Kia puts the fun in funky with the wonderfully appointed Sportage. This quirky compact crossover has a charming Audi-like interior and a long list of premium options. These include heated and cooled seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a panoramic sunroof, and a host of high-tech safety assists such as automated emergency braking. Although it’s only available on the top SX trim, a rowdy turbocharged four-cylinder makes the Sportage downright speedy. A 181-hp inline-four provides ample push on lower trims. Both engines mate to a six-speed automatic transmission with front- or all-wheel drive. Despite mediocre fuel economy and tight cargo quarters, the jovial Sportage is a justifiable alternative to top-ranked rivals.
- 4-Cyl 1.6 Liter
- Automatic 6-Spd
- ABS (4-Wheel)
- Air Bags (Side): Front
- Air Bags: Dual Front
- Air Bags: F&R Head Curtain
- Air Conditioning
- AM/FM Stereo
- Bluetooth Wireless
- CD: MP3 (Single)
- Cruise Control
- Electronic Stability Control
- Fog Lamps
- Hill Start Assist Control
The combustion process—gasoline and air burned in the cylinders to produce power—also produces byproducts, carbon being the most relevant to this discussion. Carbon deposits inside the engine disturb airflow and air/fuel ratios, adversely affecting performance, emissions, and fuel economy to the point that it might set off the check engine light—and trigger the need for potentially expensive repairs. Decades ago, it was routine procedure to partially dismantle engines to remove carbon deposits. The Brits called it decoking. There was also the “Italian tune-up,” running the engine near redline to burn off carbon deposits.
Modern engines are even more sensitive to carbon deposits on such components as intake valves and fuel injectors. These deposits cause a rough idle, hesitant acceleration, and knocking or pinging, among other symptoms. In 1996, the federal Environmental Protection Agency decreed that gasoline refiners must add detergent to every grade of gasoline—regular, midgrade, and premium—to prevent carbon buildup. But eight automakers—Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes- Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen—deemed the federally required amount of detergent additive insufficient. They formed an alliance called Top Tier to test and certify that gasoline brands have additional detergent additives to keep their engines performing as they were originally designed.
Last year, AAA hired an independent engine testing lab to see if Top Tier gasoline cleans engines any better than non–Top Tier brands. The result? Top Tier gasoline averaged a whopping 19 times fewer deposits than non–Top Tier gasoline after only 4,000 miles of simulated driving. And for motorists who’ve been using lower-quality gasoline, the AAA study had good news. There’s no need to tear down the engine and decoke. As stated in the final report, “Engine carbon deposits formed when using [non–Top Tier gasoline] can be largely removed by switching to a gasoline that meets Top Tier standards”—though it may take a few thousand miles of driving. More good news: The average price difference between Top Tier and non–Top Tier brands was just 3 cents a gallon. AAA also found non–Top Tier gasoline reduced fuel economy by 2 to 4 percent, meaning that the higher cost of Top Tier brands is mitigated by improved fuel economy. Seems to me like pretty good reasons to stick with Top Tier gas. To find brands meeting Top Tier standards, go to toptiergas.com/licensedbrands.
A note of caution: Don’t confuse gasoline quality (which refers to detergent additives) with grade (which refers to octane rating). Buying a lower octane rating than specified in your car’s owner’s manual also harms performance and could cause engine damage. Buying a higher grade than required is a waste of money.
You need clean air to breathe and so does your car, and a vehicle’s air filters make that possible. The non-profit Car Care Council reminds car owners to have the engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed regularly to ensure vehicle longevity and interior comfort.
“Air filters are your vehicle’s first line of defense against contaminants that reduce cabin air quality and negatively impact engine performance,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one out of five vehicles is in need of air filter replacement, so it’s evident that motorists often overlook this simple, yet important service.”
The vehicle’s engine air filter traps dirt particles that can cause damage to engine cylinders, cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings and bearings, leading to the engine losing power. The air filter also plays a critical role in keeping pollutants from contaminating the airflow sensor on fuel-injected cars. A normal wear item that requires regular checks and replacement, air filters should be inspected at each oil change and replaced annually or when showing other signs of contamination.
The cabin air filter is responsible for cleaning the air entering the passenger compartment. Under normal circumstances, it helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, compromising interior air quality and damaging the system. Most cabin air filters are accessed through the panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or placed within the interior of the vehicle. A cabin air filter should not be cleaned and reinstalled. Instead, it should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or per the owner’s manual.