Kia Sportage in Snow and Winter Driving? (Explained)

The Kia Sportage is a small SUV and is one of Kia’s most popular and longstanding models.

Known for its affordability and practicality, the Sportage has good quality and reliability ratings.

In this article we’ll analyze the vehicles performance in the winter, read on to find out more…

Here is the short answer to whether the Kia Sportage is good for snow and winter driving:

The Kia Sportage is a solid choice for driving in snow, with the all-wheel-drive being the optimal trim. The Sportage performs well in winter due to its traction control, stability control, ABS and Driver Assist Technology features however it is somewhat limited by its 6.4-inch ground clearance.

Is a Kia Sportage good in the Snow?

With several driver assistance features as standard, the Sportage is a safe, reliable option for winter driving, however we would advise investing in a good set of winter tires for the best possible performance.

The front-wheel-drive (FWD) versions of the Sportage would be less optimal for slick conditions in comparison to the all-wheel-drive models, however by no means unsuitable.

All-wheel-drive systems can send power to all four wheels or even to individual wheels, therefore there is an increased chance at least one of the wheels will gain traction.

However the FWD model will still benefit from having the weight of the engine over the drive wheels, which aids traction.

For getting out of a driveway covered in snow and excellent all-weather grip the AWD Sportage is the superior option.

The Sportage offers a reasonable amount of ground clearance, the FWD model sits at 6.4 inches whilst the AWD model is slightly higher at 6.8 inches.

For light snow, this should be more than enough clearance to avoid getting stuck, if you are likely to experience more severe conditions we would advise looking into the Kia Telluride.

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

Here are some of the features available on the Kia Sportage that improve its winter performance:

Dynamax All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

The main aim of AWD is to provide forward traction, it helps prevent fishtailing under acceleration which causes many drivers of rear-wheel-drive vehicles to lose control.

Kia’s Dynamax all-wheel-drive system monitors surface conditions and distributes power to the appropriate wheels to ensure the most amount of grip and control.

All-wheel drive is an additional $1500 in the EX, SX, and LX trims, while the S trim combines AWD and heated front seats for $1700.

AWD will get you moving and keep you moving in deep snow, however it is not synonymous with increased cornering power.

Related: How Long Do Kia Sportage Last? (12 Important Facts)

Stability and Traction Control

The Sportage offers electronic stability control and traction control, as the names would suggest these are designed to improve stability and traction -ideal for slippery winter roads.

Stability and traction Control can help a driver maintain control by:

  • Correcting understeering or oversteering
  • Stabilizing the vehicle during sudden evasive maneuvers
  • Improving traction on icy or slippery roads

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)

When traction is limited, such as on roads covered in snow or ice, ABS is an incredibly useful feature.

During hard braking or on slippery surfaces, a driver may apply a braking force that is greater than the tires capacity to grip.

If this happens the wheels can ‘lock up’, causing the vehicle to skid out of control.

By preventing this lock-up the vehicle stops sooner and remains under the drivers control.

The anti-lock brakes on the Sportage provides this assistance.

Hill Start and Downhill Brake Control

The Sportage features a hill start and downhill braking assist.

In slippery winter conditions these helpful systems give added confidence on inclined terrain.

  • Hill start prevents the vehicle from rolling back when it starts to go after stopping on a steep hill, brakes are activated for approximately two seconds and are released after this time or when the accelerator is depressed.
  • Downhill Brake Control helps the driver when descending a steep hill without the driver depressing the brake pedal. It slows the car to under approximately 8 km/h (5mph) and allows the driver to focus on steering the vehicle

Kia Drive Wise Driver Assist Technology

The Sportage comes equipped with some great safety tech as standard, these can help all year round but are especially useful when driving in sub-optimal conditions.

  • Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist with Pedestrian Detection – Alerts you to a potential front-end collision.
  • Lane Keeping Assist – May gently steer the vehicle back into your lane if you begin to drift out of it.
  • Lane Departure Warning – Uses a camera to alert you when you’re drifting out of your lane.
  • Driver Attention Warning – Sends an alert if it detects inattentive driving practices.
  • High Beam Assist – Automatically changes headlights to low beam from high beam and back to make life easier.

Does a Sportage Have Snow Mode?

The Kia Sportage does not have a snow mode, however with AWD, a good set of winter tires, traction and stability control the Kia Sportage should handle just fine.

Snow modes aren’t essential however they can help reduce wheel spin by reducing throttle sensitivity.

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on a Sportage?

You can install snow gear on the Kia Sportage. Depending on what is available and legal in your region, you can install: 

  • Snow tires 
  • Studded tires 
  • Snow socks 
  • Snow chains 

Ensure you know what tires you need before buying snow tires/studded  tires. This includes knowing proper size, speed and weight ratings.  

If you are going to be using snow chains, it is advised to only put them on  the rear of the vehicle. 

With snow socks and chains, do not exceed speeds of 30 MPH. 

Also, be wary of installing chains, studs or socks without knowing if your  region allows them on the road. Many regions have strict laws regarding  snow gear. 

How Much Snow Can a Sportage Handle?

With a ground clearance of 6.4 inches, the Sportage is suitable for light snow conditions, and should encounter no issues when driving in snow up to 5 inches.

How Does the Sportage Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

The Sportage is designed to be driven any time during the year. You should not expect to have any issues starting or driving the vehicle in cold winter weather.

The modern technology incorporated in the engine means there’s no need to excessively warm the engine up in colder temperatures, nor will it need multiple starts before firing up.

The Sportage has available heated and ventilated front seats for comfort and warmth.

Can a Sportage Drive on Ice?

A Sportage can drive on ice however stock tires will provide the lowest possible traction, snow tires will help, but if you regularly drive on ice, you may need to consider upgrading to studded snow tires.

The Sportage’s performance on icy roads is bolstered by its traction and stability control.

When driving on ice it is important to drive slowly and take corners at a reduced speed.

Does the Sportage have 4WD?

The Sportage does not have true four-wheel drive (4WD).

4WD is typically found on large trucks or SUVs designed for off-road use and extreme winter conditions.

The Sportage does have automatic AWD which should be effective enough to meet to meet many peoples winter driving needs.

What About Older Sportage Models and Winter Driving?

The Sportage has changed significantly since its first production in 1995, however it has always had AWD.

The newer models are better in the snow due to advancements in automotive engineering and safety features.

Systems such as Driver Assist, traction and stability control and AWD are upgraded on a regular basis and so newer models will usually offer the best versions available.

Does the Sportage need Snow Tires?

Unquestionably, the Sportage will benefit from a good set of winter tires.

The main benefits of which are improved stopping and handling.

Many users have reported difficulties with the stock tires in snowy conditions, and so it would certainly make a worthwhile investment.

Can You Mount a Snow Plow on a Sportage?

We would advise against mounting a snow plow to a Sportage, although there is evidence of people having done so.

As a small SUV it’s not primarily designed for heavy plowing and attempting to do so could damage the vehicle.

Related: 15 Best & Worst Kia Sportage Years (With Facts & Stats)


  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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