The Kia Sportage has been around in the US since 1995. The original was one of Kia’s most popular models. So was the second-generation Sportage, based on the Hyundai Elantra chassis. But Kia really made a turnaround with the arrival of Peter Schreyer as their chief designer.
Since then, Kias have been some of the best looking cars on the showroom floor. The 2011 Sportage follows that tradition with very angular and aggressive lines. The engineers have not been on vacation, either, and while the standard Sportage receives a 176-horsepower four-cylinder, the top-of-the line SX gets 260 horsepower, almost turning this CUV into a sports sedan. Fun-to-drive is not a very common trait in this type of vehicle so we were very excited to find out more.
The Sportage comes in four different trim levels. The entry-level version is available only with front wheel drive, and it’s the only FWD version available with a manual transmission. It starts out at $18,295.
Most buyers will go for the LX version, which costs $20,295 with FWD, or $21,795 if you prefer all-wheel drive. The LX replaces the base model’s 16-inch wheels with 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with keyless entry.
For more luxury appointments, you can choose the EX version, which comes with chrome door handles, fog lights, a rear spoiler and dual-zone climate control. The EX will cost you $23,295 for FWD or $24,795 for AWD.
Many of the features that you get in the LX and EX are nice, but they come with the same engine. The SX is a different animal, though. The SX will cost you $25,795 as a FWD model or $27,295 as an AWD model. For the extra money, you get even more standard features, including leather seats, but the main bonus is under the hood.
Under the hood of the SX is a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder that cranks out a solid 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The Sportage SX turbo utilizes a twin-scroll design which offers improved combustion efficiency, more available low-end power, and reduced turbo-lag.
The twin-scroll design features two valve-operated exhaust gas inlets responsible for feeding exhaust flow through separate paths into the turbine. Utilizing a divided manifold, exhaust gasses from separate cylinders travel more efficiently into the turbocharger’s turbine, avoiding possible interference. The result is a system that improves efficiency and pressure distribution, lowers exhaust and cylinder temperatures, and prevents loss of exhaust energy.
The quantity of the air entering each cylinder is increased, resulting in more power. What this means to most drivers is that there is immediate power as soon as you put your foot down. The six-speed automatic transmission is also quick to respond with downshifts. The power is nice but what is great about the SX is that the fuel economy isn’t really get affected. While the standard Sportage FWD gets 22 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, the turbocharged SX gets the same mpg rating in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The SX interior is first-rate and will remind you of much more expensive cars. Many Japanese cars are cutting corners on the interior materials to save money these days while Kia will have none of that. The interior of the SX is more like a German car than a $20,000 vehicle.
The leather seats in the SX are very comfortable but do not offer a lot of lateral suppor. The rear passengers have lots of room for two people and three people can easily find themselves comfortable.
The 2011 Sportage is all-new, including its platform, which has been completely redesigned for the new CUV. With an overall length of 174.8 inches, overall width of 73 inches and wheelbase of 103.9 inches, Sportage is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor.
Built on a unibody frame, Sportage utilizes independent front-and-rear suspension systems. MacPherson struts are used in the front and have been tuned to improve feel and stability, while new side-load coil springs reduce friction. An all-new, multi-link rear suspension system is used in conjunction with new dampers and coil springs mounted separately to minimize intrusion into the cabin and trunk space and add to Sportage’s handling.
The newly engineered suspension offers the same comfortable ride as the previous generation but also delivers improved handling characteristics with more precise responsiveness to driver input. Both the front and rear suspension systems are mounted on a lightweight hydro-formed sub-frame, to help isolate the occupants from irregularities in the road surface.
Significantly quieter and more refined than its predecessor due to an aggressive series of NVH reduction measures, the all-new Sportage employs a new bodyshell design with greater use of high tensile strength steel. All of this results is a car that is amazingly quiet for its price at freeway speeds.
Kia has done an excellent job with the Sportage, especially the SX. It is roomy, affordable and even fun to drive. It has made most of the competition obsolete in one shot.