2011 Kia Sportage EX: Driven Page 2

March 7, 2011
Inside, the Sportage feels downright fashionable. We loved the carefully sculpted look of the dash, in particular, and how it matches the new exterior in some respects; controls are straightforward, and the switchgear feels high-quality. Our (perhaps ragged) test car had a number of creaks and rattles, though, with one around the right base of the windshield and another emanating from where the console meets the dash.

The thick side pillar gets in the way when changing lanes, and visibility through the thin rear window is horrible. But we do like how the hatch goes all the way down to the bumper; and the load floor itself feels at an easy, natural height. But it's a bit surprising that cargo space is so small.

Tech delights and disappointments

Our very well equipped Sportage EX included items such as dual-zone climate control and LED running lamps—plus the Premium Package, which brought a nav system, rear camera display, premium audio, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a panorama sunroof, and heated outside mirrors, to a total of $29,990.

2011 Kia Sportage

2011 Kia Sportage

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While the equipment list is impressive, the nav and entertainment system was disappointing. The sound system wouldn't hook up to my iPhone via the USB connector provided with the car, and after trying once kept giving a sound-system-muting warning, every five minutes or so, that the USB connection had failed. What's more, it wouldn't simply just charge the phone after the connection failed. The nav system has a sharp-looking display, but we found the map data to be poorly updated in several cases, with the nav system stubbornly requesting that we turn against a one-way, and in another case, into a street that didn't exist. Cementing our unease with the whole system is that any of the screen-based functions have an annoying lag or latency, as if its processor is overtaxed by the software. And the live traffic system gave us several chances to reroute when traffic slowed, but its reroute options were always much longer than the planned route.

The Sportage remains true to one of its main promises, which is efficient yet stylish transportation; we averaged about 24 mpg over almost exactly 400 miles of driving, with much of it on the highway. From studying the trip computer, we noticed we were only getting 18 mpg or so in around-town stop-and-go, but out on the open road mileage jumped to the 25-26 range.

Ultimately, we see why the Sportage might appeal to some shoppers; it's affordable, well-equipped, quite fuel-efficient, and good-looking to nearly any taste. But we can think of several other crossover models that have both better handling and a better ride (most of its rivals, in fact), and inside, there's less usable space than most other alternatives. We'd love to do a back-to-back with Kia's much more affordable Soul, in fact, but it is another look—and argument—altogether. And for some Sportage buyers, Kia's newfound sense of style alone might be enough.

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