2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury Road Test Review

By:Trevor Hofmann
2010-12-23 02:03:16
 
What's going on Kia? You've gone from a rather dull automaker putting out decent cars to one of the coolest mainstream carmakers
2011 Kia Sportage
The new 2011 Sportage looks good wearing Kia's new design language. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
on the planet in a matter of a couple of years!

It mostly comes down to design, or at least that's what initially gets the majority of us into dealer showrooms when it comes time to buy a new car. Like everything these days, from cell phones to laptops, jeans to eveningwear or even coffee shops and restaurants, image is what matters most. Oh, I know you're different, and therefore you don't have an iPhone, you don't wear D&G, and don't go to Starbucks or dine at the latest trendy nightspot. And while this is likely the case for many of Kia's long-time customers who previously bought the Rio, Accent, Magentis, Rondo, Sorento, Sedona, Amanti or Borrego (and there weren't many buyers of the latter two), plus, of course, the previous Sportage, those reading about Kia for the first time, as they're looking oh-so cool in their H&M duds and Aldo shoes, smelling like Hermes and scrolling through their Android PDA while sipping a decaf mocha latte
2011 Kia Sportage
The crossover's hind quarters might be its best looking vantage point. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
with cinnamon sprinkles, might not only relate to these brands but likely have only recently became interested in Kia because the Korean automaker's new cars are so good looking.

Styling is subjective, of course, but sales don't lie and Kia has been making headlines for succeeding in a market where others are languishing at best. I find the Sportage particularly attractive, thanks to a rakish profile that swoops down in the rear like a sports coupe, yet sits nice and tall like an SUV. BMW made the concept popular with its X6, and now we're seeing the trend trickle down to a few mainstream models. The Sportage's execution is immediately fresh and exciting from front to tail, and easily qualifies it as one of the best designs in its class.

The new
2011 Kia Sportage
The Sportage balances a comfortable ride with engaging handling successfully. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
model shares platform architecture and mechanicals with Hyundai's latest 2011 Tucson, but you won't be able to tell that it's at all related compared to the obvious lineage of the previous model. At its heart is a new four-cylinder engine that replaces the outgoing base four-pot as well as the old V6, with more power than either 2010 engine, and better fuel economy too. The Sportage's 2.4-litre, 16-valve, DOHC, I-4 with dual continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) makes 176-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 168 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, and comes mated to an efficient 6-speed manual in base trim or an optional 6-speed automatic. It's not a powerhouse, mind you, but I never felt like I was being held back unless full of kids and gear while heading up a steep incline, and the automatic's shifts were almost imperceptibly smooth.

The Sportage comes in three
2011 Kia Sportage
A string of LED daytime running lights give the Sportage an upscale premium look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
trim levels, starting with the LX at $22,245 plus $1,650 destination. The LX can be had in front-wheel drive with either the manual gearbox or the optional automatic, as well as all-wheel drive with the automatic only, whereas the EX comes standard with the automatic gearbox in front-wheel drive guise and can be optioned out with all-wheel drive too. The top-line EX Luxury, at $33,445, gets the automatic and all-wheel drive, standard.

While styling and engine performance is important, fuel economy is a major dealer maker or breaker in today's market, and my personal finances along with hopes for a cleaner planet mean that I'm no exception to this reality. To that end the Sportage is very efficient at an estimated 10.0 L/100km in the city and 6.9 on the highway
2011 Kia Sportage
A sweet set of rims aid the Sportage in handling the curves. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
in front-wheel drive with the manual gearbox, 9.5 and 6.3 respectively with front-drive and automatic, or 10.0 and 7.1 with the auto box and all-wheel drive, while all models use cheaper regular unleaded, which I certainly appreciated when it came time to fill up.

The knowledge of its good mileage might allow you to let your hair down occasionally and drive a little faster than normal, and if you do you'll enjoy how well the new Sportage handles. It sits on MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, resulting in good stability on the highway, nice balance through the curves and effective damping from road irregularities. Its 10.6-metre (34.7-foot) turning circle is good for its class, aiding
2011 Kia Sportage
Upscale features, like proximity sensing keyless access set the Sportage apart. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
parking or making tight turns in cul-de-sacs, like at the end of my road, easier. With only 172 mm (6.8 inches) of ground clearance, however, I don't recommend you use this little ute for anything but pavement and graded gravel roads, or if you're careful, very light-duty off-roading.

The least expensive LX model gets the wheel and tire package that's probably best for going off of terra firma, a set of 16-inch alloy rims wrapped with 215/70R16 all-season rubber, but being as you're likely not going to be so adventurous you'll probably like the EX model's 17-inch alloy wheels on 225/60R17 all-season tires a lot better. The EX Luxury is even more sport-oriented with a set of 18-inch alloys inside 235/55R18 all-season shoes, while all Sportage trim levels include four-wheel discs enhanced with anti-lock (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
2011 Kia Sportage
The new interior is one of the best in its class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
All models get active front head restraints too, as well as hill start assist plus traction and stability control. Additional standard safety features include dual front, front side-thorax, plus front and rear side-curtain airbags. I appreciate that like most automakers building crossovers and SUVs these days, safety isn't optional with Kia.

There's a long list of standard convenience features as well, with highlights being heated cloth seats, remote keyless entry, heated and powered side mirrors with integrated turn signals, automatic headlamps, variable intermittent wipers metal grain interior accents, plus a CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary and USB ports, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Models with the automatic transmission also get an Eco-Minder indicator and roof rails. All the usual power equipment, along with air conditioning and cruise control, is standard too.

Those opting for the
2011 Kia Sportage
No shortage of top-tier features, like Bluetooth phone connectivity. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
Sportage EX will enjoy premium cloth seats, a powered driver's seat, a leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sonar, an iPod cable, and new LED daytime running lights, which were not available with initial 2011 models.

The topmost EX Luxury model that I was testing adds really nice leather upholstery, a cool (literally) ventilated driver's seat, proximity sensing remote access with pushbutton start/stop that I wouldn't want to live without, a handy rearview camera that should probably be added to the safety features list above, a power tilt and sliding panoramic sunroof that brightens an otherwise dull winter's day, and a rear spoiler to make this sporty CUV look even sportier.

Just below that rear spoiler the Sportage
2011 Kia Sportage
Optional leather front and rear gives the Sportage a premium look and feel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
features a top-hinged up-swinging door that gets out of the way for easy loading. Its cargo volume measures 740 litres (26.1 cubic feet) behind the second row and 1,547 litres (54.6 cubic feet) if the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks are tumbled forward, which is pretty good for the class and ample for my needs most of the time. It can tow loads of up to 907 kilos (2,000 lbs), which is standard for the compact segment.

We've talked about active safety features like ABS and stability control, and passive features like airbags, but even with these protectors aboard the reality of an accident is always a concern. Fortunately, Kia has improved the Sportage's crash protection so that the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was able to upgrade its rating from "Acceptable" to "Good" (it's highest rating) for frontal offset crash tests,
2011 Kia Sportage
Not the largest in its class, but most compact crossover buyers will find the Sportage' cargo hold ample. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
"Acceptable" to "Good" for side-impact tests, and "Poor" to "Good" for roof strength test results, so you can feel secure knowing that you and your family are as protected as compact crossovers get.

I can't comment on expected reliability, because the 2011 Sportage is an all-new model and therefore no data has been collected yet, but Kia does a good job of backing up its cars with a five-year or 100,000 km basic warranty, longer than the majority of rivals, and 5 years or 100,000 km of powertrain coverage.

My week with the Sportage left me totally impressed. While engine performance didn't blow me away its fuel economy left me smiling, and the car's overall fit and finish is good enough for
2011 Kia Sportage
Gotta love the view! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
my picky tastes while interior materials are better than average. I liked the full assortment of gadgets and everything worked as advertised, plus the top-line audio system is a real treat and was easy to sync up with my iPhone.

Oh, you caught that? Yes, I've got to admit to being a bit of a tech and style hound. I've got the latest MacBook Pro to go along with that iPhone, plus a closet full of Diesel, Jack & Jones and American Eagle jeans, H&M and RW&Co shirts and sweaters, Esprit and GAP winter coats, my scarf collection, a couple of fedoras and a few sets of pointy Aldo shoes, a Versace suit and Burberry tie for those occasional trips to the lawyer's office, not to mention a shelf filled with Armani, Chanel, Davidoff, Givenchy and Hugo Boss colognes, plus a bevy of wristwatches ranging from Kenneth Cole at the lower end to Tag Heuer at the upper end. Sad isn't it? Think what you may, but Kia knows today's mindset and they're doing what it takes to attract a younger clientele. I, for one, can honestly say that a Sportage would be high on my list if I were in the market, for styling alone. The fact that it's a good crossover as well, is icing on the cake.

(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>

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