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How Well Does KIA Sportage Drive In Snow? (+Owner Reviews)

KIA came back with a bang after years of only limited sales in 2010 in the USA, thanks to Hyundai taking the early reigns of its development. Its best-selling model KIA Sportage has been a rage for all since its debut in 1993. But how does this Cross-SUV drive in snow? We will find out more about this.

The Kia Sportage has a good grip in the snow because the engine’s weight is distributed over the driving wheels. AWD makes Sportage a strong option for driving in light to moderate snow. Owners are positive about the Sportage and its excellent ground clearance for a small SUV. This allows it to maneuver easily through snow up to 6 inches. It also has ABS (Antilock Brake System), hill braking assist, driver assists technology, and decent traction control.

This, however, doesn’t tell a complete story. We will first see the response of some owners regarding this SUV in snowy conditions, and then we will take a deep look into some specifications of the car, such as tires, drive systems, and electronic support systems. Finally, we’ll talk about the ground clearance, the weight distribution, and the wheelbase. We will give a closure with suggestions for optional traction devices that can provide even more grip in snow, so it is advisable to read till the end!

Experiences of KIA Sportage Owners

We feel it is vital to include some KIA Sportage owners in our debate since we believe it ensures that you get a clear image before you decide to buy a Sportage. We looked at many forums to determine the consensus on this vehicle. According to our views, the owners of this car are rather pleased with its performance in mid-winter conditions.

“I love the car. I love how it is on gas. I love the color. I use the heated seats and wheel often in the wintertime. I love the sunroof. I enjoy the leather seats and the space the car has. I like the Sportage drive feature. The car drives great in the snow, and it feels safe driving it.”

Heather R (2019 Kia Sportage EX)


“Bought the car used in mid-Just. I do a lot of driving, car has been great. We just had our 1st major snowstorm. AWD worked great. It got me through the sleet and snow. So far, I’ve put close to 14000 miles on the car. I am very satisfied. Averaging close to 25mpg, 27 to 28 on long highway runs.”

Fred Monticello, NY (2020 Kia Sportage)


“I purchased my Sportage to be safe and empowered when driving in the snow. I live in a very steep and hilly area where the snowplow does not come until after I leave for work. The Sportage drives like a snowmobile. It is very comfortable and big enough to add garage sale finds in the back.”

Anna L (2018 Kia Sportage LX)


In the video below, you can see how the Kia Sportage does in extremely heavy snowfall. It’s definitely struggling a bit, but with enough power, the owner can turn the Sportage in the direction he wants it. Since the Sportage can handle these conditions, light-medium snowfall shouldn’t be a problem.

Does KIA Sportage Have Snow Tires?

Let’s start at the beginning: The best KIA Sportage tires should give excellent traction, drivability, toughness, and durability on any surface. KIA Sportage tires come in various sizes and shapes, each designed for a specific purpose and set of circumstances.

All-Season Tires – On select Kia vehicles, all-season tires are specified to perform well in all weather conditions, including snowy and icy roads. Snow tires provide superior snow traction than all-season tires and may be preferable in specific situations.

Summer Tires – Some Kia cars come with summer tires, which provide better performance on dry roads. In snow and ice, the performance of summer tires is significantly diminished. Summer tires do not feature the M+S (Mud and Snow) tire traction rating on the sidewall.

Snow Tires – Snow tires should be the same size and load capacity as the original tires if you install them on your car. All four wheels should be fitted with snow tires; otherwise, poor handling may occur.

As per the user guide, snow tires must have 28 kPa (4 psi) more air pressure than the standard tire pressure advised on the driver’s side of the center pillar or up to the maximum pressure listed on the tire sidewall, whichever is lower.

Kia suggests using snow or all-season tires on all four wheels if you plan to drive your car in snowy or icy conditions. When your vehicle is equipped with snow tires, do not exceed 120 km/h (75 mph).

What Drive System Does KIA Sportage Have?

KIA Sportage comes with three drive modes, each for a different set of conditions:-

NORMAL – Normal Mode is the ideal balance of power, fuel efficiency, steering, and throttle responsiveness for your daily commute. It is suitable for city traffic conditions as it creates a balance between the engine’s power and speed control for safety.

ECO – The ECO driving mode on a Kia vehicle improves fuel efficiency. ECO Mode will reduce throttle response and alter transmission shift points to prioritize fuel economy over performance. The effectiveness of a car is determined by the driver’s behavior and the route’s state. It is mainly suited for heavy traffic conditions where fuel saving is essential or a trip with limited fuel supply.

When ECO mode is activated:-

  • Even if you fully depress the accelerator, the acceleration may be slightly reduced.
  • The performance of the air conditioner may be limited.
  • The automatic transmission’s shift pattern may vary.
  • The engine noise may increase.

SPORT – SPORT mode emphasizes dynamic driving by modifying the steering wheel, engine, and transmission system automatically. It allows the transmission to shift RPMs faster while sharpening steering and throttle response for unparalleled thrills. SPORT mode improves control and handling at higher speeds. It’s the extra punch you need when you want to choose power above fuel economy. It is best suited for very outer areas where traffic is significantly less.

When SPORT mode is activated:-

  • Even when the accelerator pedal is not depressed, it retains the gear and RPM for a while.
  • Upshifting takes longer.

Unfortunately, KIA Sportage doesn’t have SNOW mode, a driving mode designed for snowy and icy conditions. Because of this limitation, it is only encouraged to opt for this car if you have light to medium snow conditions in your area.

But due to AWD (All-wheel drive) feature (optional), it can be taken on snowy rides. So it is advisable to choose the AWD feature when purchasing the car and keep separate snow tires for all wheels.

Also read: What Transmissions Does A Kia Sportage Have And What Problems Are There?

What Electronic Systems Help KIA Sportage In The Snow?

Electrical systems such as the Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), airbags, antilock brakes, hill brake control, and collision control can influence the overall performance of KIA Sportage, whether on regular roads or in snowy terrain.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – The electronic stability control (ESC) system is a computer-controlled technology that assists the driver in maintaining vehicle control in various situations. It is a feature that protects your car from skidding by comparing the desired and actual paths. It aids drivers in maintaining vehicle control during sudden braking or aggressive steering maneuvers, reducing the severity of crashes caused by losing control. The best thing is that it controls the vehicle’s acceleration even if the pedal is pressed firmly.

Traction Control – The Kia Sportage is equipped with standard Traction control. This ingenious innovation improves traction on surfaces that are generally challenging to drive on, such as wet, slick highways and dirt tracks with loose gravel. Vehicles lacking these features tend to slip and slide on these surfaces, limiting acceleration and making it harder for drivers to maintain control. When the Sportage detects that its wheels are about to slip, traction control kicks in to help the vehicle make the most of any available traction.

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) – ABS is a highly beneficial feature when traction is limited, such as on snow-covered or icy roads. A driver may exert brakes forcefully greater than the tire’s ability to grip while braking hard on slippery grounds. If this happens, the vehicle’s wheels might ‘lock up,’ forcing it to slip out of control. The ABS continuously monitors the wheel speed. If the wheels lock, the ABS regulates the hydraulic braking pressure to the wheels repeatedly.

Airbags – KIA Sportage has dual advanced front airbags, seat-mounted airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard. Rollover sensors are included in the 2021 Sportage. The side curtain airbags will deploy, and the seatbelt pre-tensioners will be triggered if a rollover is detected.

Hill Start and Downhill Brake Control – Hill-start and downhill braking help are available on the Sportage. These practical solutions provide greater confidence over sloping terrain in slick winter conditions.

  • Hill-start protects the vehicle from rolling back when it begins to move after stopping on a steep hill; the brakes are actuated for around two seconds and then released after that time or when the accelerator is pressed.
  • Downhill Brake Control assists the driver when descending a steep hill without depressing the brake pedal. It reduces the vehicle’s speed to less than 8 km/h (5 mph) and allows the driver to concentrate on steering.

Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist – It warns you about a possible front-end accident. It comes with a Pedestrian Detection Assist.

All of these safety functions were found in the owner’s manual of the 2021 KIA Sportage.

Also read: Types Of Gas A Kia Sportage Takes (All Generations)

Weight and Distribution

  • FWD – Front Wheel Drive
  • AWD – All-Wheel Drive
2021 KIA Sportage ModelCurb Weight (lbs.)
EX (FWD) EX (AWD)3305-3448.
LX (FWD) LX (AWD)3305-3448
SX (FWD) SX (AWD)3666-3880

All the trims of KIA Sportage have equal weight distribution, except for SX Edition, which packs some interior features more than the other models. Here the weight becomes a secondary factor as all models have the option of having AWD, primarily required in snow. The curb weight is average for the snow conditions, making it a good choice for light to medium snow conditions.

Ground Clearance

The ground clearances of all models come to around 6.4 inches for FWD and 6.8 inches which is adaptable to light to medium snow conditions. It becomes a drawback for extreme snow conditions where this car is discouraged. In that case, looking for a pure SUV or truck is advisable, as per the needs.

The Wheelbase

Finally, we’ll consider wheelbase (the distance between the front and the rear tires). This is because wheelbase contributes to how readily an automobile might slip and lose control.

The wheelbase for all trims is 105.1 inches, which is considered below average for heavy snow conditions. So with this limitation, it is advisable to have an AWD feature in the car, which somewhat makes up for the loss and its regular safety features.

Traction devices For KIA Sportage

Snow Chains – As per the past owners’ and experts’ views, it is advisable to have class S snow chains for the car, which can be found here on Amazon. Please make sure you buy the correct snow chain per the tire size.

You can also install snow socks that provide an extra grip on the tires on icy roads. It functions well with snow chains. Make sure to check the size of the wheel.

Do not exceed the speed limit of more than 30 mph when having snow chains and snow socks.