2011 Sportage New Car Test Drive
The 2011 Kia Sportage, all-new for the first time since 2005, represents the latest move by the South Korea car maker in its drive to become a household name, if not a regular dinner guest, in U.S. new car-buying families. And as far as conveniently sized, sporty crossover utility vehicles go, Kia has executed well.
With gas prices showing no signs of retreating, Kia's engine masters have stepped up by obtaining better fuel economy and more horsepower out of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine than the previous model's 2.7-liter V6 produced. According to the EPA, the 2011 Kia Sportage earns a City/Highway rating of 21/28 miles per gallon (substantially reduced from the 2010 Sportage V6's 18/21 mpg). Helping those ratings is that, depending on the model and features, the 2011 Sportage weighs 100-200 pounds less than the 2010 version.
The 2011 Sportage lineup starts with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission. Uplevel models use a 6-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
We found the 2.4-liter engine delivers its power smoothly and mostly in a linear manner, with only an occasional, slight surge after an upshift in the automatic as the electronics adjust to the changing load. Those gear changes are clean, if not remarkably sharp, with ready downshifts for overtaking or merging. Steering feels heavier in the AWD version but reasonably responsive in both, with good directional stability. AWD comes with a limited locking feature for low-speed use in adverse conditions.
Kia's Southern California-based designers spared no pixels in styling the new Sportage. From every aspect, the 2011 Sportage is fresh and sharp, with the only obvious carryover feature the trademark oval logo centered in the grille and in the liftgate. Character lines are crisp but subdued, contrasting nicely with the overall rounded look. Blackened lower trim panels imply good ground clearance while keeping the tires visually in proper proportion to the body.
Interior accommodations in the 2011 Sportage are more comfortable than those in the 2010 model, if not as commodious. Front seats offer improved support in all areas, including for an occupant's often-neglected thighs. Leather-trimmed seats are available on the top model EX, as is an air-cooled driver's seat, which is a first for whatever the class segment is. However, the front seat passenger is left with fore-and-aft and tilt-seatback adjustments only, all manual. Hauling ability is a win/lose, with more space behind the second seat but less space with the second seat folded when compared with the previous model.
Creature comfort and entertainment features follow the traditional pattern, with an AM/FM/CD/MP3 six-speaker stereo and air conditioning standard. The upgrade audio system adds a subwoofer and an external amplifier plus what's fast becoming the required navigation system, in the new Sportage with a touch screen that also integrates the display from an included backup camera. The EX gets dual-zone, automatic climate control.
Initially, all 2011 Sportage models will be powered by the beefy 2.4 liter four cylinder making 176 horsepower. Due later in the model year is a turbocharged, 2.0 liter four cylinder Kia promises will pump out more that 270 horsepower.
The 2011 Kia Sportage comes in three trim levels: Sportage, Sportage LX, Sportage EX., while Sportage LX and Sportage EX come with a 6 speed Sportmatic automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional.
The Sportage ($18,295) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning; cruise control, tilt steering wheel, Bluetooth capability, power windows, power locks, power mirrors; AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius satellite radio with USB and auxiliary ports; 60/40 flat folding rear seat; trip computer; and P215/70R16 black wall tires on alloy wheels. The base model comes with a 6 speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive.
Sportage LX ($21,795) includes the 6 speed Sportmatic automatic transmission, LED turn signals on the outside mirrors, privacy glass on all but the forward windows and keyless entry. Optional are all wheel drive ($1,500); a Convenience Package ($1,300) with telescoping steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, cargo cover, floor mats, lighted vanity mirrors, cooled glove box, solar glass, and P225/60R17 tires on alloy wheels; and the Navigation Package ($1,500) with Sirius traffic information, rearview camera display and the premium audio system boosted by a subwoofer and an external amplifier.
Sportage EX ($23,295) and EX AWD ($24,795) add dual zone climate control with ionized air filter; power driver's seat including lumbar; telescoping steering wheel; auto headlamps; leather trimmed steering wheel and shift knob; lighted vanity mirrors; cooling glove box; solar glass; floor mats; and P235/55R18 tires on alloy wheels. The Navigation Package ($1,500) is optional. The EX Premium Package with Leather Seats ($3,000) includes leather seat trim, heated front seats, air cooled driver seat, push button start stop, panoramic sunroof, back-up warning system, heated mirrors ($3,000).
Safety features include full length side curtains with rollover sensor, ABS, Electronic Stability Control with traction control, Brake Assist and tire pressure monitoring system. Also standard on the 2011 Sportage are Downhill Brake Control, which when engaged automatically regulates downhill speed to no more than 5 mph, and Hill start Assist Control, which keeps the Sportage from rolling backward when starting on a hill. The optional backup warning system can further enhance safety by helping the driver notice small children behind the vehicle when backing up.