I know what you're thinking, "Oh god it's some newbie's first post and it's about engine swaps here come the stupid questions" yeah no. I've been researching this for months and this post is more about sharing my findings than asking you fine gentlemen if I can bolt a 2JZ or LS-something or other into my 13 year old Korean SUV.
So without giving you a 3 page spiel about how Kia and the Sportage came to be, I'll just say that the Sportage is a Mazda Bongo chassis, engine and drivetrain. We already know that there's a lot of swappable drivetrain bits, but it goes a lot deeper than that when you consider the easily exploitable cookie cutter design philosophy that Mazda relied on heavily from the late-'80s through the early-'00s.
I've determined that quite a few Mazda engines could potentially end up under a Sporty's hood with minimal fab work (or in at least one case, absolutely none). Of course with enough money and/or fabrication you can put any engine in any vehicle but not everyone has a machine shop in their garage or wants to drop a ton of cake into a cheap Korean-built trail rig. J-Series V6
This is the one I've spent the most time researching. The J-series has arguably the most power potential of all these-certainly the most displacement at 2.5 or 3.0 litres, and should be close to a direct drop-in. It came in the 929, the MPV and the Bongo. The engine mounts are in exactly the same spot in relation to the bell/block flange as a Sportage (the mounts themselves are different but you could either get Bongo mounts from Japan or Australia, or make some). Ideally you'd want to import a DOHC JE-ZE from Japan because the 2.5L J5 and regular 3-valve 3.0L JE-E don't offer much performance gain over the stock FE3N. Mate that to an '89-'99 4x4 MPV transmission and you have a stronger automatic with a flange for a T-case. The Sporty T-case does not bolt up to the MPV Tranny, and the MPV T-case-while still a manually selectable 4wd/2wd- is electrically shifted and has no low range. It's doable but 4lo is kind of handy and mandatory for a trail rig. I'm thinking the B2600 T-case might be a solution here but I haven't found one to look at the flange and input shaft. Failing that you could just import an automatic transmission and T-case for a V6 Bongo and roll with that, but that would take a while (v6 Bongos are kind of rare) and pricey (compared to junkyard parts). A clutch pedal is not feasible here because the MPV never had a standard behind the V6, the 929 was RWD only and the Bongo 5spd had a weird remote shift linkage that would be tough to replicate. That said if you have a 2wd Sporty and don't want to convert to 4x4 you could drop the V6 in with a RWD 929 5spd and have a downright awesome pre-runner. Plus I've heard rumors that you can adapt the heads off Mazda's insane K-series onto these, which means you could break drivetrain parts in all sorts of terrible, fun ways. I've never seen anybody actually test these rumors and I don't even know if the bore spacing is the same but the head gaskets look similar enough that it's plausible.RF Diesel
This thing came in the Bongo AND Sportage in basically every market but the US/Canada because we North Americans are still scared to death of automotive diesels because GM made some terrible ones in the '80s. The thing is, you lose a lot and I mean a LOT of power (and peak torque as well) with this engine. Sure you get more down low and that's where you want it when asphalt is behind you but I've driven an RF-powered Mercury Topaz and you basically get passed by farm equipment on the highway. That said the fuel economy is ridiculously good, you wouldn't have to deal with ignition/fuel management at all since it's mechanically injected and although rotary injection pumps are not as tuning-friendly as the inline style, a good injection shop could still get that pump to wake the engine up a little, provided you feed it enough boost to keep it from making vent holes in the pistons (and wouldn't it be cool to run a TMI under a massive Subaru-style hood scoop on one of these things?). Plus they bolt right in after you take all the gasoline-specific crap off the car and you can find 'em pretty easily in North American junkyards, mainly in the Escorts and Tempo/Topaz.Other F-engines
I dunno the F2T would be cool, though I don't think a turbo gasoline motor would hold up to off-road flogging. Any of them except the newer (post-2000) versions would bolt in, but the FWD intakes and thermostat locations could cause clearance issues. FWD Mazdas almost always put the thermostat housing/water neck at the back of the head. Anyways the Sportage FE3N is the crown jewel of the gas-powered F-motors so there's not much point. But it's possible so they're worth a mention.G5/G6
They're big. They have the same bell pattern as the FE3 (not sure about the motor mount locations but knowing Mazda they're probably the same or close enough that you could adapt with angle iron). B2600s are all over the junkyards. They've got less peak hp/tq than the FE3N but a little more lowend because of the narrow angle valves and the longer stroke. I don't know if it would clear the rad of a Sporty though, that would be the biggest sticking point. The biggest advantage to this swap would be the ability to make jokes at the expense of this song
. While a good workhorse they're a thoroughly unimpressive engine, in fact there's a lot of B-truck owners swapping to the FE3N because it's more fun.
That's all I've found so far, I'm still looking into this stuff because 130hp/130tq is just not enough for what I want to do, and even though the FE3N likes boost I just think NA is the way to go in a gasoline off-roader. If anyone else is curious on this subject I can elaborate further on a few points but I've already got a massive text wall here so I wanted to keep it from getting too tl;dr.