San Francisco ? Kia was actually one of the leaders of the compact SUV movement in the United States when they introduced the original Sportage in 1993, more than three years before the first Honda CR-V or the Toyota RAV4.
Moving into the third generation with the introduction of the 2011 Sportage, the sophisticated new CUV (compact utility vehicle) is a perfect illustration of how far this brand has come in less than two decades and it is a bellwether to the company?s future.
A product of Kia?s U.S.-based design center in Irvine, Calif., the Sportage takes strong cues from the Kue concept vehicle from 2007.? Starting from the signature Kia grill and composed of muscular lines, the Sportage has a look that reminds us of Samurai art.? The bodylines have strong dimensions, especially seen in the sculpted hood and pronounced wheel arches.? A surprisingly wide C pillar, which creates a unique side silhouette, anchors the sweeping roofline but also hampers rear visibility a little.
A 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine powers the new Sportage, delivering 176-hp driving a six-speed manual transmission (base model only) or the Kia-designed six-speed automatic. The standard drivetrain is front-wheel drive, with the new Dynamax? all-wheel drive system as an option ($1,500).?? Co-developed by Kia and Magna International, the Dynamax system drives the front wheels at 100 percent to maximize fuel economy.? When slippage is detected the system transfers power to the rear wheels as needed.? Dynamax can also be locked to distribute power evenly between the front and rear axles for better traction at speeds under 25 mph.
The Sportage is rated at 22 mpg for city driving and 31mpg for the highway.? With 0 to 60 mph acceleration time taking 10.2 seconds, we thought the power was about right for the average driver but lacked the performance to appeal to those wanting a vehicle for more spirited driving.? However, that type of driver will be rewarded later this year when plans call for the introduction of turbocharged four-cylinder option ? probably the same a 274-hp, 2.0-liter from the 2011 Hyundai Sonata (and a new Kia Optima due later this year).? That engine is expected to get up to 34 mpg in the slightly heavier Sonata.
Sportage arrives with three trim levels ? base, LX and EX, with base level pricing starting at $18,990, including the destination charge.? The EX AWD pricing starts at $25,490 and can go to $30,000 when outfitted with the Premium Package, navigation system with rear view camera and a couple of other available options.? Fully equipped, the Sportage sports a panoramic sunroof, premium Infinity audio system, backup sensors, leather seating with heated front seats and a cooled driver?s seat.
Sportage is the first Kia to be equipped with the new UVO hands-free in-car communications system powered by Microsoft. ?The system is the Kia version of the Ford Sync system, which enables drivers and passengers to place phone calls, receive and respond to SMS text messages, access music from several sources and create custom music programs. ?Sirius? Satellite Radio is standard and the new HD Radio? is available.
A bit larger and more spacious than the previous generation, the new Sportage projects the look of quality ? from the materials used in the interior to the solid tactile feel of the controls.? With the interesting styling, level of quality and exceptional value, we think the Sportage is a new leader in the compact SUV niche.