New Car Reviews

2011 Kia Sportage EX – Picking Nits

Miles: 25,882 / Months in fleet: Ten

Long-Term 2011 Kia Sportage Update: Spring 2012 ( 3 of 5 ) Miles to date: 25,882

The Kia Sportage’s stylish and well-equipped interior was one of the things that impressed us initially. But at the ten-month marker its charms have started to wear thin.

“I am growing tired of the Sportage’s interior. While it’s handsomely styled and its controls are clearly and neatly placed, its materials — notably those hard, glossy plastics — just look and feel cheap,” says associate web editor Evan McCausland. It doesn’t help that in our test car those plastics are all black, which exposes some unfortunate graining and sheen changes.

Another associate web editor, Donny Nordlicht, puts forth a laundry list of small complaints about the cabin:
“The navigation screen is too bright; the cup holders are too low and too far back for a driver or passenger to easily grab a drink without having to look down; in low temperatures, the passenger seat gets cold; and the front moonroof shade, when open, rattles loudly.”

Even the infotainment system, a typical strong point for Kias and Hyundais, has come in for some criticism of late. “The touchscreen controls for the Bluetooth phone don’t respond very quickly,” gripes Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio. “At the end of a phone call, when I push the ‘END’ button, the call doesn’t disconnect. I have to push it a second time, and it still hesitates. It does eventually disconnect, but the point of these hands-free devices is to keep your eyes on the road, not on the touchscreen.”

All this nitpicking about a loaded, leather-lined interior might make us sound a bit spoiled. Indeed, when we loaned the vehicle to freelance contributor who doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in new cars, we got a rather different perspective:

“Currently, I am driving a 2001 Mercedes E320 wagon, so any trip in a new vehicle is a luxury,” wryly notes graphic designer Molly Jean, who took the Kia and her family on a weekend camping excursion. “The front seat was more comfortable than my Mercedes, and after my drive it did not leave my lower lumbar aching. Connecting the iPod was intuitive and we were quickly listening to all of my daughter’s favorite tunes. This was a huge improvement over the small boom-box that we Velcroed between the front seats of our car last summer on vacation. After Elle fell asleep we changed over to the Satellite radio and enjoyed our own selection. We had our trusty hand-held navigation system and a county map, so we didn’t intend on using the built-in system. But with all of our iPhones charging we ran out of plugs so we used the Kia’s nav and it effortlessly guided us to camp.”

In other words, the Kia interior is just fine for the average real buyer. Still, Kia hasn’t dismissed our complaints, as McCausland was pleased to discover after having dinner with some Kia interior designers.

“The Kia designers I talked to seemed to share my impression that the plastics are too hard. The problem is getting the corporate overlords to recognize this and sign off on the additional expense of better material. They said this is starting to change. The new Optima Limited is evidence that things are shifting in the right direction, and I hope the lessons learned quickly permeate through the rest of Kia’s lineup.”


  • Body style 4-door SUV
  • Accommodation 5 passenger
  • Construction Unibody construction


  • Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
  • Displacement 2.4 liters
  • Power 176 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Drive Four wheel
  • EPA Fuel Economy 21/28/23 (city/hwy/combined)


  • Steering Electronically-assisted
  • Lock-to-lock 3
  • Turning circle 34.7 ft
  • Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
  • Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
  • Brakes F/R Power-assisted disc brakes; ABS
  • Wheels 18-inch aluminum alloy
  • Tires Hankook Optimo H426 all-season
  • Tire size 235/55R18 100H


  • Headroom F/R 39.1/38.5 in
  • Legroom F/R 41.4/37.9 in
  • Shoulder room F/R 56.7/55.1 in
  • Wheelbase 103.9 in
  • Track F/R 63.5/63.6 in
  • L x W x H 174.8 x 73.0 x 64.4 in
  • Cargo capacity 26.1/54.6 cu ft (rear seat up/rear seat down)
  • Weight 3355 lb
  • Weight dist. F/R 58/42%
  • Fuel capacity 14.5 gal
  • Est. fuel range 406 miles
  • Fuel grade 87 octane (regular unleaded)


  • standard equipment

    • 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine
    • 6-speed automatic transmission
    • All-wheel drive
    • 18-inch alloy wheels
    • 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
    • Traction control system
    • Electronic stability control
    • Downhill brake/hill-start assist control
    • Tire pressure monitoring system
    • Rollover protection system
    • Dual-zone automatic climate control
    • Power windows/locks/mirrors
    • AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with 6 speakers
    • Sirius satellite radio
    • USB and Auxiliary input jacks
    • 60/40-split rear seat
    • Cooling glove box
    • Cruise control
    • Bluetooth connectivity
    • Tilt/telescoping steering column
    • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
    • Steering wheel-mounted controls (Bluetooth, audio, cruise)


  • Premium package with leather
  • $3,000
  • Leather seat trim
  • Heated front seats
  • Ventilated driver seat
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Cargo cover
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Back-up warning system
  • Heated outside mirrors
  • Navigation with premium audio
  • $1,500
  • Navigation with Sirius traffic
  • Back-up camera
  • Premium audio with amp and subwoofer
  • Cargo net $75
  • Cargo tray $75
  • Cargo net $50
  • Wheel locks