The 2013 Kia Sportage is without question one of my top picks in the rapidly growing compact crossover utility segment.

While the Sportage earns high marks for performance, handling and comfort, it is also the absolute “Best Buy” in the segment.

With a base price starting at $19,000, the five-passenger Sportage, available in front- or all-wheel drive configurations, is helping consumers get the best bang for their buck in a lot of ways.

Available in Base, LX, EX and SX trim levels, the Sportage is available with a wide array of features and technology — as well as one of the best warranties in the industry (10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty).

Regardless of which trim level you may choose, it’s impossible to make a bad decision.

For the 2013 model year, buyers have their choice of two fuel-efficient engines.

The Base, LX and EX models are powered by a 2.4-liter I-4 engine delivering 176 horsepower and 168 lbs.-ft. torque.

The Sportage Base model is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and is only available in front-wheel drive.

Sportage LX and EX models, available in either front- or all-wheel drive configurations, are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic.

Requiring regular unleaded fuel, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg city, 30 mpg city for front-wheel drive models (20 mpg and 27 mpg respectively for all-wheel drive).

The Sportage SX is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine producing 260 horsepower and 269 lbs.-ft. torque.

Also available in front- or all-wheel drive configurations, it is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic.

Requiring regular unleaded fuel, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway for front-wheel drive (20 mpg and 25 mpg respectively for all-wheel drive).

All Sportage models have a tow rating of 2,000 pounds.

Standard safety features include advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, first and second row side curtain airbags, front active headrests, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, electronic stability control and electronic brake distribution, hill start assist control and downhill brake control, to name but a few.

Standard features on the base model include AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat audio system, air conditioning, power windows with one-touch down, power side mirrors, 12-volt power outlets, tilt steering column, six-way adjustable front seats and 60/40 split rear folding seat.

Sportage’s best-selling EX trim level (starting at $24,200) features premium audio system with an internal amplifier and sub-woofer, HD Radio, rearview back-up camera with back-up warning system, dual-zone climate control system with ionized filtration, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, automatic headlights, automatic folding second row seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, illuminated vanity mirrors and glove box, as well as EcoMinder indicator for fuel-efficient driving.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

The Nuts and Bolts

MODEL:

2013 Kia Sportage

5-seat crossover utility  

Front-, or all-wheel drive

Trim packages:

Base, LX, EX, SX

PRICE RANGE:

$19,000-$32,000

ENGINE:

2.4-L I4 (175 hp/166 T)

2.0-L turbocharged I4 (260 hp/269 T)

TRANSMISSION:

6-speed manual

6-speed automatic

EPA: 21/21 mpg city, 30/28 mpg highway (2.4/2.0 FWD w/AT)

FUEL: Regular unleaded

STABILITY CONTROL:

Electronic stability control

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 174.8 inches

WHEELBASE: 103.9 in.

WIDTH: 73 inches

HEIGHT: 64.4 inches

WEIGHT: 3157-3466 lbs.

TRACK: 63.5/63.6

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 15.3 gallons

TIRES: 16-, or 18-inch

CARGO: 26.1/54.6 cubic feet (behind 2nd/1st row)

TOWING: 2,000 pounds