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

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.

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.

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

Most Common Problems

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 Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Electrical System
Power Train
Trailer Hitches
Air Bags
Exterior Lighting:tail Lights
Lane Departure: Assist

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.

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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.

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.

Problems with Theft

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.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 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.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Jodi

    Have 2021 kia Sportage son and granddaughter were in town went to put on brakes didn’t work light never came on then within a minute or so all lights come on car was completely on fire have photos taken from other vehicles showing the car going up in flames my son and granddaughter barely made it out only with help of others. The car exploded in flames destroyed it and all contents even with five firefighters plus other help. The fire firefighters were unable to put it out and had to burn completely

  • Joan c

    Paint around window frame coming off! Easy scratched. Doors don’t seem to be sealed well

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