If the automaker to watch in 2010 was Hyundai, Kia receives that honor for 2011. Not only does Kia match Hyundai’s promise of value and quality products, the Koreans have quickly figured out how to share important parts like engines and platforms without creating me-too vehicles that only have different badges. The differences between a Hyundai Sonata and a Kia Optima are significant — both the exterior design and the interior execution.
Kia has always tried to be the sportier of the two Korean brands, and models like the Sportage SX do a lot to back up that claim. The suspension tuning, specifically damping rates, could be a bit firmer, but the turbo four-cylinder engine is certainly sportier than most crossover or SUV powerplants. A well-executed interior that can also be described as driver-oriented is becoming a signature Kia touch. The Sportage interior isn’t quite as driver-oriented as the Optima’s, but I had no problem reaching all the controls.
I’m very impressed by the brand’s steady, quiet march. The products have become very good. Kia just needs to perfect its suspension tuning to really advance its sportiness and move from being an also-ran to a real contender in the marketplace. If Kia can improve the damping to provide a firmer yet not harsh ride, the brand will be right there with the best.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The Sportage SX is yet another new, well-executed vehicle from Kia, which is quickly turning the page from just another car company, to one that we look forward to seeing new models from. The turbocharger mates well to the 2.0-liter engine and provides impressive power. My passengers kept asking if this really was a Kia because they “didn’t know Kia made cars like that.”
Another improvement is the interior. The nicely laid out, two-tier approach for radio and climate controls is very user friendly. Perhaps the only area that needs attention, as in all Korean cars it seems, is the suspension.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
The turbocharged engine really adds a lot of zip to the new 2011 Kia Sportage. A turbo in a small crossover isn’t a very common formula (the Acura RDX and the Volkswagen Tiguan are the only other two), but the extra power helps enhance the sporty feeling of the Kia. The turbo felt a bit too peaky for a family car in my opinion, but I still found this Sportage to be amusing to drive. And it looks quite sporty, too.
We tested an all-wheel-drive SX model (SX = turbo), but AWD is not standard with this engine. Based on this powertrain’s character, I’d be very hesitant to go with front-wheel drive here, as torque steer seems likely. All-wheel drive carries a $1500 premium.
Speaking of pricing, the SX is $2500 more than the well-optioned Sportage EX, not bad for an extra 84 hp and 101 lb-ft of torque. The base 2011 Sportage, though, starts at a low $18,990, which isn’t much more than my wife’s old, bare bones 2007 Sportage. The comparison between the current- and last-generation Sportage ends with the price, however; the new version is refined and good-looking, whereas the old model left a lot to be desired with regards to perceived quality and styling.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I spent the Easter weekend with the Kia Sportage SX, driving it on a 300-mile round trip to Grand Rapids. It was the perfect vehicle for the job of transporting two people, a dog, and some overnight bags. The Sportage’s highway manners were quite good, with the 260-hp turbo four-cylinder providing plenty of power for passing and high-speed cruising; we also appreciated the comfortable seats and the satellite radio. The climate controls and navigation/entertainment system are extremely easy to use – this is a car that even my mother, who is intimidated by most new-car electronics, would have no trouble figuring out.
Its fuel economy was quite respectable at right around 25 mpg.
All one needs to do is park this Sportage next to a last-generation vehicle to see the remarkable strides that the company has made with its vehicles. Where the old Sportage was uninspired and stodgy, both in performance and styling, the current Sportage promises much more satisfying performance topped off with a modern, cohesive design.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2011 Kia Sportage SX AWD
Base price (with destination): $27,990
Price as tested: $32,565
2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
All-wheel drive system
Traction control system
Electronic stability control
Downhill brake/hill start assist
Rollover protection system
Tire pressure monitoring system
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Keyless entry and alarm system
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with USB and Aux inputs
Sirius satellite radio
Multi-adjustable power driver seat
60/40-split rear seat
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Steering wheel controls (audio, Bluetooth, cruise control)
LED daytime running lights
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package with leather — $3000
Leather seat trim
Heated front seats
Ventilated driver seat
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Back-up warning system
Heated outside mirrors
Navigation with premium audio — $1500
Navigation with Sirius satellite radio
Premium audio with amp and subwoofer
Cargo mat — $75
Key options not on vehicle:
Premium package with blue or orange interior — $1000
21 / 25 / 23 mpg
2.0L turbocharged DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 260 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 1850-3000 rpm
Curb weight: 3466 lb
Wheels/tires: 18-inch alloy wheels
235/55R18 Hankook Optimo all-season tires
What’s new? Everything