The current list of crossover offerings in the U.S. market is dizzying. It's the fastest growing segment, with competitive offerings from nearly every automaker. For this reason, it takes a lot to turn our heads with a new crossover, but the 2011 Kia Sportage did just that. Its edgy styling and sporty driving dynamics -- for the category -- impressed us when we first drove it last fall. And with the recent launch of the turbocharged SX model, it's clear that Kia is taking the sporty theme seriously. But it's the mainstream EX that we feel will be the top seller for Kia, so that's what we wanted to put through our Four Seasons test.
Fresh off the boat, our Korean-built Sportage arrived at 120 East Liberty Street wearing loud, techno orange paint, black leather interior, and silver 18-inch wheels. The EX starts at $23,990 (with destination), but we added all-wheel drive for $1500, the premium package with leather for $3000, and the navigation system for another $1500. Accessories include a cargo mat, cargo net, cargo tray, and wheel locks totaling $250, for a bottom-line as-tested price of $30,240. That's a bit pricy for a Kia, considering an Audi Q5 2.0T starts at roughly $5000 more.
But this Sportage is well equipped. The premium package gives us leather-trimmed seating, heated front seats, a ventilated driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, push-button start, a panoramic sunroof, and a back-up camera. The navigation system includes premium audio, an external amplifier, and a subwoofer. Some standard items include a six-speaker sound system with Sirius satellite radio, MP3/USB/auxiliary audio jacks, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and LED daytime running lights, which is clearly the new fad for carmakers.
We're at peace with the option list, but how will the powertrain suit our needs? The Sportage EX comes with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The normally aspirated powerplant puts out a modest 176 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the six-speed automatic transmission, it achieves 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Surprisingly, the Sportage is rated to tow up to 2000 pounds, but we don't have the $350 tow package on our test car.
We're looking forward to seeing if Kia has made the same strides that Hyundai has with regards to quality and reliability. As senior Web editor, Phil Floraday said, "If 2010's automaker to watch was Hyundai, Kia is the one for 2011."