Months in fleet: 2
One of our primary questions entering our Four Seasons test with the Kia Sportage was whether a crossover once relegated to the bargain basement can now justify a premium price. Two months in, our Sportage's optioned-up $30,240 sticker is indeed a hot topic, but mostly for the one major feature we skipped.
"I would appreciate the optional turbo engine's extra torque climbing long grades," says senior web editor Phil Floraday. The engine he refers to, a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder standard on the top-of-the-line SX model, certainly humbles our EX model's naturally aspirated 2.4-liter. It produces 90 more horsepower and 106 additional pound-feet of torque. As it is, Floraday, who drove the Sportage through the Appalachians en route to Delaware, reports that "steep hills in Southern Pennsylvania and Maryland pretty much required a floored accelerator to maintain speed."
That said, not everyone thinks the Sportage crossover really needs the extra grunt.
"I'm not convinced the Sportage needs more horsepower. It's no rocket, but it never feels especially underpowered to me, even when merging onto the highway," says associate web editor Jake Holmes, adding, "For most drivers, most of the time, I think 176 hp is enough."
There's also some disagreement over where to lay the blame for the less-than-impressive motivation. Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht, for one, faults the economy-oriented programming of Kia's six-speed automatic for a "fairly scary" merge onto a busy highway. "I understand that downshifting hurts gas mileage, but getting crushed between fast-moving trucks would seem to be worse," he gripes.
Still, the big question seems not to be if the 176 hp is good enough but if it's good enough for us. As copy editor Rusty Blackwell concedes, "Though I'd almost certainly spend the extra $2500 for the turbo edition if it were my car, most drivers should be perfectly happy with the normally aspirated version."
No one is complaining about the extras we did get. Several editors have complimented the navigation/infotainment system, which syncs to iPods and provides directions with the smoothness we've come to expect from Kia's telematics. The leather-upholstered seats have provided ample support on road trips, with one contributor comparing them favorably to those in her old Mercedes. The panoramic sunroof has earned extra praise thanks to a distinct chime that reminds you if the roof is open when you exit the car. "Kia seems to have contemplated and thought about everything in the car, especially when it comes to fit and finish, materials, and design," concludes Nordlicht.
2011 Kia Sportage EX 4x4
Base price: (with dest.) $25,490
As tested: $30,240