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Most Kia Sportage model years have been reliable throughout its history. There are very few major patterns of consistent issues, based on owner complaints and the NHTSA. A few model years, however, should be avoided completely if possible. They’re the ones that have received a tremendous amount of complaints from owners and the NHTSA. The issues with these vehicles are consistent enough that it isn’t worth owning one, so avoid them at all costs.

The 2012 Kia Sportage is the worst model year ever

A black Kia Sportage close up on the Sportage name badge, there are some unreliable model years that should be avoided.
Kia Sportage Badge | (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Not only does the 2012 Kia Sportage receive a ton of complaints and have a lot of issues, but they’re also major problems. The problems are expensive to fix to the point that in 2021, these vehicles aren’t worth the money. Most prominently with the 2012 model, it has engine issues.

More precisely, the NHTSA reported 282 instances of engine problems along with over 35 owner complaints about the same thing listed on CarComplaints. These engine problems range from the vehicle shutting off while driving to excessive noise. Also worrisome are the history of recalls. As recently as 2020, the 2012 model year received a new recall titled “engine damage may cause fire”, which is one we’d steer away from.

In 2013, it got slightly better

An orange 2013 Kia Sportage with a white background, it is one model year that should be avoided.
2013 Kia Sportage | (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The 2013 Kia Sportage received loads of similar reported problems. The NHTSA noted 235 engine problems, which is surprisingly a hefty improvement from the previous model year. The majority of the issues once again are with the engine, as these two model years just didn’t get it right. The same problems have been reported, though they are slightly less frequent than the 2012 model.

Recalls aren’t as frequent with this model either. Only two NHTSA official recalls have been issued for the 2013 Kia Sportage. The most recent one went into effect in 2018, for a high-pressure fuel pipe leak. Other reported complaints include electrical, drivetrain, fuel system, and suspension problems.

The 2017 Kia Sportage brought back the engine problems

A red 2017 Kia Sportage parked at the Chicago Auto Show, it's one model year you should avoid.
2017 Kia Sportage | (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

The 2017 model year brought back the engine problems like they were a classic feature. The same reports of engine failure, excessive oil consumption, and stalling out returned for one more run. This time, the Sportage had way fewer issues, but more in different areas.

The 2017 Kia Sportage also has transmission, AC/Heater, and brake problems. Electrical and drivetrain problems also received a combined 50 complaints from the NHTSA. A lot of the major problems remain the same as 2012 and 2013 but are significantly decreased. This model is far less problematic than those other years, but should still be avoided.

Which Kia Sportage model years to buy

Over the past ten years, the Kia Sportage has had plenty of models that were quite unproblematic. Some of the highlights are 2019, 2015, and 2010. These model years received far fewer complaints from owners and the NHTSA alike. They also mostly received less expensive complaints like the interior accessories or lights, instead of engines and transmissions.

Not to mention, they didn’t have a laundry list of recalls every other year. The 2010 model year is over a decade old now, so it might not be worth the cheap price at this point. What was once unproblematic may have aged enough to become its successors.

The Kia Sportage is a great family SUV with plenty of space and reliability. These model years were seemingly one-offs, and the newer ones are better than ever. While we recommend avoiding these models, the most recent interations are wonderful options. The all-new 2023 Kia Sportage was just revealed, and it looks better than ever.


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