Keeping it simple. In the world of compact crossovers, most brands are trying to stand out from the crowd. The 2021 Kia Sportage takes the opposite approach – and stands out more as a result.

Where rivals go for sharp angles and trendy roofs, the Sportage sticks to palatable curves and a few choice accents. It’s a cohesive look, and refreshingly understated.

The cabin is more of the same, with clean lines that don’t distract. Soft-touch surfaces abound, and the infotainment touchscreen is integrated nicely with the dash.

The Sportage still delivers on the central promise of a crossover: rear passengers get 38.2 inches of leg room, and the trunk holds more than 30 cubic feet even with the seats in place. A few competitors can offer more, but most buyers won’t be complaining.

Skip the turbocharged engine. Most Sportage models will leave the lot with the default 181-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine. That isn’t much power to move the car’s bulk, but the engine is competent and works well with the six-speed automatic transmission.

The SX Turbo brings a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that ups the ante to 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. The extra power is welcome, but it doesn’t change the car’s personality, and the cost jumps to nearly $35,000. At that price, the Sportage suffers against luxury competitors.

The turbo also dents fuel economy, achieving an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon combined against the base engine's 26 mpg. Adding all-wheel drive has a similar effect, although that will be a more popular addition.

Most Sportage models handle well enough for a crossover, although none are particularly engaging. The S and SX trims get a few suspension tweaks that approximate sportiness.

Kia Sportage

Strong safety, mediocre visibility. Kia is quietly becoming an industry leader in the safety department. Every Sportage rolls off the line with automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist. Blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control are on the menu, though sometimes hidden in spendy packages.

The Sportage’s safety tech joins a generally strong crash test record. Last year’s model was good enough for a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and we anticipate the same from the latest model.

Our only complaint is outward vision. The high dash makes the infotainment look nice, but it takes up a lot of real estate. High beltlines cut into visibility, and the Sportage doesn’t feel as airy as some competitors.

Features at a value. In all except the top SX Turbo trim, the Sportage is an excellent value. Helped along by safety tech and a thoroughly modern 8-inch infotainment system, the base LX is a solid buy at around $25,000.

Our favorite trim is the EX, which gains heated front seats, keyless ignition, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Both the S and EX trims come with blind-spot monitoring, but the EX offers a better experience for a modest price jump.

Every trim gets one of Kia’s best features: their warranty. Its five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is among the best in the industry.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Kia Sportage isn’t as flashy as many new compact crossovers, and, in our eyes, that’s not a bad thing. The Sportage follows through where it counts: safety, practicality, and value.

The model is due for a redesign in the next few years, and it faces stiff competition from the likes of Toyota and Honda. All the same, the 2021 Sportage is worth a look for many crossover buyers.

Check prices for the 2021 Kia Sportage »