2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2011 Kia Sportage

You might be surprised by the title of this article – 2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury – and the moniker given to this top-of-the-line trim level for the all-new 2011 compact sport utility vehicle.

Luxury? Surely they jest. You might not think to use the words “luxury” and “Kia” in the same sentence, but Kia has with this compact SUV, and after a week with the car, I have to agree. The 2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury is, well, pretty darned luxurious.

For a less-than-luxurious $33,145, my nearly-loaded 2011 Kia Sportage tester came with such luxury features as a power panoramic sun roof that fills the passenger compartment with light; 18-inch alloy wheels with P235/55R18 inch all-season tires; LED daytime running lights, fog lights and projector beam head lights; integrated turn signals in the side mirrors; chrome door handles; leather seating surfaces, heated up front and power adjustable for the driver; dual-zone automatic climate control; six-speaker audio system with auxiliary and USB input and iPod cable, and Sirius satellite radio-ready; tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls; auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink garage door opener and rear view back-up camera; cargo area lighting, cargo cover and luggage net; and “smart key” pushbutton ignition. All-wheel drive is standard equipment at this level.

2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury. Click image to enlarge

It sounds impressive. What is even more impressive is that everything on that list is standard equipment on the everyday EX except the leather seating, panoramic sun roof and pushbutton ignition. So if you don’t really need leather and a monstrous glass roof, you can always opt for the less-expensive but certainly no less luxurious EX model, priced at $26,995 with front-wheel drive, or $29,495 with all-wheel drive.

And if you still feel that’s a lot of change to come up with if all you really want is a heated front seat and Bluetooth connectivity, well, those are standard equipment on all Sportage models.

In fact, the base Kia Sportage LX, priced at just $21,995 with six-speed manual transmission, could really be named the Kia Sportage LX Luxury Sport, because this compact SUV comes with a ton of competition-challenging standard equipment that other manufacturers would certainly charge extra for, not to mention a rarely-found manual transmission. Add automatic and AWD and the price comes to $26,795.

How about alloy wheels? No steel wheels with plastic covers available on this car. You also get the same audio system, with the same number of speakers and the same modern device connectivity and steering wheel-mounted controls as the EX Luxury buyer. And Bluetooth is standard as it should be in every vehicle sold in a country that bans the use of handheld devices. Power door locks, power windows, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power heated side mirrors, air conditioning, and automatic light control are all standard.

2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury
2011 Kia Sportage EX Luxury. Click image to enlarge

But as if that wasn’t enough, every Kia Sportage includes features that are often found only on luxury nameplates or top trim lines of its competitors – fog lights, heated front seats and windshield wiper deicer. Now those will be nice to have this winter!

No matter what your price point is, you don’t have to go away feeling like you gave up something to get an affordable vehicle. You don’t have to opt for leather seating to get heated front seats. You don’t have to go for the upgraded audio system to get USB connectivity and Bluetooth. You don’t have to get a power sunroof to get fog lights. You don’t have to settle for steel wheels to get a manual transmission. It is impressive packaging and a bold move for Kia.

Even at the far end of the spectrum, the navigation system is, thankfully, optional, letting you get all the luxury features you want without navigation if you don’t really need it. Navigation and the upgraded seven-speaker audio system packaged with it is the only optional package that is layered. If you want navigation and upgraded audio, you have to buy the EX Luxury trim to get it.

Even without the navigation system, as my tester was equipped, the interior of the Sportage is well-appointed, well put together, comfortable and quiet. The leather seats are wide and soft and the seat provides good support for long trips. After having driven a luxury sport coupe costing twice as much money the same distance the week before, I came to the conclusion that the Sportage seats were better and because they provided substantial cushioning and support, I was able to drive from Whitby to Ottawa, about 400 kilometres, without stopping. Seats that save you time.

The gauges are easy-to-read white on a black background with illuminated red indicators. But the audio system, trip computer and heating and ventilation system displays are red on black. I’m not particularly fond of this combination as I find red hard to read – old eyes, perhaps. The cupholder is well placed to not interfere with the leather-covered shifter or the natural resting position of your forearm. And the phone buttons are right where you want them, on the steering wheel.

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