16 Best and Worst Years of the Kia Sportage [Backed by Data]

16 Best and Worst Years of the Kia Sportage [Backed by Data]

Being part of the fierce and saturated market for crossovers demands versatility more than ever before, and this isn’t a problem for the sporty yet practical Kia Sportage.

But while it now sports a face full of polygonal wizardry, you have an entire 5 generations’ worth of used model years for the Sportage. Now, the question is, which one of them stands out among the rest?

Backed by stats and feedback from experts and current (or former) owners of the SUV, we’re bringing you 16 of the best and worst Kia Sportage model years to own through this guide!

What are the best and worst years of the Kia Sportage?

The best Kia Sportage years are 2002, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023, while the worst years are 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2017.

The best and worst Kia Sportage model years depend on expert and consumer reviews, reliability ratings, and reported problems/complaints.

Only a handful of cars from the compact crossover category can square off against Japanese and American favorites year after year, and the Korean-made Kia Sportage is one of those cars.

As with its close competitor, the Toyota RAV4, the Kia Sportage is now in its 5th-generation model ever since its initial US market release back in 1995.

That’s 28 years’ worth of models to choose from, and just like any other vehicle on the used market, you can’t just go in blind and pick any Kia Sportage model year if you want to get the best bang for your buck.

Luckily, the Kia Sportage has had a good run so far, which means that there are plenty of good model years to choose from.

But we’re here for the best of the best, and so far, experts and consumers alike have come together to give their thoughts, ratings, and even complaints regarding each model year of the Sportage.

Thus, we’ve listed some of the best (and worst) Kia Sportage model years and why they deserve to be labeled as such below!

What are the best years of the Kia Sportage?

The best Kia Sportage model years are 2002, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023. These model years received the highest ratings from both experts and consumers and also had the least reported problems on average.

Take note that the Kia Sportage model years listed below are only listed chronologically. Thus, their position on the list has no bearing on how much better or worse they are compared to the other “best” model years.

2023 Kia Sportage

2023 Kia Sportage

The 2023 model marks the start of the latest generation of the Kia Sportage dubbed under the “NQ5” code, and with it comes a more futuristic take on its aesthetics and plenty of innovative tech.

This is the model year to get if you really want to stay with the pack and be up-to-date with the latest equipment, such as a 12.3-inch digital panel, a blind-spot view monitor, a collision-avoidance program, and many more driver assists.

The 2023 Kia Sportage is also an entire 7.1 inches longer than the last-gen model, leading to tons of cargo and legroom, which seems to be this generation’s specialty.

The overall consumer ratings for the 2023 model are 4.4/5 on KBB, 82/100 on J.D. Power, and a lower 3.7/5 on Edmunds due to reports of engine and transmission issues.

So despite this model having been only out for one year at this point, it still pays to be on the lookout for a check engine light (CEL), a decrease in engine performance, and transmission slipping issues even at lower mileage.

2022 Kia Sportage

2022 Kia Sportage

As the final model year of the 4th-generation Kia Sportage “QL”, the 2022 model is a great choice if you’re looking for a formula that works and has been refined throughout the years.

While not the latest iteration, the 2022 Kia Sportage is still up there in terms of its array of practical and safety features while being in a slightly more compact yet comfortable shell.

It offers solid value for your money despite being of smaller stature than the ongoing model. Even in that regard, it can still adequately seat 5 adults, though going for 4 is the most optimum way to go about it.

The 2022 model is also one of the most highly-rated models in terms of safety with a 5/5 crash test rating from the NHTSA. 

This is all thanks to features such as front and rear parking sensors, a forward-collision warning system, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert for the LX trim’s “Value Edition” and other higher trims.

Consumers have rated the 2022 Kia Sportage with average scores of 4.5/5 both on KBB and Edmunds, and 82/100 on J.D. Power owing to its reputation for having good reliability, a techy interior, and a fun demeanor all around.

2021 Kia Sportage

The 2021 Kia Sportage also joins this list as one of the better years of the crossover SUV, especially if you fancy getting a 4th-gen model, in particular.

Being a later model year, the 2021 model has a lot to offer, such as different interior packages, innovative safety features that already come as standard, and a powerful 240-hp turbocharged 2-liter I4.

However, that turbo option is going to cost you a few points in fuel economy, which is why opting for the base 2.4-liter I4 will bring you closer to the fuel-sipping competition if that’s your priority.

The 2021 model scores high all across the board in terms of consumer satisfaction, with ratings such as 4.5/5 on KBB, 4.6/5 on Edmunds, and 82/100 on J.D. Power.

All in all, owners favor this model year for its sophisticated interior technology, ample room for its size, great ride quality, and the option to really put the pedal to the metal with the turbo variant when desired. 

2019 Kia Sportage

Another notable 4th-gen Kia Sportage model year is the 2019 model, and with its age comes more opportunities to get bigger bargains in the secondhand market given that you can keep any issues at bay.

Albeit a pre-facelift model, the 2019 Kia Sportage still gives off the same fun and sporty vibes as its facelift counterparts, all while still maintaining an adequate amount of tech features and creature comforts.

Consumer ratings are looking good for the most part for the 2019 model, with J.D. Power giving it an 84/100 whereas it lands a solid 4.5/5 from KBB reviewers.

However, it dips to only a 3.8/5 for consumers over at Edmunds due to complaints about acceleration problems, air conditioning problems, and other interior issues.

Having said that, this particular model year still has one of the fewest reported complaints compared to earlier years and even the 2020 model, thus making it worthy of joining this list even by reliability alone.

2014 Kia Sportage

2014 Kia Sportage

If you’re looking for an even cheaper but still relatively modern Kia Sportage model, then consider adding the 2014 model year to your garage.

As part of the 3rd-generation “SL” model, the 2014 Kia Sportage is regarded as one of its most reliable years, and this is before even mentioning its quirks and features, as a certain Doug Demuro likes to say.

Even though it’s an older model, the 2014 Kia Sportage still holds its own against similar models when it comes to generous offerings of comfort features, such as heated seats,

It’s also simply innovative and well-put together suspension-wise, resulting in both sporty handling characteristics and buttery-smooth ride quality.

Looking at its consumer ratings, however, you’ll find that there’s still a mix of highs and lows. KBB and J.D. Power give the 2014 model a 4.3/5 and 81/100, respectively, whereas Edmunds consumers only give it a 3.6/5 on average.

It turns out that the lower ratings were from owners who complained of engine issues like ticking noises, excessive oil consumption, illuminated check engine lights, and even complete engine failure.

2010 Kia Sportage

2010 Kia Sportage

If you’re in the market specifically for a 2nd-gen Kia Sportage, then going with the 2010 model year is your best bet thanks to its proven track record for reliability.

It’s one of the most affordable models on this list at the expense of not really having that many options in terms of trim levels and engines. 

However, the optional V6 variant is known to be a durable powerplant within the Sportage’s class. Just don’t expect to be winning any drag races against competitors anytime soon, though.

There’s also a lot of legroom to be had especially for second-row occupants, which makes for good comfort and practicality for its interior.

Safety-wise, it’s still one of the top dogs of its time since earning a 5-star rating from the IIHS for both frontal and side-impact crash protection. 

This is all made possible by standard features such as stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front head restraints, side curtain airbags, and front-seat side-impact airbags.

The 2010 Kia Sportage received high consumer ratings of 4.5/5 on both KBB and Edmunds, and 79/100 on J.D. Power, with most complaints only pointing out minor interior trim issues and occasional electronic problems.

2008 Kia Sportage

Don’t let the 2008 Kia Sportage’s age fool you, as it’s also a worthy contender for one of the best years of the crossover SUV, even for the older 2nd-gen model. 

For one, its reputation for having a lot of satisfied owners is backed up by high consumer ratings of 4.5/5 on KBB, 4.4/5 on Edmunds, and 82/100 on J.D. Power.

In addition, owners of well-maintained examples of it have been able to clock 200,000 miles on the odometer without running into any major issues that need extensive repairs. All of this while having unbeatable bargain prices.

This isn’t to say, however, that you’d be perfectly fine with opting for a high-mileage model. When looking for something this old in the used market, it’s still recommended to get one with fewer miles and a good maintenance record.

On occasion, some owners have had to deal with bits and pieces in the interior falling apart even on low-mileage models. You should also be wary of samples that have gone through harsh winter conditions, as they can be more prone to airflow system issues.

2002 Kia Sportage

2002 Kia Sportage

For the few that are looking to get the original no-frills 1st-gen compact version of the Kia Sportage, then aim for the 2002 model year, the final rendition of the “NB” Sportage.

While there’s nothing particularly mind-blowing about it getting average ratings of 3.4/5 on KBB and 3.6/5 on Edmunds, the 2002 Kia Sportage is still technically the “best” model year of the 1st generation you’re going to get.

This is especially true considering that it’s the last model year of the generation with all of the updates and improvements done, making it decently reliable while still having an ample amount of safety and practical features for its time.

The 2002 model comes very budget-friendly, comes in either 2-door soft-top or 4-door hardtop configurations, and has optional leather upholstery, cruise control, an antilock brakes system (ABS), and keyless entry.

Just be sure to look for a well-maintained and preferably low-mileage sample if you could, as 1st-gen models can really start to show their age in various powertrain issues, electrical gremlins, and interior wear and tear.  

What are the worst years of the Kia Sportage?

The worst Kia Sportage model years are 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2017 due to having the most complaints regarding engine and electronic issues, making them some of the most unreliable years of the SUV.

2017 Kia Sportage

2017 Kia Sportage

Of all the 4th-generation Kia Sportage models you should avoid, the 2017 model year definitely takes the cake due to receiving the most complaints from owners regarding various things that could go wrong with it.

Among the 400+ complaints posted on both CarProblemZoo and CarComplaints combined for the 2017 Kia Sportage, 138 of them concerned the engine and cooling system alone.

This model year, in particular, is notorious for excessive oil consumption, engine stalling, overheating, and even complete engine failure.

Such major problems are detrimental to the car’s overall longevity, making the 2017 model one of the most unreliable years that the Sportage has had to date.  

2013 Kia Sportage

2013 Kia Sportage

Even 3rd-gen models of the Kia Sportage have not been spared from engine issues, as a lot of 2013 Kia Sportage owners complained of sudden shutdowns while driving down the road.

Taking a closer look at the issue, owners of 2013 models at various mileage points commonly report that the check engine light comes on, which can be partnered with other symptoms such as engine knocking noises and reduced power.

Engine-related complaints alone total about 290 out of all 394 reports on CarProblemZoo for the 2013 model. 

Another 23 consumer complaints posted on CarComplaints further add fuel to the fire and make it clear that this is a dangerous model year for the crossover SUV that you should definitely avoid.

Aside from the prevalent engine problems, you should also look out for other issues with its interior and electronic features.

2012 Kia Sportage

Much like its 2013 counterpart, the 2012 Kia Sportage also had an influx of engine issues that make up the bulk of all 426 of its complaints on CarProblemZoo, thereby making it a model year anyone wouldn’t mind missing out on.

Of course, the same engine stalling problem also plagued the 2012 model, with a lot of owners distraught with how dangerous it was for them to experience the car suddenly smoking and shutting down while in the middle of driving.

About 31 owners complained of this on CarComplaints at an average mileage of 88,450 miles, which still isn’t that much considering other model years can reach 200,000 miles without any major failures.

While there have been recalls about this issue pointing to faulty parts like bearings and knock sensors, owners struggled to get their 2012 model recalled due to things like expired warranties, certain VINs not being included, and previous owners’ negligence.

2011 Kia Sportage

Yet another 3rd-gen model year that you should avoid, the 2011 Kia Sportage doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability on account of engine stalling problems and complete engine failure.

Despite not having as many engine and cooling system complaints ( 77 on CarProblemZoo), some owners of the 2011 model have been very unlucky to go through multiple engine rebuilds and thousands of dollars on repairs gone down the drain.

To further add insult to injury, the engine isn’t the only thing known to commonly go wrong, as it also received 31 complaints on CarProblemZoo regarding various electrical components going haywire.

Such electrical issues can include the gear shifter getting stuck, the A/C not working, the cruise control malfunctioning, starting issues, faulty interior lights, faulty brake lights, and more.

2006 Kia Sportage

2006 Kia Sportage

Plenty of decent 2nd-gen Kia Sportage models can be found on the used market, but if you were to pick out one particular model year that doesn’t quite hold a candle to the rest, it would have to be the 2006 model.

It received the most number of complaints out of any 2nd-gen model year, which totals 15 on CarComplaints and 170 on CarProblemZoo.

While the notorious engine shutdowns also haunt this model year, the 2006 Kia Sportage is most known for its airbag-related issues, one of the most common being that the airbag light turns on due to faulty sensors in the seats.

This alone already raises concerns if the airbag would even work in the event of a crash, and to make matters worse, there have already been cases of people getting into accidents and the airbags failing to deploy.

1998/1999/2001 Kia Sportage (1st Generation)

199819992001 Kia Sportage (1st Generation)

The 1st-gen Kia Sportage is a way cheaper and simpler way to experience the Korean SUV without all the fancy modern gizmos, as long as you avoid the unreliable 1998, 1999, and 2001 money pits, that is.

Complaints posted on CarComplaints and CarProblemZoo total about 567 for the 1998 model, 499 for the 1999 model, and 375 for the 2001 model year.

These three model years have problematic engines that are known to run badly and fail, not to mention their 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system isn’t exactly well-built in that it can develop leaks, make grinding noises, and be difficult to engage.

Aside from the above, the 1998 model exhibited the worst brake problems since the materials used for various components were believed to have defects. 

This led to brakes that were quick to overheat, a loss of braking power, a brake pedal that sank to the floor, warped rotors, and more.

As for the 1999 model, another one of its weak points is its powertrain, and apart from the prevalent 4WD issue, it also had shifting malfunctions, engine stalling, jerky acceleration, and faulty axle hubs.

The 2001 Kia Sportage, in particular, was also prone to issues with its fuel system components. The fuel tank easily corroded and leaked out fuel, which caused the smell of gasoline to reach into the cabin.

Kia Sportage Best and Worst Years Per Generation

Generation/Model YearsBest YearsWorst Years
1st Generation (NB) (1995 to 2002)
1998 1999 2001
2nd Generation (JE/KM) (2005 to 2010)2010 20082006
3rd Generation (SL) (2011 to 2016)
2013 2012 2011
4th Generation (QL) (2017 to 2022)2022 2021 2019
5th Generation (NQ5) (2023 to 2024/Present)2023N/A

Consumer/Expert Ratings for Best Kia Sportage Model Years

Kia Sportage Model YearKBB Consumer RatingEdmunds Consumer RatingCar and Driver RatingJ.D. Power Consumer Rating
20234.4/5 3.7/5 8.5/1083/100
20224.5/5 4.5/5N/A82/100
20214.5/5 4.6/57.5/1082/100
20194.5/53.8/5 8/1084/100
20144.3/5 3.6/5N/A81/100
20084.5/5 4.4/5N/A82/100

What Kia Sportage years should you avoid?

The Kia Sportage model years you should avoid are 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2017, as these model years are considered the most unreliable due to having received the most reported problems.

Not every Kia Sportage generation is created equal, and this also couldn’t be any more true when it comes to each model year.

It’s currently still too early to tell which 5th-gen model year is worth avoiding, but we do know that among the 4th-gen models, the 2017 Kia Sportage comes out as the worst due to being plagued with engine stalling and excess oil consumption problems.

The 3rd-generation Sportage also suffered from sudden engine shutdowns as well as a multitude of electrical issues, with the 2011, 2012, and 2013 model years being the worst of the lot.

As far as 2nd-gen models are concerned, the 2006 Kia Sportage is regarded as the most unreliable and even most unsafe year because of airbag problems and the all-too-familiar engine stalling issue.

The 1998, 1999, and 2001 model years of the 1st-gen Kia Sportage are also not worth bothering yourself with on account of numerous cases of engine overheating, engine failure, drivetrain issues, brake defects, and corroded fuel tanks.

What are the common problems of a Kia Sportage?

What are the common problems of a Kia Sportage

Common Kia Sportage problems include engine failure, an illuminated check engine light, excessive oil consumption, brake problems, interior issues, and various electronic issues.

Engine Problems

Just about every Kia Sportage generation has its own fair share of engine problems, but if you happen to buy one of the worst years, things can turn from being annoying to downright dangerous quickly.

The Kia Sportage is no stranger to engine stalling issues, which have been reported across multiple generations, with some owners even experiencing total engine failure.

Some common symptoms you can experience include an illuminated check engine light (CEL), knocking noises, reduced acceleration performance, and excessive oil consumption.

Brake Problems

Issues with the braking system are also fairly common in the Kia Sportage and even more so in the earlier generations.

Such brake problems can vary from a simple faulty brake light switch to complete brake failure that can occur prematurely.

Some owners report that the brakes can suddenly lock up and prevent the car from moving, while others notice a decrease in stopping power, which poses a considerable safety risk, especially at high speeds.

1st-gen models are also particularly known to have material defects in their brake components, causing them to wear out faster and fail prematurely.

Interior and Electronic Issues

As premium and comfortable as its interior may be, the Kia Sportage can’t seem to get a break from various flaws reported by owners inside the cabin.

The air conditioning system is known to become faulty, resulting in either too hot or too cold air being blown out of its vents. Other times, it can even stop working completely.

Other interior features that can also malfunction include the interior lights, radio, infotainment display screen, cruise control, start system, airbags, power windows, and even the gear selector.

There have also been instances of various interior pieces breaking or coming off on older models, which can include cup holders and various switches.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the Kia Sportage a reliable used car?

The Kia Sportage is considered a reliable crossover SUV even in the secondhand market. However, it’s still worth familiarizing yourself with each generation’s model years to find out which ones are the most reliable.

For instance, the 2022 Kia Sportage has one of the highest reliability ratings out of any 4th-generation model at 88/100 on J.D. Power and 4.6/5 on KBB. It also received a total of only 30 complaints on CarProblemZoo.

In comparison, the 2017 model, which is part of the same generation, received reliability ratings of 81/100 on J.D. Power and 4.6/5 on KBB. However, it received a whopping 382 complaints on CarProblemZoo, leaving its reliability quite debatable.

is the Kia Sportage high maintenance?

According to RepairPal, the Kia Sportage has an annual maintenance cost of $462, which is $59 cheaper compared to the $521 average for compact SUVs in its class, making it quite inexpensive to maintain.

Is the Kia Sportage fuel efficient?

While the Kia Sportage generally gets decent gas mileage, you will be getting the best fuel efficiency when opting for the 1.6-liter turbo hybrid variant (Sportage Hybrid), which gets EPA ratings of 42 mpg (city) and 44 mpg (highway).

The PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicle) variant, on the other hand, has EPA-rated numbers of 36 mpg (city) and 35 mpg (highway).

Non-hybrid Kia Sportage models with the 187-hp 2.5-liter I4 power plant have EPA fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg (city) and 32 mpg (highway) for FWD models, while AWD models get slightly worse numbers of 23 mpg (city) and 28 mpg (highway).