Crossover & Midsize

The Worst Kia Sportage Model Year Had a Catastrophic Problem

When buying a used car, it always pays to do your research. Certain vehicles have had many recalls for potentially life-threatening issues. The most famous of these was the Takata airbag problem, which affected nine million different vehicles from multiple automakers.

Even cars with high ratings from critics are not immune to these problems. Most recently, the Kia Sportage was included in a recall for a fuel pipe problem. According to the automaker, debris from manufacturing could block oil flow to the rod bearings, possibly leading to a fire. As severe as this sounds, one model year of the Kia Sportage had an even bigger problem.

The worst model year

The Kia Sportage at the New York International Auto Show
The Kia Sportage | Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Car Complaints lists 2012 as the worst year overall for the Kia Sportage. This car has a potentially deadly flaw: an engine that stopped working while the car was in motion. Many reported that the car stopped working while they were driving at highway speeds. In some cases, the engine even caught on fire.

Engine noise was also a big problem. Many reported hearing a loud knocking sound that only intensified over time. Both of these problems were incredibly expensive to fix because the only solution was a new engine. Drivers reported paying anywhere between $4,000-$5,500 to have it replaced.

Engine recalls

Eventually, a recall was finally issued for the failing engine. Kia stated that the cause of the problem was a leaking oil pan. Without enough oil, the engine would quickly become damaged. However, since this recall was only issued last year, many people had already paid for the damages themselves.

Another engine recall was released for the 2013 Kia Sportage. This one was more widespread, affecting over 600,000 vehicles. Thanks to a manufacturing error, some of the vehicles’ bearings were prone to premature wearing. If left unattended, this could lead to engine seizing.

Kia’s big lawsuit

In addition to multiple recalls, Kia was also involved in a class-action lawsuit for its faulty engine problems. The lawsuit involved both Kia and Hyundai vehicles, including the Sonata and Santa Fe. The automakers ultimately decided to settle for $758 million. 

Vehicles that had already been fixed are now eligible for reimbursement. An extended lifetime warranty has also been implemented to prevent drivers from paying high repair costs in the future. Before the lawsuit was settled, a free knock sensor was also offered by both Kia and Hyundai. This device monitors the engine and alerts drivers immediately if the motor needs repair.

The redesigned Kia Sportage

After 2013, complaints about the Kia Sportage went down drastically. In 2017, the SUV was given a complete redesign. Overall ride comfort was improved thanks to roomier seats and smoother handling. The newer Kia Sportage also had better visibility and good crash test scores.

The 2017 Sportage still has a few reported gripes about the engine. Some drivers stated that they experienced rough idling due to broken spark plugs. Thankfully, this is a very easy fix in comparison to overall engine failure.

Is the new Kia Sportage worth buying?

If you don’t want to take a chance on an older Kia Sportage, the remodel has garnered many good reviews. The base 181-hp engine is enjoyable to drive and gets decent fuel economy. In the SX Turbo trim, you can get a turbocharged 240-hp motor.¬†For 2020, standard smartphone integration was added as well as some new safety features.

Models from 2018-2020 also have the lowest amount of reported complaints. If it’s not in your budget to buy the latest Sportage, just steer clear of the 2011-2013 model years. Newer models may cost more, but at least you won’t have to worry about the engine catching fire.