2021 Kia Sportage Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Airbag & engine issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The 2021 Kia Sportage SUV often gets rave reviews for reliability, safety, performance, and everything else. It is ranked high for value too. But it has its problems, one of which is a very real risk that an electrical fault may cause a fire in the engine compartment.

Launched in Asia in 1993, the Kia Sportage has been available in the U.S., on and off, for more than two decades. The fourth-generation Sportage was launched as the 2017 model in North America, with 2022 predicted to be its last model. The fifth-generation SUV is due to reach the U.S. and Canadian markets in 2023.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2018   2019   2020   2022   2023

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NHTSA Complaints for the 2021 Kia Sportage

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Power Train
Visibility:sun/moon Roof Assembly
Exterior Lighting:tail Lights
Lane Departure: Assist
Air Bags

In the meantime, the current fire risk is acknowledged in a recall that began on 30 April 2021. It relates to hundreds of thousands of 2017-2021 Sportage vehicles. While Kia undertakes to perform repairs free of charge, cars are catching fire, and have been for five years.

Most Common Problems with the 2021 Kia Sportage

We are going to focus on the most common problems reported to NHTSA.

So far, there are 10 complaints on file with NHTSA, 6 of which are categorized as Unknown or Other. The others relate to airbags, the engine, exterior lighting, and lane departure. A total of 3 complaints involve crashes, 1 with injuries, while another 3 describe cars catching fire and burning.

Unusually, another fairly common complaint is that these cars are easy to steal!

2021 Kia Sportage Problems That Lead to Fire

All but 1 of these complaints are listed in the Unknown or Other category.

The first, in July 2021 tells how a 2021 Kia Sportage with only 4,300 miles on the clock caught on fire while the owner and her 10-year-daughter were in the car. It was a brand new car that had only had one oil change at a Kia dealership. The car was a total loss.

Another states that the car “caught on fire and burnt up” the day after it had been with the service department for an oil change.

A complaint listed as an engine problem describes how another car was “totaled” by fire. When the owner of this Kia Sportage pulled into a parking garage, she smelled burning. She got out quickly and sheriffs used fire extinguishers until the fire department arrived. At the time of the complaint, the manufacturer had not responded to a failure notification.

2021 Kia Sportage Recall Due to Engine Fire Risk

Kia has recalled 379,931 2017-2021 Kia Sportage and 2017-2019 Kia Cadenza vehicles. According to the recall notice, the affected components are service brakes, hydraulic.

The recall notice states: “The electrical circuit in the Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU) may short-circuit, which can cause a fire in the engine compartment.” This, they acknowledge, can increase the risk of injury.

Additionally, the recall notice warns owners “to park outside and away from structures as a precaution until the recall repair is complete.”

Complaints About Sportage Fires in 2017

Although we are focusing on current complaints, it’s highly relevant that Sportage models have been catching fire since the fourth-generation model was launched.

There are at least 4 complaints about 2017 models on file with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The first describes an incident that wrecked a rented Sportage SUV on 4 January 2017. It happened at an army base in Stafford, Virginia when the car was traveling at about 30 mph. Smoke and flames were coming from under the car. The flames quickly spread to the hood. The report states that there was also a trail of fuel coming from the vehicle. The fire was extinguished by the fire department, but the car was destroyed.

Another happened on 1 September 2018. A family with dogs and children were traveling on an Indianapolis highway when they noticed smoke and flames coming from the SUV. “There was no warning.”

Three months before the fire, the SUV had been with the service department for 15,000-mile maintenance and an oil change. When the complaint was filed with NHTSA, the vehicle was in a police department lot. They suspect it was an electric fire.

2021 Kia Sportage Airbag Problems

The only complaint that reports injuries because of problems experienced relates to airbags.

While driving at a low speed, the car crashed head-on with another vehicle. The airbags didn’t deploy and both the driver and passenger sustained head and neck injuries.

2021 Kia Sportage Theft Problems

There is no category for this problem and they are all listed under Unknown or Other.

One complaint states, “Kias are being stolen on a daily basis in my city and this was not communicated to me by the dealer when I bought the vehicle 6 months ago. These cars should not be allowed to be sold without steering wheel locks and/or signed acknowledgment by the buyer. They clearly do not have the necessary equipment or features to prevent them from easily being stolen.”

Another stolen car complaint tells how a brand new car was stolen from outside his son’s workplace. It was found by the police less than a week later, abandoned. There was substantial damage totaling $9,705.66 that was going to take about 4 months to fix. In the meantime, the owner of the car had to pay for a rental car.

“Kia should be held responsible,” he says. It shouldn’t be possible to start a car by jamming a screwdriver into the ignition instead of a key.

What to do if your 2021 Kia Sportage is a lemon? Your Lemon Rights

Defects and faults that impair the safe use of cars and/or substantially impact their value can result in a lemon. If you suspect that you’ve got one, call Lemberg Law so that we can assess your problem and advise you.

We have years of experience helping clients with lemon law car claims. Sometimes we are able to negotiate a cash settlement or a trade-in. Sometimes the solution is a replacement car.

It won’t cost you anything because the law makes the manufacturer pay the legal fees.

Complaint Data

CategoryPower Train
DateMar 13, 2023
The contact owns a 2021 kia sportage. The contact stated while exiting a parking lot, the vehicle lost motive power motive and stalled with an unknown warning light illuminated. The contact was able to restart the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and the dealer stated that no failure was found. The manufacturer was contacted, and the contact was referred to the nhtsa hotline to file a complaint. The failure mileage was 10,000.
CategoryVisibility:sun/moon Roof Assembly
DateJan 27, 2023
While sitting in my driveway I heard a loud sound popping within the car but did not investigate immediately. I drove down the road and noticed that the car seemed to be noisy and there was a rattling sound within the headliner. I stopped to investigate and realized that the sunroof had exploded outward. Dealer denied responsibility. Car has been out of use for more than 3 weeks.
CategoryEngine, Unknown Or Other
DateDec 05, 2022
Remote start my car walked out to a puddle of oil. All the oil ran out. Had 400 mile left before oil change was due.
DateOct 05, 2022
The contact owns a 2021 kia sportage. The contact stated that while driving at an undisclosed speed, the front passenger's side tire was punctured. The contact stated that while using the factory oem jack to raise the vehicle to change the tire, the jack fractured causing the vehicle to collapse. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the contact was awaiting the replacement jack. The manufacturer was notified of the failure and the contact left a voicemail but had not received a response. The failure mileage was 17,614.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateAug 04, 2022
My kia can be easily broken into and stolen. In january of this year I was in denver for military assignment and I locked my car at night however a their was able to break into my car by popping off the driver side lock and then basically hot wiring the car. Eventually I got my car back after it was repaired but then again someone broke back into my car using the same method. However, I had a steering lock so they could not drive away. The security and safety features on my care are worthless and do not provide the security a modern car should.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateFeb 16, 2022
The car was stolen and no safety/security features were deployed. In doing research, kias are being stolen on a daily basis in my city and this was not communicated to me by the dealer when I bought the vehicle 6 months ago. These cars should not be allowed to be sold without steering wheel locks and/or signed acknowledgment by the buyer. They clearly do not have the necessary equipment or features to prevent them from easily being stolen.
DateJan 20, 2022
The contact owned a 2021 kia sportage. The contact stated that upon pulling into a parking space on the third floor of a parking garage at her workplace, she smelled a strong burning odor. The contact also noticed smoke coming from underneath the driver's side of the hood. There were no warning lights illuminated. The contact turned off the vehicle and quickly exited it. The contact stated that the vehicle caught fire. The contact began to extinguish the fire with the assistance of sheriffs who used fire extinguishers until the fire department arrived and took over. There were no injuries sustained. A fire department report was filed. A police report was filed. The vehicle remained at the scene and was totaled. The dealer was notified of the failure. The manufacturer was notified of the failure and a case was opened. The contact was awaiting a call back from the manufacturer. The failure mileage was approximately 19,920.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateJan 20, 2022
On 1/17/2022 I took my car to service department for oil change and on 1/18/2022 my vehicle caught on fire and burnt up
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateNov 11, 2021
On 01/04/2021 my son [xxx] purchased new 2021 kia sportage lx. On 10/15/2021 this car was stolen in west allis wisconsin parked in front of his work place. On 10/21/2021 police found the car abended on the north side of milwaukee with substantial damage totaling ,705. 66. This car has been towed to [xxx] for repairs. Because of shortage of part and lots of damage it might take up to 4 months or longer to fix it. Starting on 11/15/2021 [xxx] will have to pay . 00 a day or more for rental car to be able to get to work. Kia should be held responsible for designing a car with a key starting ignition that the tiffs can start the car jamming a screwdriver in the ignition. Information redacted pursuant to the freedom of information act (foia), 5 u. S. C. 552(b)(6).
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateJul 17, 2021
2021 kia sportage with 4300 miles caught on fire putting me and 10 year old daughter in danger . Bought car brand new only had one oil change at kia dealership,no warning lights. Car was total lossinpected by insurance company,fire department have not heard from anyone else
CategoryExterior Lighting:tail Lights
DateJul 14, 2021
The contact's wife owns a 2021 kia sportage. The contact stated that while he was driving in another vehicle following his wife's vehicle, the contact noticed that his wife's rear turn signals were not visible since the rear turn signal headlights were mounted on the bumper and was too low to be visible for larger vehicles such as a suv following from behind. The dealer was made aware of the issue but informed the contact that they could not modify the rear turn signal assembly since it would void the warranty. The contact attempted to notify the manufacturer of the issue but could not connect with a live representative. The contact had not experienced a failure. The contact was concerned about the design of the rear taillight assembly. There was no failure.
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateJun 14, 2021
The right rear passenger door does not unlock when putting the car in park intermittently! This occurs from the inside and outside. I realize I can disengage using my unlock feature but this should not happen. We have checked the child safety lock and it is not engaged! I can also tell you that my daughter-in-law has a 2019 sorrento and my sister-in-law has a 2016 sportage and both vehicles experience the identical issue!
CategoryUnknown Or Other
DateMar 16, 2021
I have owned 3 kias and all 3 have had recalls. Kia has never contacted me and dealership has told me it's not involved if you didn't receive info. As things started to go wrong like abs sensor lite going on and off dealer said nothing they could do unless they could get a code while it was on so I had to drive the car with the issue until it stayed on consitently so they could figure it out. This happened on 2 vehicles in a row. My husband traded his in for a truck and got away from kia. I traded in and ended up with a 2021 with less than 6000 miles at this point. I have contacted kia headquarters still have no idea what the recall is for. All I have heard is on the news advising not to park car inside or near house due to chance of car catching fire. At this point I have not used the car in about 2 weeks I'm afraid to, but I have a lovely lawn ornament that cost me over 500 a month. I would like kia to buy back the car so I can get something I have trust in like a chevy. Never had a recall on that in fourty years. Will never buy anything but america made again.
CategoryLane Departure: Assist
DateMar 11, 2021
Tl* the contact owns a 2021 kia sportage. The contact stated that while driving at 55 mph, the lane keeping assist veered the vehicle off the road and crashed into the guard rail. The lane assist warning light was illuminated. Additionally, while driving at unknown speeds the check system immediately message was displayed. There were no reported injuries. A police report was filed. The vehicle was towed to lou fusz kia (1025 n lindbergh blvd, st. Louis, mo 63132:;(314) 931-4482) but the vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately was 700.
CategoryAir Bags
DateDec 18, 2020
Tl* the contact owns a 2021 kia sportage. The contact stated that while driving at low speeds crashed head on into a unknown vehicle. The air bags did not deploy. There were no reports of fire. The driver and occupant sustained injuries to the head and neck and medical attention was provided. A police report was filed. The vehicle was towed to an independent lo for body work repairs. The vehicle was towed to werner kia 2755 w tennessee st, tallahassee, fl 32304 (850) 632-4044 where diagnosed the transmission, cooler, and radiator needed to be repaired. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted however no further assistance was provided. The failure mileage was 9,500. The vin was not available.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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