Test Drive: 2011 Kia Sportage T-GDi Turbo

The Kia Sportage Turbo is the most intuitive vehicle I?ve ever driven.

It doesn?t do anything differently than other vehicle. It doesn?t have a joystick drive system and it doesn?t read your thoughts and suggest radio stations you might like. It?s actually quite regular. But it does everything so effortlessly; driving becomes a calming, Zen experience.

At first glance, nothing really has changed on the Turbo model. Kia hasn?t fitted it with a wing, louvers, or skirting. The seats aren?t any sportier and the springs weren?t stiffened and therefore won?t fuse your spine together. It?s simply peppier but not obnoxiously so.

When some manufacturers fit a Turbo to a pre-existing model, a lot of the time they also fit lunacy to it as well and destroy the driving enjoyment (aside from hard acceleration). Kia hasn?t done that.

The Sportage Turbo isn?t a rocket ship. It?s delightfully quick but you won?t be passing Mitsubishi Evolutions on the rally course. You will, however, be able to merge into freeway-speed traffic without a second thought.

During the week I had the Sportage Turbo, I was moving across town. So aside from my truck, I used the Sportage to haul a few things. To my surprise, the back doors are big enough to easily fit a large moving box. The back end, too, was quite roomy.

Like all Kias, the Bluetooth virtually set itself up and the climate control was flawless. The Sportage I had was fitted with a panoramic moonroof, which made a rare sunny Portland day even more enjoyable. And the rear-view camera (which should be mandatory with all new cars) made paralleling painless.

The one detraction to the turbonic addition is the drop in miles per gallon. I averaged around 16 mpg and I really tried to keep my foot out of it. Ideally, I?d like to see at least mid-20s from a car as seemingly aerodynamic as the Sportage.

All well rounded features aside, the driving experience of the Sportage Turbo alone stood out. Driving the Sportage was second nature. I never wanted for more headroom. I never cursed a gutless motor. I never grimaced with fear during sudden braking. It all worked well–so well in fact that I never thought about it. I simply drove. I cannot remember the last time I drove a car that didn?t have me thinking, worrying, or cursing at some point. I was at one with the Sportage Turbo. And I loved every minute of it.

The Sportage Turbo won?t win beauty contests. It won?t set anyone?s heart afire. But it will never disappoint. You will never wish you had gotten something else because it is such a damned treat to drive.

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