Few buyers may remember it, but the Sportage was the model that got Kia off the ground in America. The current version, however, has nothing to do with that sad little SUV. In fact, this Sportage is effectively an all-new model, introduced last year. It’s a sibling under the skin to the Hyundai Tucson, but the Kia has a unique look, and that’s true inside as well. The interior is as stylish as the exterior, but the sometimes cheap-looking materials remind you that this vehicle is aimed at the budget-conscious buyer. For 2012, though, Kia is adding a new cloth seat fabric that supposedly reduces staining and static electricity. Kia likes to play up the high-tech aspects of the Sportage; among them is Uvo, an audio system that allows for voice control of the radio, CD player, or connected iPod. A navigation system and a backup camera are optional. In the world of small crossovers, the Sportage stands out thanks to well-controlled body roll, nicely tuned electric power steering, and good brake feel. The ride quality, however, leaves something to be desired. You can really put some more sport into the Sportage by opting for the SX, which has a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that puts out 256 hp. Despite its extra oomph, the turbo gets the same highway mileage as the base four. Unfortunately, the six-speed manual transmission in the base Sportage is not offered with the turbo. The SX does, however, have a stiffer suspension with variable-rate dampers.

Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: Base, LX, EX, SX
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 256 hp, 254 lb-ft
2.4L I-4, 176 hp, 168 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 100.0 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 2000 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 26.1/54.6 cu ft

LX models get standard seventeen-inch aluminum wheels and low-rolling-resistance tires. EX and SX models get the Microsoft-powered Uvo in-car hands-free entertainment and communications system as standard equipment. New material for the seats and a floor console are standard.

The front seats have active headrests and seatbelt pretensioners. Dual front, side, and side curtain air bags; ABS; and stability and traction control are standard.

All: 21-22 mpg city/26-32 mpg highway

  • Turbocharged engine available
  • Stylish and sporty
  • Inexpensive interior materials
  • Stiff ride

A compact sport-ute with a techie edge.

  • Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

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