The timing belt in a Kia Sportage should be changed as indicated in the owner's manual. In the United States, Kia recommends that the timing belt is changed every 60,000 miles regardless of driving conditions.
The timing belt on a Sportage ensures that the engine's valves are timed properly, allowing the engine to operate as efficiently as possible.
On the Sportage, a timing belt is used. Unlike timing chains, timing belts are not good for the life of a vehicle. They must be replaced per your maintenance schedule, just like any other wear item.
While a timing belt needs regular service, it is less expensive than the timing chain used in some vehicles, and the part is also easier to change.
Kia Sportage models with the single-cam engine have an interference engine, meaning that if the timing belt breaks or slips, the mistimed valves will come in contact with the pistons, which can damage the valves, pistons and other engine components. Sportage models with more than one cam have a noninterference engines, meaning the engine simply will not run if the belt slips or breaks.
Allowing your Sportage to go more than 60,000 miles between timing belt services is like driving on borrowed time. While your timing belt is being replaced, consider having your water pump replaced as well. The water pump is easily accessible during a timing belt replacement, so having the water pump serviced simultaneously can prevent future headaches and save money in the long run.