2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD

I’m somewhat taken aback that this Sportage runs right up against the $30,000 mark, but I’m still very impressed with it. The exterior styling is a vast improvement over the previous Sportage; I parked next to an older model in the parking garage and the two vehicles didn’t look related in any way. The interior is also a huge upgrade, with nicely designed instruments and much better materials. Our test car had pretty much every amenity that a crossover buyer would want, including 4WD, a very nice navigation system, satellite radio, heated seats and outside mirrors, and more. This Sportage is just the latest sign that Kia is producing vehicles that can compete against the best vehicles in the segment.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

The new Sportage is the latest in what seems like a continuous procession of new and redesigned vehicles from Kia. Like the Sorento and the upcoming Optima, the 2011 Sportage gets crisp new sheetmetal that is far more distinctive and handsome than that of its predecessor. Its appearance is undeniably modern and youthful. In fact, to me the 2011 Sportage looks like a plus-size Volkswagen GTI, the poster child of the hip boy-racer.

This fresh modernity continues on the inside but with mixed results. Some of the materials look and feel a little plasticky, but the body-color accents sprinkled throughout the cabin-minus the construction-cone orange door panels-are tasteful and give the mostly black interior a nice pop of color. I especially like the sporty contrast stitching and textured insert fabric on the seats. The most often touched surfaces could use additional padding, but overall the interior is comfortable and nicely laid out.

Although this Sportage is nearly $30,000 with $4000 in options, it wouldn’t be hard to live with just the standard equipment on an EX AWD model. It includes Bluetooth, a USB input, LED lights, all-wheel drive, and traction and stability control all for under $26,000. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder doesn’t move the nearly 3400-pound Sportage with any urgency, but it does return up to 28 mpg on the highway, although the city rating is only 21 mpg.

Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

I was surprised and impressed by the new Sportage, which is handsome inside and out and feels like a seriously high-quality piece. I love the body-color accents that brighten the black cabin, with orange stitching on the seats and steering wheel and big orange panels in the door trim. It looks cool, not affected. The presence of Peter Schreyer, the former Audi designer who now heads worldwide Kia design, is clearly being felt.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

The 2011 Sportage is night-and-day different from the previous Sportage; I know this well, because my wife is leasing a bare-bones 2007 example. This Sportage looks quite wild and futuristic, whereas the previous one just looked conservative and Korean. Bright orange paint makes this test car look particularly bold, as does the coordinating orange trim inside the cabin. I especially like the thin orange swatches on the HVAC vents, although the large patches of orange on the inner door panels are a bit much in my opinion. Otherwise, though, the interior is nicely trimmed, comfortable, and fairly spacious, although it doesn’t feel much bigger inside than the outgoing Sportage.

Where the 2011 model feels a lot different from its predecessor is in its girth, even though it weighs barely 100 pounds more than my wife’s Sportage and has grown only a few inches here and there. The new vehicle feels fairly heavy going down the road-a big reason is its unnaturally heavy-feeling steering.

Still, overall, this is a very good effort and seems to take what Kia did with the Soul and the Forte and kick it up a few notches. That said, $30K seems a dear price to pay for a Sportage (my wife’s ’07 stickered for about $18K), but this one is loaded with all-wheel drive, a big sunroof, heated seats, and navigation. Nice touches like the rear hatch’s outside release being hidden at the bottom edge of the door is a great example of attention to detail that Kia didn’t exhibit a few years ago.

I predict that Kia and Hyundai will continue to chip away at more established automakers’ market share…

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

Kia’s latest nav interface has to be among the fastest-responding on the market. Although sometimes slow to reroute and issue warnings, the software programming pushes years-old touch-screen infotainment systems (ahem, Honda?) into rapid obsolescence. This system should be standard across the Sportage line, as consumers of lower-end products are placing high importance on tech features.

The Sportage is, overall, a significantly reworked upgrade over its predecessor, which I drove when it launched some years back. It’s gone from frumpy to style leader, and if its chunky profile (and our car’s eye-popping orange hue) is any indication of Kia SUVs to come, it could prove a serious challenge for the establishment.

Jeffrey Jablansky, Associate Editor

The Sportage’s interior adroitly straddles the line between hip and mature. Wild color inserts wake up the cabin but somehow don’t come off as tacky or cheap, as they do in the Kia Soul. It helps that this well-equipped Sportage was equipped with a very attractive, easy to use navigation interface. My only issue was that it seemed to reject my iPhone. Good taste likewise prevails on the exterior. Standing next to the vehicle, it’s clearly more of a tall hatchback than a small crossover, sort of like a Dodge Caliber (but much better). There is a penalty as far as utility is concerned. I had a bit more trouble than I expected getting my mountain bike in back, but ultimately it did fit (with the front wheel on).

That compactness pays dividends in the Sportage’s ride and handling. It’s no Volkswagen Golf, but it might give Honda CR-V drivers something to think about.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD

Base price (with destination): $25,490
Price as tested: $29,490

Standard Equipment:
2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
All-wheel drive with locking center differential
Traction control system
Electronic stability control
Hill start assist
Tire pressure monitoring system
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Power locks/windows/mirrors
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with 6 speakers
Sirius satellite radio
USB and auxiliary inputs
60/40 split rear seat
Cruise control
Tilt steering wheel
Bluetooth connectivity
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
LED daytime running lights
Rear spoiler and roof rails
Fog lamps
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $2500
Heated front seats
Push button start with smart key
Panoramic sunroof
Rear sonar parking aid
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Heated outside mirrors
Cargo cover
Navigation with premium audio — $1500
Navigation with Sirius satellite radio
Rearview camera
Premium audio with subwoofer
Key options not on vehicle:
Premium package with leather seats — $3000

Fuel economy:
21 / 28 / 23 mpg

Size: 2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 176 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm


6-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3355 lb

Wheels/tires: 18-inch aluminum wheels
235/55R18 Hankook Optimo all-season tires

Competitors: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue

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Buying Guide
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21 City / 29 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

NA / 54.6 cu. ft.