Kia Sportage sports surprising refinement
Once again Kia has fielded a vehicle good enough to recommend - a surprising, but no longer shocking, turn of events. Until the 2011 Kia Sportage arrived for a test drive, my feelings toward the Sportage model were mild disdainful. Its styling wa...
Once again Kia has fielded a vehicle good enough to recommend - a surprising, but no longer shocking, turn of events.
Until the 2011 Kia Sportage arrived for a test drive, my feelings toward the Sportage model were mild disdainful. Its styling was a conservative, slavish Lexus knock-off atop a platform where refinement took a backseat to durability.
That's not the case with the new model.
The 2011 Sportage now shares its platform with the Hyundai Tucson, but does so with more style than its cousin. Its wardrobe comes courtesy of a design department run by Peter Schreyer, who once pushed a pen at Audi. This explains the Sportage's look: equal parts sophisticated hipster, boy racer and tall hatchback. Its funky, punk attitude is offset by small, sophisticated details. The wheels are machined, not reflective, the headlamps are trimmed with a small string of LED lights. It's a vehicle that stands apart.
The interior isn't as distinctive, though the center stack does make an impression. The test vehicle supplied by Kia Motors America was packed with niceties: dual sunroof, satellite radio, USB port, touchscreen navigation and audio controls, heated front seats, dual automatic climate control, rear backup camera, push button start, and keyless entry. Except for leather seats, which weren't missed, it lacked nothing in the way of comfort or convenience.
Powering all Sportage models is a 2.4-liter double-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base model; a six-speed automatic transmission is standard on SX and EX models. With 174 horsepower on tap to move 3,400 pounds, you wouldn't call it quick off the line. But considering modern-day traffic volume, power is sufficiently peppy given its mission. That said, Kia had supplied a front-wheel-drive model. Opting for all-wheel-drive, available only on SX and EX models, would have slowed the Sportage's response.
Fuel economy was fair for this class. A test drive consisting of mostly highway driving returned 19.4 mpg.
As with most compact SUVs that start in the low 20s, the ride was akin to that of an economy car, with firm jolts from road imperfections and some body lean in corners. Road and tire noise were intrusive on most road surfaces, drowning out the radio at times.
The front seats were comfortable for short drives but a bit flat. There is some side bolstering, but it's not aggressive, like a sports car. The sponginess of the cushion was clear on long drives. Interior quality was typical for the price, with lots of hard plastic, although the overall look is conservatively sporting.
Annoyances included a couple of intermittent rattles and satellite radio reception that phased in and out, even on wide open roads with a clear blue sky.
Cargo space is generous, and the rear hatch release is tastefully hidden under the rear hatch lip.
The fully loaded front-wheel drive test vehicle starts at $23,295 and topped out at $27,990. If you want leather and all-wheel drive, the price will push $30,000. At that point, I would consider the larger Kia Sorento instead.
This is a vehicle that you use and use up. Go careful on the options and the Sportage is a reasonable buy, with good looks and decent performance. While not the bargain that a Kia once was, it is worth considering.
What we say: Sportage sports refinement
Pro: Great looks, decent grunt, roomy for its size
Con: Interior clearly built to a price
Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Length: 74.8 inches
Weight: 3,186 pounds
Cargo space: 26.1-54.6 cubic feet
EPA rating (city/highway): 22/31 mpg
Fuel consumption: 19.4 mpg
Fuel type: Regular
Base price, base model: $18,295
Base price, test model: $23,295
As tested: $27,990