2011 Kia Sportage Review | National Post

2011 Kia Sportage Review
By Clare Dear, National Post, Toronto
Kia is transforming its image from somewhat bland, dated designs to a more stylish look – and the 2011 Sportage is the latest example of this trend. This compact crossover utility vehicle is fresh from bumper to bumper, a longer, wider, lower vehicle that’s wrapped in a European-styled skin that chief designer Peter Schreyer calls a dramatic shift from the previous model.
Schreyer, formerly of Audi, describes the new Sportage as “a sleek and urban-friendly design with global appeal.” After spending a couple of days with the vehicle driving the Golden Circle route through the spectacularly scenic area between Whitehorse, Yukon and Skagway, it’s safe to say Schreyer has created a winner.
This is the third generation of the Sportage and its bold, athletic styling certainly has more flair than either of its predecessors – the original, which hit our streets in 1996, or the current edition, which made its debut in 2004. Hints of this latest iteration appeared in the Kue concept at the 2007 Detroit auto show and many of those design cues have been carried over to the production model, now arriving in showrooms.
The 2011 Sportage has abandoned some of its predecessor’s off-road flavour for a more urban feel – more crossover and less sport utility, similar to the Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Tucson. Its overall length has been stretched 90 millimetres to 4,440, while its width has been increased 55 mm to 1,855. The wheelbase has been stretched 10 mm to 2,640, while the overall height is 60 mm lower at 1,635.
The roomy interior has been tastefully redone as well. The instrument panel is dramatically different from the current model, with a prominent horizontal band that stretches across the face, incorporating the audio and climate control panels that used to be stacked in the centre. The quality of materials is impressive for this price range, as is the lengthy list of standard features.
The extended wheelbase has helped increase interior volume for both the occupants and their cargo. For example, with the 60/40-split rear bench upright, there’s 26.2 cubic feet of cargo space – an increase of 2.6 cu. ft. Flip the seatback down and there’s an impressive 54.6 cu. ft. of space. The liftgate is also squarely shaped to make loading bulky items a breeze. Unfortunately, the rear glass is fixed, so you must open the entire liftgate assembly to gain access.
The Sportage will be offered in two trim levels – LX and EX – and both front-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations are available. There’s one engine offered – a new double-overhead-cam, 2.4-litre Theta II four-cylinder with continuously variable valve timing on both camshafts and a variable volume intake system. It produces more power than the previous optional 2.7-litre V6 – 176 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, while the torque peaks out at 168 pound-feet at 4,000 revs.
The engine’s output was adequate in urban driving, but it lacked much jump when negotiating the hills and curves of the Alaska Highway. Its lack of open-road response raises questions about how effective it would be when loaded down with a family of four and their vacation gear. Early next year, an SX model will be available with a 2.0L direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder expected to kick out about 270 ponies, which should resolve such concerns.
A six-speed manumatic is standard, except on the base front-wheel-drive LX, which comes with a six-speed manual transaxle. The new all-wheel-drive system is full time, using an electronic locking differential.
With the switch to the new 2.4L engine, fuel consumption has been reduced by 21% in city driving and 12% on the highway, compared with the previous Sportage.
On our drive, the Sportage felt quite stable and well planted, even when pushed hard through some of the bends, while the ride was decent. However, the Hankook tires did transmit a fair bit of road noise into the otherwise quiet cabin.
The brakes have been upgraded, too, with larger, 11-inch diameter discs all around. The result is a shorter stopping distance – by 43.5 metres – from 100 km/h.
Pricing for the base LX starts at $21,995. Adding the six-speed automatic nudges the sticker to $24,295, while opting for all-wheel drive adds another $2,500. The upscale EX edition starts at $26,995 with front-wheel drive and can climb to $35,195 with AWD and the luxury package plus navigation.