2011 Kia Sportage Article | National Post

2011 Kia Sportage SX
By Graeme Fletcher, National Post, Toronto
Miami – When the third-generation Sportage landed in Canada, it did so to positive reviews. It had style, substance and some technology along for the ride, which was just not expected in an affordable conveyance. Now, there’s the new SX. This version turns up the wick, especially when it comes to the driving performance.
In base form, the Sportage uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that puts 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque at the driver’s disposal. This provides a rewarding turn of speed and decent fuel economy. The SX is a crossover of a different colour.
First, it adopts the same 2.0L turbocharged four that comes in the up-level Optima. In this application, it delivers 256 hp and 264 lb-ft of peak torque between 1,850 and 3,000 rpm. The difference this makes to the drive has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Obviously, the SX is much faster, but that is not what truly impresses; rather, it is the effortlessness with which the engine responds to the slightest pedal prod. It is such that there is rarely a need to go to wide-open throttle. Simply roll into the gas and the twin-scroll turbo begins to blow a gale as the Sportage goes from trot to canter and then full gallop in a hurry.
The six-speed manumatic transmission is well matched to this engine. The first four gears key on performance, which accentuates the engine’s willingness, while fifth and sixth are overdrives. The net result is great pop off the line and on through the mid-range. The SX runs to 100 kilometres an hour in 8.7 seconds and accomplishes the 80-to-120-km/h passing move in a blistering 5.3 seconds. On the flip side, the turbocharged engine returns surprisingly good fuel economy in spite of its alacrity and elevated output. It is rated at 9.6 L/100 km in the city and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway. The base all-wheel-drive model and its 2.4L engine is rated at 10 and 9.1 L/100 km, respectively.
From the transmission, the power is relayed to the road through a proactive all-wheel-drive system and large P235/55R18 tires. This combination puts the power down with minimal fuss. The proactive nature of the AWD system is such that it begins to change the distribution (it normally drives the front wheels only) before the wheels have a chance to slip. This keeps the electronic nanny at bay until it is actually needed. On the subject of stability, the Sportage is one of the few vehicles to use its electric power steering as the first level of electronic intervention. If the back end begins to break away, the system turns the front wheels into the slide as the ESP dabs the appropriate brake and backs out of the gas. This sort of sophistication is usually reserved for far more expensive vehicles.
Likewise, the use of two-stage shock absorbers delivers the best of both worlds. When the speed of the body’s movement is slow, the shocks deliver softer damping. When the speed of the body movement quickens, during braking or cornering, for example, the shocks firm to reduce the amount of roll and the negatives this brings to the handling. In the real world, they work well. The ride is compliant, yet the amount of unwanted body motion is effectively controlled. This gives the SX a flat attitude through a fast corner and precise steering feedback. In short, it drives unlike so many crossovers in that the response to driver input is crisp.
As for the rest of it, the SX’s exterior has been upgraded to set it apart from the range – a different grille and a rear valance that has been cut around the twin tailpipes. The LED daytime running lights add a great deal of character to the Sportage’s already refined appearance. Sadly, they go out the instant the headlights come on, which eliminates that distinctive edge at night. Pity.
Inside, the key difference is the addition of a nicer gauge package ? it delivers more information in an easier-to-read format. The remainder of the cabin lives up to expectations ? the leather-lined cockpit features decent plastics, comfortable seating and a raft of standard equipment. The list runs from the dual-zone climate control, a heated and cooled driver’s seat with six-way power adjustment and Bluetooth to a two-panel panoramic sunroof, a premium audio package and a touchscreen navigation system. In the chip world, the Sportage would be all dressed, and for a reasonable $36,995.
Functionally, the SX mirrors the rest of the range – 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the split/folding seats upright and 66.6 cu. ft. with them folded flat. It also earns a privacy cover and the needed tie-downs. However, the lack of an independently opening rear window is a disappointment.
The addition of the turbocharged engine to the Sportage really changes its driving demeanour. There is a crispness to its performance that’s very easy to like. Likewise, the driving dynamics ? it sits right at the head of the class. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, this crossover was born to run.
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