When the Kia Sportage made its U.S. debut almost 20 years ago, it tried to take on traditional sport-utility vehicles head-to-head with its serious four-wheel-drive capability. Before long, however, Kia realized that the growing number of buyers was really looking for more than just physically smaller versions of familiar full-size SUVs. They wanted a vehicle that combines the practicality of the sport-utility body style with the more civilized ride and handling qualities of a passenger car. The 2015 Kia Sportage goes a little beyond that, even. More than just giving you carlike abilities, it effectively backs up what its name implies by offering nimble handling and strong engines. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine on the SX trim level, in particular, is a standout, thanks to its 260 horsepower. You won't find much else out there that's quicker. The Sportage also gives you sleek styling, an extensive list of standard features and options and a price tag that typically undercuts the compact crossover competition. The 2015 Sportage does have a few shortcomings, however, starting with an interior that's a little short on both passenger room and cargo space compared with some of its rivals. It's something to keep in mind if you routinely chauffeur older kids around town or load up bulky gear for weekend camping trips. The same suspension that makes the Sportage fun to drive also creates a ride quality that may be a little too firm for some folks' tastes, while both of the available engines return EPA fuel economy estimates that are just so-so. With all that in mind, buyers looking for a small crossover with a larger interior should check out the 2015 Honda CR-V and the 2015 Toyota RAV4. There's also the Sportage's bigger brother, the Kia Sorento, to consider. If a lively on-road driving experience is important to you, the 2015 Ford Escape, 2015 Mazda CX-5 or the smaller but sportier Mini Countryman are smart picks. The mechanically related Hyundai Tucson is also worth checking out. In the final measure, the Edmunds.com B-rated 2015 Kia Sportage is most alluring as an alternative to these crossover mainstays. But if small and sporty are your priorities, it should work out well. Performance & mpg The 2015 Kia Sportage is available with two different four-cylinder engines. The LX and EX models come with a 2.4-liter version that produces 182 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque. The SX model gets a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that cranks out 260 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come mated to a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available as an option. In Edmunds testing, a front-drive SX sprinted from zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.5 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates for the front-drive LX and EX are 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway). Adding all-wheel drive drops this number to 22 mpg combined (19/26). The turbocharged SX model returns EPA estimates of 23 mpg combined (20/26) with front-wheel drive and 21 mpg combined (19/24) with all-wheel drive. To put those ratings in perspective, most competitors in the compact crossover category best the Sportage's combined fuel economy numbers by 2 to 3 mpg. Safety Standard safety features on all 2015 Kia Sportage models include antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Kia's latest version of its UVO telematics system, which is offered as an option on the base LX model and is standard on the rest of the lineup, includes emergency and roadside assistance, stolen vehicle tracking, geo-fencing and speed tracking (allowing parents to set limits for teen drivers) and other smartphone-enabled features accessed via the UVO app. In Edmunds brake testing, a Sportage EX came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet -- a couple of feet shorter than the average for this type of vehicle. The sport-oriented SX did even better at 117 feet. In government crash tests, the all-wheel-drive Sportage earned a top overall rating of five stars, along with five star ratings for both frontal- and side-impact protection. The front-drive Sportage received a four-star overall rating, but still managed to earn five stars in the frontal- and side-impact tests. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Sportage received the highest rating of Good in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Its head restraints and seats also earned a Good rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts. In the IIHS's demanding small-overlap frontal-offset crash test, however, the Sportage received the lowest score of Poor. Driving Generally, you won't find the words sporty and crossover used in the same sentence. What we can say, however, is that the 2015 Kia Sportage has a more responsive and fun-to-drive character than you might expect. Credit for this lively feel goes to a suspension that's tuned to favor sharper handling. The tradeoff, of course, is a ride quality that some buyers may find a little too harsh for their taste. You won't go wrong with either engine. The standard 2.4-liter engine that powers LX and EX models has more than enough power to feel zippy in daily driving. But it might be hard to resist the charms of the SX, as its 260-hp turbocharged mill delivers impressively quick acceleration. Interior The interior of the 2015 Kia Sportage is a handsome space with styling that gives it a somewhat bolder look than some of its more traditional competitors. Gauges, knobs, buttons and other controls are thoughtfully laid out and easy to use, especially the navigation system functions accessed via the 7-inch touchscreen. The one aesthetic downside here -- the extensive use of hard plastic throughout the cabin -- is offset by the fact that it's nicely textured and accented by well-placed padding in places it's needed most, like the armrest atop the center-console storage bin. The front seats offer good comfort and support, but the three-place rear bench is a different story. Legroom is in short supply in the second row and, though the reclining seatbacks are a plus, it would be nice to be able to slide the bench seat forward and back like those in competitive models. Cargo space also is in short supply compared with other compact crossovers, with just 26.1 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split folding rear seats and only 54.6 cubic feet with both of those sections folded down. A handy divided organizer beneath the cargo floor is good for keeping the inevitable odds-and-ends like jumper cables handy but out of sight, but it can't make up for the cargo hold's overall space deficit, which can be as much as 15 cubic feet less than what's offered by rivals.