2011 Kia Sportage LX Road Test Review

Jon Rosner - CAP staff
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Former Audi designer Peter Schreyer has revamped every model in the Kia lineup and the results are stunning. From the midsize Optima sedan to the new compact Sportage crossover, his styling is leading edge contemporary, while still being subtle. Schreyer may be on his way to being seen as this generation's Giugiaro, producing design after design ~ each offering timeless appeal.

The fender peaks blend into the A pillars, the headlights flow into the grille. The substantial looking wheels add strength and presence. Thin chrome accents the handsome lines. The interior follows the pattern of artist meets industrial designer. The wide front windshield, combined with lots of glass all-round, makes the Sportage feel airy and open, lacking any glaring blind spots. Cargo space under the hatch behind the rear seats is more squared and useful than what's often found on full-sized SUVs.

The 2.4-litre twin cam engine cranks out 176 horses at 6,000 rpm with 168 pound feet at 4,000 rpm. It launches the Sportage with electric smoothness. Shifts of the six-speed automatic are silky and seamless. At 50 km/h, nastiest speed bumps are handled with one controlled up and down movement. Potholes in the local roads or on washed out, rutted back roads are managed with grace. This is one well-sorted chassis offering sedan-like responsiveness in spite of a tallish SUV roofline. Pretty good for a crossover sitting on a shortish 2,642-mm wheelbase and sporting 215/70R16s treads. Speaking of which, those tires will protest if you try to sling together sports car moves, the adhesion is not there, but back down to relatively civil speeds and the Sportage rewards with engagingly precise handling.

With the automatic the Sportage comes in at 1,522 kilos. The U.S. EPA says that the Sportage owner should see the metric equivalent of 10.7 L/100km around town and 7.6 on the highway from its 54.9-litre tank of regular gas. Canadian ratings are 9.5 and 6.3 respectively in automatic front-wheel drive trim, or 10.0/7.1 with all-wheel drive. A manual shifted front-driver gets an estimated 10.0/6.9 city/highway.

Is this author gushing in overstated blurb, yes and no? This is a low $20,000 range compact SUV. Elegance in design and material use is easy when you're building $45,000 to $90,000 vehicle, but not in this price range.

The Sportage is delightful. The only criticism that could be leveled at it is that the jet black perforated front seats could offer a bit more padding. Oddly, while the rear seats are slightly more vertical, they're also more comfortable. The console controls are simple, handy to use and easy on the eyes. The stereo offers clear, crisp sound with an unusually long range/ability to hold far-off FM stations.

With an MSRP of $21,995 plus $1,650 destination for the Sportage LX, is Kia's smallest SUV offering the prefect sled? No, but it puts the Japanese and European manufacturers on notice that for those who spend the time to comparison shop there is a new kid on the block offering more visually-appealing designs with better chassis development, an overall superior product for less money. A better value, writ large.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Kia, 2011, Sportage, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

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