Best and worst Kia Sportage years — which to avoid
Here's the lowdown on best and worst Kia Sportage years. We've checked out official records and fix-it stats to help you pick a ride that's all smooth sailing, without the surprises.
Buying a Kia Sportage can be a great bargain in the compact SUV class on the US used car market, but only if you go for the right model year. We say it because some Kia Sportage years have had issues that made the car unreliable and drivers unsatisfied with common repairs.
Luckily, it gets easier to own one if you get through the ins and outs of the best years and worst Kia Sportage years to avoid, and that’s what we are going to do in this guide. Our team has gone through the official NHTSA reports, safety ratings, and complaint records for each of the Sportage years so we could bring you a full list of the best options, and those that you should avoid.
Why you can trust REREV’s advice on which car model years to avoid: Our car experts look at official data, ask real drivers what they think, and talk to experienced mechanics to make sure our list is useful. This reliable info can make buying a car easier for you. Want to know how we do it? Find out more about our research methodology.
How we rated the best and worst Kia Sportage years
Through our evaluation of the best and worst Sportage years, we’ve used reputable sources like the official archives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That provided us with some insight into real driver inputs and reliability complaints, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
To truly help you understand what makes a Kia Sportage model reliable (or unreliable in this case), we also examined official recalls and driver reviews so we could add more dimensions to our research. We didn’t stop there as we wanted to also give you a genuine take on driving experience, which is why we resorted to Kia forums for more details on Sportage ownership.
|Kia Sportage Generations
|Best Kia Sportage Years
|Worst Kia Sportage Years
|1998, 1999, 2001
|2005, 2007, 2008
|2018, 2019, 2020
Most common Kia Sportage problems
There have been several issues with the Kia Sportage ranging from minor to major ones. We’ve done the drill of going through them all so you won’t have to, and this is what we came up with as the main Kia Sportage problems that plagued the worst-rated model years:
1. Engine problems
One problem the Kia Sportage has is engine failure caused by a faulty engine sensor; This problem can completely shut down the engine or make it lag. Another common engine problem is excessive oil consumption. The engine might produce a knocking sound because the Sportage’s engine piston rod is not adequately secured.
Another vital part of the engine with problems is the fuel pump responsible for delivering fuel from the tank to the engine. The failure of the fuel pump can lead to a complete shutdown or stalling of the engine. The engine also has turbocharger issues, resulting in loss of power and loud whining noise. Along with those two issues, the Sportage usually suffered from engine cooling problems and excessive shaking and vibrations.
2. Cooling system problems
The Kia Sportage’s most common cooling system issue is a leaking radiator. However, the cooling system has other components, like the water pump and thermostat, that are likely to fail. Ignoring the leak can cause engine overheating.
3. Transmission problems
Transmission failure is another common problem with the Kia Sportage. The cause of the failure is as a result of a faulty torque converter.
Since the torque converter is responsible for converting the engine’s rotational force to hydraulic pressure, which then moves the transmission gears, if the converter fails, it can cause the transmission to slip or fail altogether.
4. Electrical problems
An electrical problem is another issue the Kia Sportage is known for; this issue is a result of a faulty battery or alternator. If the battery is defective, it will fail to provide power to the vehicle’s electrical system, which can cause the light to dim, the radio to cut out, and the engine to stall. The alternator powers the battery, and if it fails to do so, all the problems mentioned earlier will occur.
5. Braking issues
Premature wear of the brake pads and squeaking noise from the brake pads are common problems with Kia Sportage’s brakes. A faulty or sticking brake caliper will not be able to hold the brake pads in place; this will cause the brake to malfunction.
Worst Kia Sportage years to avoid
As you can see by the mentioned issues, there are some Kia Sportage years that are best avoided. So, our team has assembled a whole list of such models to make your job at least a bit easier when making your decision:
We’ll also go through each of these by the lens of respective Kia Sportage generations to demonstrate why the listed model years are best avoided.
First-generation Sportage (1998-1999 and 2001 model years)
The 1998 and 1999 models had different concerns from owners – electrical failures, engine problems, and fluid leakage. The most prominent being frequent engine failure and starting inability. There were other complaints where the owners perceived a fuel-like odor from the hood. This problem is often followed by knocking while driving, buckling, and power loss.
The owners of the 2001 model’s primary concern were the faulty leaking gas tanks and other engine-related problems.
Second-generation Sportage (2006 model year)
The major problem with the 2006 model is the airbag. The airbag warning light will come on without any sign of faults. Many owners will opt to change the passenger seat to fix the airbag issue, which can cost about 2000 dollars.
Other than those issues, the 2006 model had a pretty clean record concerning issues and complaints, and it didn’t have many reported faults.
Third-generation Sportage (2011-2013 model years)
Like every other model year, the 2011 model has engine-related problems. The owners gave reports like sudden engine stalling and the warning light illuminating. This model year also has failures starting even after multiple attempts.
The 2012 Kia Sportage has many complaints and issues and significant issues that are very expensive to fix. The major problem with this model year is the engine issues that range from the vehicle shutting down while driving to unwanted sounds. The 2012 Sportage also has a history of recalls, the most recent recall, titled “engine damage may cause fire,” was received in 2020.
The 2013 and 2014 models had similar issues as the 2012 models though a bit less frequent. This model year also has a few recalls; the most recent happened in 2018. Additional problems with the 2013 Sportage are electrical, drivetrain, fuel system, and suspension problems.
Fourth-generation Sportage (2017 model year)
The 2017 Kia Sportage had several engine failures and excessive oil consumption complaints while in motion. In most cases, significant repairs or complete engine replacement is the solution.
What are the best Kia Sportage years to buy?
Not all Kia Sportage years are built the same. And although some of the Kia Sportage years are problematic, most prove to be very reliable. At this point, you might be wondering – what are the best Kia Sportage years? The best Kia Sportage years include 1998, 2008, and 2018, but here’s a full list:
We’ll also give you brief overviews of the three best-rated model years so you can find a decent and reliable Sportage in almost every generation:
1996 Kia Sportage
With just below 200 complaints made to NHTSA, the 1996 Kia Sportage excelled in providing drivers with a blend of reliability and driving convenience with decent storage capacity and low maintenance costs. The only few issues ever reported for this model include problems with the electrical system and the exhaust.
Luckily, there were just several reports of those issues and the model overall received positive feedback from drivers and previous owners.
2008 Kia Sportage
The 2008 Kia Sportage was widely regarded as one of the most excellent small SUVs at its release. This model year’s owners claim their vehicles have travelled 200,000 miles without experiencing any severe issues or defects (given that the users observed the proper maintenance protocols).
Once again, electrical issues and some minor faults like failed interior accessories required the attention of drivers, but maintenance efforts don’t go further than that. So, it’s a reliable model overall with a decent safety rating, making it a perfect pick.
2018 Kia Sportage
Finally, we have to appraise the latest model years of the Sportage as some of the most reliable up to date, with the exception of the 2017 model year. However, Kia managed to fix the issues as soon as for the following 2018 model year which was one of the best-rated overall.
With just below 200 complaints and only a handful of serious issues, this model proved its value for potential buyers with excellent safety ratings, and the faults of the previous 2017 model being fixed.
Is Kia Sportage worth buying?
The Sportage is loaded with features and feels like a decent value for the money, but its rivals have a better price advantage. However, it offers a stylish cabin with excellent build quality and specific high-end amenities like ventilated seats that some competitors can not deliver.
Our reviews, packed with insights from genuine car owners and thorough investigations, aim to sharpen your decision-making when it comes to purchasing a vehicle. If you’re curious about which model years might not be up to snuff, our articles on the Hyundai Tucson years to avoid, Chevy Equinox years to avoid, and GMC Terrain years to avoid offer a deep dive into the years it’s wise to avoid. Step into your car shopping adventure armed with confidence, backed by the solid advice from our expertly crafted guides.
What is the main problem with Kia Sportage?
The Kia Sportage’s engine is a well-known source of trouble for the vehicle. While moving, the engine has been known to idle or stop altogether, which is not only annoying but also a sign of an unhealthy engine.
Is Kia Sportage a reliable car?
Several elements, including serious problems, repair costs, and how long a car can generally endure, affect a car’s reliability. The Kia Sportage stands out in each area because of its long lifespan, low repair costs compared to other vehicles in its class, and few to no problems in some models.
Which Kia Sportage engine is best?
The more recent Kia Sportage comes with a 1.6 L, 4-cylinder T-GDI engine capable of 261 horsepower and can be set up with either a six-speed automatic or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eSince it’s the newest engine available, you can be sure that it includes enhancements that make it highly dependable and worthwhile to get the most recent Kia Sportage models.
What year Kia Sportage is being recalled?
The 2018 Sportage is the most troubled model, with eight recalls. The second-highest number of recalls was for the 2011 and 2007 model years, while the Sportage models from 2008 and 2017 each had five. Each model year, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2009 has had four recalls.