Latest Industry News

2011 Kia Sportage – No ‘Sport’ but lots of ‘Edge’

You know the world has changed when Kia can price a normally aspirated 4-cylinder compact crossover at $30K.  Buying a Kia Sportage used to mean that you needed the cargo capacity and/or wanted the image of an SUV but were prepared to settle for the lowest common denominator (read: Least expensive option).  After explaining to your family, friends, neighbors and the occasional gas station patron why on earth you purchased a Kia another debate came up… What about resale? You could usually sit back and watch a Kia depreciate like gallon of unrefrigerated milk on a warm summer afternoon.  But times have definitely changed… and Kia’s star is on the rise…

No more explaining to the neighbors!

Kia has been very tenacious and very determined to make it here in the U.S. market and we’ve taken notice of their hard work. They have some new aggressively styled products that are very competitive and definitely pose a threat to other manufactures competing in the same space.  There is no doubt the 2011 Kia Sportage IS one of those vehicles that is capable of conquesting new buyers to the Kia brand.

In the coming years we are going to see some amazing things and some alarming things as the automotive world evolves.  Sure, I was alarmed at the price (a $30K Kia Sportage!?!?!?!) but I was also amazed at what Kia has decided to pack into this little crossover.  From four-wheel disc brakes, Dual climate control and power everything, to a ‘smart’ key, USB & Aux jack, BLUETOOTH connectivity (w/streaming audio), touch screen NAV (w/ real time traffic), Heated seats (a drivers Cooled seat!), push button start, and panoramic roof! This Sportage was fully loaded in a segment that never used to offer such equipment.  Wow!  I guess the real question will be, “Are prospective buyers who traditionally visit Kia dealerships for the ‘value’ proposition (read: Lowest priced option) interested in loading up their Kia’s with equipment?”

Well, we wanted to determine if this South Korean crossover was hiding any loose nuts and bolts underneath it’s jacket of technology or if Kia had truly tightened everything down properly.

The Good:

The short of it is Kia really did do a good job with the 2011 Kia Sportage. If I could only list two things I liked about the vehicle they would be ‘exterior image’ and ‘interior ergonomics’. I really appreciated how the center stack was organized. Especially the dual climate control angle, function, and separation from NAV/audio controls (not to mention my wife could crank up the heat, while I stayed nice and cool).  In the Sportage everything was where it should be and functioned as I expected, even the NAV system was intuitive.  Nice work!

Walking up to a 2011 Kia Sportage, in one word, it looks like “fun”.  I realize that styling is very personal but there is no question that the Sportage is bold and aggressively styled.  It demands attention, so much so we even received the thumbs-up from a Honda Odyssey driver (and that’s a first in any Kia I’ve ever driven!).

The interior build materials were a little on the ‘hard plastic’ side but design and fit and finish was pretty good.  Surprisingly, with so much plastic in the interior we expected some major squeeks, buzzes or rattles (11K on the Odometer) but there weren’t any.  It is a pretty tight package.

I tried to figure out a way to knock the Sportage for it’s outlandish (read: unbelievably high) price of $30K! But when I broke everything down, all-wheel-drive ($1500), NAV ($1,500), Premium Package ($3,000) all of the added cost from the added options sounded more than reasonable.  I guess we’ll leave it up to the American consumer to decide if the Sportage is competitively priced in comparison to the Domestic and Japanese competitors.

What Could Use Some improvement?

I can’t say the Sportage is a ‘drivers’ vehicle, for me there is no passion or enjoyment that came from driving the Sportage. In my opinion the I-4 is adequate (maybe a little underpowered) and I would say it left something to be desired when entering the freeway onramp. Although, rumor has it that a turbocharged version may be on its way, which should give us the extra oomph needed to overtake or merge onto the freeway.

My wife owns a Ford Escape, a Kia Sportage competitor, and I noticed how much more package efficient the Escape is when compared to the 2011 Kia Sportage (Much more tumblehome with the Sportage). Which means I would not be able to load up as much or as large of items into the Sportage as I have been able to do with the Escape. I also have an easier time with second row ingress/egress in the Ford Escape, but then again I am over 6 feet tall.

Rearward visibility wasn’t the greatest, but like the folks at Kia I’d probably be willing to give up rearward visibility for great styling.  As I mentioned before, ergonomics and interior design was a definite plus but another nitpick of not just the Sportage but most vehicles in the segment was the hard plastic interior build materials… but maybe these things are okay. It’s a compact crossover SUV used to shuttle people around urban environments.  If you’re looking at a Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox or Kia Sportage you’re probably not looking for driving ‘excitement’, a precision instrument or soft interior materials.

Bottom Line:

Kia did build this Sportage into a solid vehicle… but if you’re looking for a sporty driving experience you’ll have to wait until the turbo-charged version is released. Currently you can order up a base model Kia Sportage (FWD, Manual) for $18,300, add an automatic transmission and the price jumps $2K, or with the same all-wheel-drive powertrain as our test vehicle (2.4L I4, AWD, Auto), for about $22K which is still a good value proposition – just don’t expect all the bells and whistles that came on our $30K model.

The idea that this 2011 Kia Sportage was all-wheel-drive and still manages to get an EPA estimated 21 to 28 miles per gallon is actually pretty good. I was averaging about 24-25mpg (combination of city & highway driving) which is about what the combined EPA estimate would be.

In terms of pricing, given all the trimmings, I’m not sure Kia is too far off the mark and we’ve got to give them a lot of credit for offering so many options on a vehicle in the compact crossover segment. They have done a good job designing and executing such a bold, aggressively styled XSUV.


  • starzzguitar| June 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Just let me comment on the impression about Kia’s being “cheap” or shoddily manufactured. Where did this idea come from? The price? In 2006 when my Chrysler Sebring 2-door coupe lease was up and I needed a more practical vehicle to occasionally haul a few things, I was looking for a small SUV. I was determined to get the most for my money, because I was going to buy this time, not lease. So, I went to all the dealers and test drove almost ALL the small SUVs out at the time, including Kia. I had no intention of buying a Kia, the only one I had noticed before was the older Sorento and Rio and the little Sportage. I was SHOCKED at the fit and finish of ALL their vehicles. It was great! It was way beyond the RAV4, Escape, GM products were too big, and the Chryslers were absolutely the worst, nothing suitable anyway. The only product with the same quality was the new Honda CRV, but it was too weird and ugly for me. I ended up buying the 2006 Sportage EX top of the line with everything they offered at the time, and it was $24,000! Since then, I have had ZERO mechanical problems with it, I just bought a new battery and tires. What other small SUV can you say that about? HOWEVER…My wife’s lease of her Honda 2-door Accord coupe rocket ship is up and she has her eye on the new 2011 Sportage. It’s beautiful now, but costs over $30,000! This is no longer an “affordable” vehicle. Well, congratulations Kia on joining the BIG BOYS and your new line of gorgeous vehicles and charging the BIG BUCKS like everyone else. At least I will own my Sportage EX in a couple of months, then I can drive it around with no monthly payment due so I can start to contribute to a decent down payment, since there really is no other comparable vehicle except for it’s cousin, the Tucson. The so-called “small” CUVs from GM are still too big, and the quality is still suspect.

Back to top