2011 Kia sportage expert reviews, specs and photos cars.com z gastroenterol


You wouldn’t call the Sportage stunning, as that term is reserved for sports cars and exotics. But while the Sportage isn’t stunning, it is visually dynamic and it turned heads everywhere I drove. The last car I saw turn as many heads for around $30,000 was one of the first Dodge Challengers to land in Chicago. And it was bright orange, not plain-Jane silver, like the Sportage I drove.

The aggressive front end kicks things off, but it’s the slick 3 gases in the air rear — with angled taillights that pay homage to the latest Audis — that marks the Sportage as an aesthetic winner. The 18-inch wheels that come standard on the top, EX trim level I tested were a bit more polarizing; some editors thought they were too much, while others (myself included) thought they were a must.

No one was conflicted about the Sportage’s interior. Surrounding its passengers in black fabric, leather and plastic, this SUV has an air of sportiness in its palette. Overall, the design is pretty remarkable for a compact SUV that starts under $20,000 electricity a level physics. The dash has a winged effect, the gauges are sharp and sporty, and even the vents have hefty, chrome-accented levers.

If the design itself weren’t a high point, the materials would be. In its price range, the Sportage equals or beats every rival. The Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester are available at a similar cost, but their interiors are inferior. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are bigger and cost more, and their interiors don’t offer the level of quality and aesthetics that the Sportage’s does.

All this hard work would be worthless if the Sportage weren’t comfortable to sit in and drive, and it is. There was ample room in the backseat for all passengers, and when I sat behind the driver’s seat (adjusted for my size, 5-foot-10), I had inches of knee room. This interior roominess is remarkable for a vehicle that electricity human body’s shorter than its competition, including the Rogue and Forester. The Sportage has 100 cubic feet of interior volume, which is more than the Rogue and Chevy Equinox, despite their larger frames.

Some of the taller Cars.com editors found the interior roomy enough for them in both rows as well, despite the fact that our tester’s optional panoramic sunroof cut into headroom. I also took my 2-year-old son for a few errands in the Sportage, and his child-safety seat fit fine, with his feet barely touching the front passenger seat when it was adjusted for a real-life person. I, of course, move it up when it’s empty to avoid getting scuff marks on it.

All this remarkable work inside and out is hurt by the Sportage’s overall driving experience. While the steering is precise — and the steering wheel is quite heavy — the 176-horsepower four-cylinder engine is not a smooth customer, and the Sportage’s ride is extremely stiff. I can put up with a gutless engine, and I think many compact-SUV buyers can shale gas in spanish too. But a super-stiff ride? That may be a deal-breaker.

Similar to the harsh ride we noticed when testing the Hyundai Tucson, a sister vehicle to the Sportage, our EX tester was remarkably rough on all road surfaces. I’d like to drive a Sportage with the 16-inch wheels — which are standard on lesser trims — to see if they make it any better, but I don’t think all the harsh jolts sent through the chassis would be negated by smaller wheels. It’s likely our test car’s all-wheel-drive system made the Sportage heavier and slower, and perhaps affected the ride a bit, too, versus a front-wheel-drive version with smaller wheels. Again, we’ll weigh in on other models when they become available to test. Potential buyers, though, should spend their test drive paying close attention to ride comfort. The power itself is on par with the competition, but the six-speed automatic offers coarse shifts. When you hammer down the gas pedal to get up to highway speeds, the engine bogs down and takes quite some time to get you comfortably merged into traffic.

Gas mileage is quite good, with front-wheel-drive models coming in at 22/31 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 21/29 mpg with the manual. Automatic all-wheel-drive versions are rated 21/28 mpg. Few competitors match this mileage, besides the Chevy Equinox (22/32 mpg, front-wheel drive). The base trim level is only available with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive.

Have you ever seen a car commercial that says a gas station ”Starting at $18,295*,” yet in small print that asterisk reads, ”As shown, $29,990”? Well, those are the starting and as-tested prices of our 2011 Kia Sportage. The base front-wheel-drive model starts at $18,295 before the destination fee, and our all-wheel-drive EX test car was $29,990, including a Premium Package with leather seats ($3,000), navigation chapter 7 electricity test system ($1,500) and destination charges ($695).

The 2011 Sportage features six standard airbags, including front-seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows. Electronic stability control is also standard. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the Sportage a Top Safety Pick based on its tests of the Hyundai Tucson, which is structurally similar to the Sportage. That means it earns top marks in front, side and rear crash tests, as well as IIHS’ new roof-strength crush test.

The compact crossover segment is a heated one, with the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V ruling the roost in terms of sales. With its low starting price, array of standard features, high-quality interior and head-turning looks, though, I expect the Sportage to do quite well in that field, despite its poor ride comfort and sluggish engine. Send David an