Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011 Kia Sportage gets an A-plus upgrade

Sacramento, California – Now here’s a gutsy move: Take a small, economy-priced sport-utility vehicle that has been the standard-bearer for the automaker in the United States and completely change it.

Say hello to the 2011 Kia Sportage, a crossover that has received a mountain-size upgrade.

Alas, improvement comes with a cost: The tested Sportage EX AWD wore a starting price of $24,795. And with leather-trim, a navigation system and rear sonar extras thrown into the mix, the bottom line came to $29,990.

That’s a hefty tag for a vehicle that used to be Kia’s poster child for cheap. Unfortunately, more than a few critics thought Sportages of years past looked and drove cheap, too.

You can’t say that now.

My bright-red tester looked very much like Lexus fare, with tight body fittings, sculpted with enough aerodynamic angles to get my mouth watering. The lowered body was a great change for the better.

Rear spoiler, check. Double panoramic sunroof, double check.

Looks great. How does it drive? Way better than before.

The new standard power plant is a 2.4-liter, dual overhead cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder piece of work with continuously variable valve timing. The 176-horsepower engine is a much more willing mover than its predecessor. A 2-liter turbo engine with 270 ponies is optional Sportage fare for the 2011 model year.

Fuel efficiency on the tester was a so-so 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Given the vehicle’s robust, agile performing characteristics – especially compared with underpowered Sportages of yesteryear – I had few problems with the fuel mileage numbers.

Even on hard accelerations, the Sportage cabin is quiet – also a new thing in this vehicle.

I was frankly stunned a the long list of standard items that can now be had on the Sportage, a vehicle once known for Spartan perks. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a cooling glove box and power-adjustable front seats stood out. Like I said, the Sportage has grown up and is now playing with the big boys in the crossover segment.

Throw in Kia’s exceedingly generous warranties and top-notch safety ratings, and you have a fairly impressive package.

I must add that for the second time in a relatively brief time period, the Sirius Satellite Radio subscription on my test vehicle cut out literally when the Sportage was in motion on the freeway. I’m now convinced that a vast international conspiracy is behind it.

No mystery, however, about the redesigned Sportage. It’s the best one Kia has produced.

1 comment:

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