The ascendancy of Kia during the past couple years has been nothing short of remarkable. Consider that a few years ago Kia was known for nothing more than undercutting the competition price-wise, with acceptable, but hardly exemplary cars. Today, Kia has class-leading styling, while remaining price competitive. The Sportage, Kia’s small crossover, is all new for 2011 and is now in its third generation. In a field dominated by Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s, how does the latest Sportage stack up? Read on to find out!
While the small crossover segment is white hot, from a styling point of view, automakers are offering pleasant, if not bland, unoffensive designs. Kia was guilty of the same with Sportages of the past, but for the 2011 redesign, Kia took a radical change and decided to go bold. The risk, in my opinion, has paid off. The Sportage is no longer a wallflower, sporting edgy, crisp styling clues that make it a clear stand out. The sharp looks do come with some compromise, however. I found rearward vision compromised, but that is the price you pay for style. The optional rearview camera was definitely a welcome feature. The 18″ wheels, standard on our EX tester, were a nice finishing touch as well.
Inside, the Sportage offers a beautifully styled cabin. Gauges are clear and easy to read, and the controls are fairly intuitive. I still find the quality of materials a step behind Honda and Toyota, but the Sportage does not shout out bargain basement interiors, as it has in the past. Seats are comfortable enough, and for a small crossover there was plenty of interior room. I’ll give Kia an ‘A’ for style, a ‘B’ for quality.
Presently, all Sportages share one engine, a 2.4L four, good for 176hp. A six-speed manual is offered on the base model only, while the rest of the line use a 6-speed automatic, which proved seamless in operation. Buyers can choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The Sportage offered peppy acceleration around town, but you won’t mistake it for a hotrod. Buyers wanting more power will have their needs met when a turbocharged Sportage debuts later this year.Ã‚Â Kia went for a sport-oriented suspension tuning with the new Sportage, but the stiff ride might put off some buyers looking for a more coddling ride. I found the handling more than competent, and found it to be a compelling alternative to the VW Tiguan.
In a sea of sameness, the Kia Sportage is a breath of fresh air, that has the quality and ability to back up its looks. Our top-spec EX AWD was optioned out with navigation, Sirius traffic, rearview camera, and Premium package which added heated leather seats, an air-cooled seat for the driver, push button start, panoramic sunroof and rear sonar. Including delivery, out Sportage checked out at $29,990USD. Hardly inexpensive, but decked out with such premium features, our Sportage is actually quite price competitive. If you seek a small crossover with stand-out styling and sporty handling, the Sportage should be a must on your shopping list.