2011 Kia Sportage SX AWD

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

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At the beginning of the article, you missed a turbocharged compact crossover - the Subaru Forester XT, a key player in this admittedly niche segment.

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