2011 Kia Sportage LX: Hipness in a Compact CUV
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Gone are the days that Kia can be considered a small, econobox car manufacturer. Kia is big time, competing with the big boys by creating vehicles with solid quality, trendy styling and aggressive pricing. Kia might have been a no-frills, low-cost manufacturer 20 years ago, but they have moved into the realm of hipness with several of their offerings for 2011.
One such hip automobile is the third-generation 2011 Sportage, a compact crossover that is fun to drive and filled with premium features, while its looks elicit nods and smiles from those viewing it on the street.
Introduced in 1993, the compact, bare-bones SUV was originally developed with a Mazda Bongo platform and along its evolution has shared components and design engineering technologies and strategies with Hyundai’s Elantra and Tucson.
The new Sportage draws from innovative styling elements of Kia’s Kue concept vehicle, with a pronounced C pillar that offers an aura of solidity and balance when viewed from the side, while the new front end heralds the new face of Kia through the brand’s signature chrome-coated grille, with dramatic swept back projection headlamps, tabbed grille outline and a distinctive lower fascia treatment. The sculpted, raked, angular hood is framed by a distinctive windshield, curved and fluid-looking side windows and contoured side panels with adjustable body-colored mirrors and body-colored door handles. The presentation melds seamlessly with a clean and contemporary rear view that shows off pronounced unique tail lights set solidly within the rear lift gate, topped by the optional rear spoiler.
The 2011 version is 3.5 inches longer than the previous generation, is 2 inches wider, and a more-stable, road-hugging 2 inches lower, while adding 10 percent more cargo space. With its base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the new Sportage provides more power than it produced with the outgoing 2.7-liter V-6 power plant (176hp this year and 173hp last year) and also achieves better fuel economy, EPA rated at 21/28 (city/highway) this year, compared to 18/23 in 2010.
With steel unibody construction, the front-engine front-drive Sportage offers seating for 5. Measuring a compact 174.8 inches long, 73 inches wide and 64.4 inches high on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, Sportage sports a ground clearance of 6.8 inches and has a front/rear overhang of 35 inches/35.8 inches and weighs in at a comparatively light (for an SUV) 4608 lbs. for AWD.
As indicated above, Sportage’s power come from an iron-block, aluminum-head 2.4-liter I-4 engine that produces 176 hp and 168 lbs-ft of torque. On the street, the set-up exhibits better-than-average acceleration, response and good fuel economy for the segment.
On the track, I pushed my test CUV from zero to 60mph in 8.6 seconds, while traveling a quarter-mile in 16.8. The Sportage will move when coaxed at speed, and the motor power-assisted rack and pinion steering had an attentive feel to it. Electronic stability control with a defeat switch, hill-start assist and a traction control system all live up to their expectations. Top-wobble was apparent during twisties, and yaw was the order of the day, but the ride was smooth, as the independent front suspension with MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar and the independent multi-link rear suspension with stabilizer bar and gas shock absorbers leveled out all but the most severe road imperfections.
Economically, my test ride averaged 23.3mpg during a week of mixed-use driving.
A gripe about Kia-past was that their low-rent interiors were uninspired and short on comforts. That was then and this is now, and Sportage comes decked out with textured touchpoints, solid fit and finish, generous leg and shoulder room and ergonomic and visible controls.
Interior dimensions measure a roomy 39.1 inches of front headroom and 38.5 in row two; shoulder room is 56.7 and 55.1; legroom is a comfortable 41.4 up front and 37.9 in the rear seats.
Cabin niceties include cloth seats, multi-way adjustable driver’s seat, manual air conditioner and heater, AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite six-speaker audio system, hands-free Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls, EcoMinder indicator, roof mount antenna, power windows (front/rear w/ driver’s one-touch down), power door locks, driver and passenger sunvisors with vanity mirrors, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, cruise control, LCD trip computer, rear window defroster, metal grain instrument panel/dash, 12-volt power outlets in the front and cargo areas, power side mirrors with integrated LED indicators, keyless entry with panic alarm and 60/40 split-folding rear seats that effortlessly accommodate driver and passenger cargo needs.
Kia attends to safety issues with standard front dual airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, side impact protection, rear child safety door locks, LATCH system, tire pressure monitoring system and four-wheel anti-lock brake system.
The Base Sportage FWD manual stickers for $18,295, while the automatic all-wheel-drive LX I tested starts at $21,795 and the highest-scale EX trim starts at $24,795.
The Convenience package added $1500; the Navigational system added $1500 and destination charges were $695 for a drive-off of $25,490 plus tax and license.
The 2011 Kia Sportage is hip, stylish and substantial for about $25,000 … Kia has left the econobox far behind.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
# # #
Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
Carlisle Event Marketing Dept.
# # #