2011 Kia Sportage Walk Around

The first major redesign of the Kia Sportage in six years shows Kia doesn't consider itself bound by any evolutionary constraints, with impressive results. From nose to tail, from footprint to luggage rack, the all new 2011 Kia Sportage shares almost nothing with the previous model except for the South Korea-based carmaker's trademark oval badge prominently positioned front and center in the freshly styled grille.

That grille graces a fascia that is more rounded in every respect. Compact headlight housings with slightly protruding, clear lenses curve around the front fenders. A contrasting, horizontal, cosmetic, barbell-like inset, the extremities of which host fog lamps on the EX, splits the bumper, which itself thins in the middle to open a lower air intake above a flat black lower body trim. The concaved hood flows smoothly back into the decently raked windshield. Viewed head on, it's a more planted look than its predecessor, a direct consequence of a track (distance between the tires side to side) that's fully two inches wider and a roofline that's more than two inches lower than the 2010.

Highlighting the side aspect is a beltline (generally, the bottom edge of the side windows) that arcs dramatically from the trailing corner of the headlights to the leading edge of the taillights, giving the new Sportage a wedgier but still soft profile. The high beltline reduces the real estate available for side windows, making for almost a chopped look, like street rods of the mid-20th century. A creased depression in the lower portion of the door panels breaks up the expanse of sheet metal, thereby lowering the impression of mass. The flat black trim from the front lower fascia continues around the sides, outlining the wheelwells, which the tires fill quite nicely, and underscoring the rocker panels.

Most of the styling lines on the backside pinch inward, toward, again, the trademark oval parked in the middle of the liftgate. The backlight is about the same proportion to the bodywork as the side windows, i.e., smallish. Taillights narrow as they look toward the centerline. Turn indicators are slotted into the rear bumper, an interesting location that at first blush appears to favor a closely following driver at the expense of one two or three cars back. A creased lip marks the bottom edge of the liftgate, above a license plate space that occupies the middle of the rear bumper where a continuation of the flat black trim panel completes its circumnavigation of the Sportage's lower body.


The 2011 Kia Sportage interior takes the same leap as the exterior, from the 2010 model's mundane, ultra-base look and feel and feature organization to a modern, ergonomically friendly and eye-pleasing presentation in the 2011. Nothing too fancy or gimmicky, just well crafted and eminently usable.

Essential instrumentation is easy-to-read analog, with a large, circular dial for the speedometer bracketed by a half-circle tachometer and inversely stacked temperature and fuel level gauges. A small, rectangular, LED display inset into the speedometer face shows gear selection and trip data. The center stack is properly organized, placing the audio/navigation interface at the top, the climate control panel midlevel and power points and USB and auxiliary inputs tucked into the lower section, which also contains a smallish storage bin. Controls for the optional seat heaters fit in side notches forward of the shift gate. Climate and audio/touch-screen navigation controls are logically arrayed, finger-friendly knobs and virtual and real buttons.

A satin-finish, smoothly sculpted panel that hosts the instruments and the audio/nav panel seems to pop out of the pod-like dash, itself topped in industry-standard, glare-suppressing, grainy-textured, but not cheap looking, plastic material. The shift lever perches on the forward end of the center console, in which sit two cup holders (which need inserts for anything smaller than a Big Gulp) between curiously placed grab handles. The storage bin beneath the center armrest holds the charger for the transmitter for the optional keyless start/stop system, a less than optimal, and likely more easily forgotten, location compared with other systems' placement in the lower dash on either side of the steering column.

Visibility to the front is good, aided by the high seating position and the sloping hood. To the side and the rear, the smallish side and rear windows and an expansive C-pillar (the rearmost support between the body and the roof) make working heavy traffic a chore. On the bright side, the two-pane panoramic sunroof optional on the EX lets rear-seat passengers assist in keeping a watchful eye out for state trooper spies in the sky.

Front seats are comfortable, with sufficient thigh support and adequate bolstering. The front seat passenger is shortchanged when it comes to seat adjustability, relegated to a four-way manual setup. The perforations in the optional leather in the Sportage we tested kept the seats from being clammy or overly slick. Only in rear seat headroom is the 2011 more accommodating than the 2010, by a tick over one inch. In all other measures, the new Sportage trails the old, and generally by more than an inch; rear seat hiproom, in fact, is narrower by almost half a foot. Likewise with cargo room, at least measured at its maximum with the rear seat folded, where the '11 comes up fully 12 cubic feet short of the '10; interestingly, with the rear seat up, the '11's cargo rating is up by 2.5 cu. ft. over the '10's. Apparently, that's where some of the passenger compartment's lost inches resurfaced.

Against the expected competition, the Honda CR-V, the Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV4, the new Sportage's interior accommodations make up a mixed bag, in most dimensions measuring within an inch, give or take. The '11 Forester, however, is tops in front seat headroom, by more than two inches, the CR-V in rear seat hiproom, like the '10 Sportage by just under six inches. The new Sportage's cargo space also trails all of the competition, with the rear seat up by as much as 10 cubic feet against the RAV4 and with the rear seat down by almost 19 cubic feet also against the RAV4.

* MSRP is the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the vehicle. Unless specifically indicated in the advertisement, MSRP does not include taxes, fees or other charges. Actual dealer pricing may vary. Consult your dealer for more information and complete details.

* The dealer advertised price may not reflect specific dealer offers, and may be subject to certain terms and conditions as indicated in the advertisement. Consult your dealer for more information and complete details.

* Images and options shown are examples, only, and may not reflect exact vehicle color, trim, options, pricing or other specifications.

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