2011 Kia Sportage EX FWD

2011 Kia Sportage EX FWD 2011 Kia Sportage EX FWD
Short Take Road Test

What Is It?

It’s Kia’s small crossover, which shares a platform with the Hyundai Tucson, itself redone for 2010. The new-for-2011 Kia is the more stylish of the two, pairing a ready-for-primetime exterior and a handsome cabin with an equally competitive chassis. The look is all grown up, although we prefer the monochromatic LX model’s exterior to the brightened-up EX’s—no vehicle needs a chrome C-pillar.

How Does It Drive?

Like most recent Kias, the new Sportage gets a more involving state of tune than its Hyundai analogue. The steering is communicative and well weighted for something in this basic shape; body motions are kept in check; and the suspension is primed for enthusiastic driving without being overly harsh. At 3337 pounds, this front-wheel-drive example is relatively light for its category, so the 176-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder—the only engine currently available—is adequate. We say “adequate” because the power is enough to get moving and comfortably merge into traffic (the six-speed auto’s quick work helps in this regard, too), but our testing returned slowish numbers: 8.6 seconds to 60, and a 16.8-second quarter-mile at 84 mph. That said, the 0-to-60 time is 1.2 seconds quicker than that of an (admittedly low-mileage and heavier) all-wheel-drive Sportage we tested. When you put your foot into it, though, the sound goes pretty gritty around the 3000-rpm mark. Thankfully, Kia will add an SX model partway through 2011 that packs a 2.0-liter turbo four, an engine that makes a V-6–like 274 hp in the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. It should move the Sportage without much strain, so if you’re generally in a hurry, we recommend, uh, waiting. But for those okay with accelerative adequacy, this non-turbo Sportage delivers enough goodness outside of the engine room to be compelling.

How Does It Stack Up?

The styling can be a bit polarizing, but it does bring a dash of sizzle to a segment plagued by blandness. Interior ambience and quality are a cut above, with well-placed controls and some upscale-style gloss-black trim around the climate controls, although cabin noise is only on par with that of the competition. The driving experience compares favorably with those of our favorites in the segment, including the Toyota RAV4 and VW Tiguan, and, in true Korean fashion, the Sportage comes in much cheaper than those vehicles. Indeed, the amount of standard and optional equipment ultimately makes the best case for the Kia. All Sportages include Bluetooth/USB/iPod connectivity, Sirius satellite radio, and steering-wheel controls to operate the whole shebang. Then there are the nice touches you won’t find elsewhere in the segment, like interior lights that illuminate when approaching models equipped with the optional proximity key.

What’s the Cost?

The top-spec EX model comes very well equipped—including dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch wheels, and LED daytime running lights—and our test vehicle was fully loaded by way of two options packages: one bundling navigation, an audio-system upgrade, and a rearview camera ($1500); and the $3000 Premium package, which adds items such as leather seats, heated front chairs with ventilation for the driver, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, and keyless entry and start. Maxed out as it was, this Sportage EX came in at $28,490; all-wheel drive is $1500, but the Sportage still stays under the magic $30,000 mark so equipped—for now. We figure the turbo model will add another $1500 or so. Delivering high value and a compelling driving experience, the Sportage is well worth the money.