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