this third-gen Sportage is a four-cylinder engine that puts out 176 hp; that might not seem like much, but for a compact SUV like this, it’s plenty. In terms of performance, one important thing to note is that both front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) are out there, plus there is a six-speed automatic transmission and a manual transmission available. This means you can find some very different driving experiences between two different Sportage models from this time, depending on how the powertrain was configured.

Numerous trims were available for this year, including an EX trim with features like dual-zone climate control, LED daytime running lights, and more. In a model that’s well over a decade old, these kinds of features are something of a luxury, so it’s nice to see them in such an accessible vehicle. Despite its compact design, the interior of the Sportage is quite spacious, with more than 26 cu.ft. of rear cargo space and more than 54 cu.ft. of total cargo volume for you to take advantage of. Ultimately, this is a great place to start, but you’ll find plenty of upgrades and modern features by choosing something more recent.

The steering wheel and dashboard inside a 2020 Kia Sportage.

The 2014 Kia Sportage: Third-Generation Facelift

For 2014, Kia gave the Sportage an update and refresh; this is still part of the third generation, but it’s been revamped with a number of nice enhancements. Perhaps the most exciting update for this model is that the engine was re-tuned for improved performance. While it’s still a 2.4L four-cylinder engine, it now delivers 182 hp to provide a sportier and more nimble driving experience. That might not seem like a huge increase, but even a small improvement like this can make a difference when you’re looking at a compact SUV such as the Sportage.

The exterior of the Sportage receives a major facelift with this update, including a new design for the front grille and new wheels that give this SUV a nice makeover. One of the few complaints about the third-generation Sportage was that it felt a bit stiff on the road; the 2014 update includes high-performance dampers on the suspension for a more comfortable ride that handles better overall. An enhanced, premium stereo system is new for this update, along with a new gauge cluster and other interior updates that create a nicer driving experience.

The 2017 Kia Sportage: Fourth-Generation Redesign

If you’re looking for something newer with more modern features, then a great place to start is with the 2017 Kia Sportage, which launches the fourth generation of this popular SUV. To us, the most exciting update for 2017 is undeniably the new engine options, starting with a standard 2.4L engine that offers 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. That’s great, but the star of the show is an available 2.0L beauty that delivers 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which you can find on the SX trim.

This is a huge increase in power over previous years and makes the Sportage incredibly fun to drive; FWD remains standard on both engines, with AWD available, and they come paired with a six-speed automatic. The exterior of the Sportage enjoys the fourth-gen redesign, too, with new looks, including new front-end styling and an overall growth in length and wheelbase, making for a more attractive compact SUV. Inside, the Sportage has an incredibly spacious interior that’s been improved with nice materials, including soft leather seating in high trim levels.

Available features you can find inside a pre-owned Sportage include dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, heated seats, and much more. A 5.0-inch infotainment display is standard, with a 7.0-inch screen inside EX models and an 8.0-inch display in the highest trims. There’s even a Harman Kardon sound system in some models that elevates your audio experience to another level.

A gold 2019 Kia Sportage parked outside a modern garage.

The 2020 Kia Sportage: Updated Fourth Generation

For the 2020 model year, Kia gives the fourth-generation Sportage an update and facelift, making it a terrific one to look for as you consider different used options. The first thing you’ll probably notice is the exterior facelift with bold new looks that include new wheel designs and new headlights for improved visibility and illumination at night. You’ll find both engines remain available on 2020 models, which is important as you look at different options. While the standard engine delivers a reliable driving experience, the power of the available turbocharged engine means it remains our favorite.

The interior of the 2020 model is nicely updated with more refined touches and enhanced standard features on all models. The larger 8.0-inch infotainment display offered on the highest trims for 2017 is standard in every 2020 Sportage, with new features like a wireless charging pad found on higher trims. More advanced safety technology becomes available in this model year, too, including things like adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and a lane departure warning. If this kind of safety tech is important to you, then you might look for a 2021 model instead, where such great driver assistance features are standard.

Which Kia Sportage Is Right for You?

As you can see, you have a lot of options available to you, and your choice of model year can have a tremendous impact on the sorts of features you’ll find on a used Kia Sportage. We didn’t even get into the fact that the 2023 model launches an all-new fifth generation for the Sportage with a whole host of new standard and available features to look for if you want the most recent pre-owned model possible. That will continue to be a major consideration in the years ahead as more of the 2023 models become available on the used market.

No matter what you’re looking for, here at Rusty Wallace Kia of Knoxville, we’re ready to help you find it. All you have to do is decide on which features and options best meet your needs, and then let us handle everything else as we find you the perfect used Kia.

Posted in Used Kia Dealer