2011 Kia Sportage SX
2011 Kia Sportage SX. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Kia Sportage

The completely redesigned 2011 Kia Sportage compact utility vehicle (CUV) went on sale last summer with a 176-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine in the LX and EX trim levels, ostensibly replacing the previous model’s 140-hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.

Then, in the spring of 2011, a second, more powerful engine was introduced in the Sportage SX. Rather than replacing the previous 173-horsepower V6 engine with an upgraded six-pot, Kia chose to replace it with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant with more power, better fuel economy, and lower emissions.

It seems unbelievable, but the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine not only offers a 50 per cent increase in horsepower and torque, it also has approximately 20 per cent better fuel economy than the previous 2.7-litre V6. Pumping out 260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 269 pound-feet of torque between 1,850 and 3,000 rpm, the 2.0-litre Turbo is rated at just (L/100 km) 9.7/7.2 (29/39 mpg) city/hwy (AWD) vs 11.7/8.8 (25/33 mpg) city/hwy for the previous V6 AWD model. In fact, the new 2.0-litre turbo gets even better fuel economy than the standard non-turbo 2.4-litre four, which offers 10.0/7.1city/hwy (AWD). And unlike many turbos, this mill uses Regular grade 87-octane gasoline.

2011 Kia Sportage SX
2011 Kia Sportage SX. Click image to enlarge

Kia also uses this engine in the Optima SX sedan and Hyundai uses it in the Sonata 2.0T sedan, but the Sportage’s sibling at Hyundai, the Tucson, doesn’t offer the turbo engine. This would appear to reinforce Kia’s marketing position as the sportier of the two brands.

The wizardry behind Kia and Hyundai’s fuel economy advances is a result of a direct fuel injection system that injects gasoline directly into each cylinder instead of the intake tract for more efficient combustion. In addition, a twin-scroll turbocharger reduces spool-up time for more responsiveness and a flatter torque curve, keeping revs lower. And an intercooler keeps incoming air cooler for improved combustion, resulting in more power and fewer emissions.

What it means for SX drivers is a more exciting driving experience with 0 to 100 km/h times in the seven second range compare to over 10 seconds in the LX and EX, and much better highway passing power. The downside is the Turbo four’s rougher sound and turbo whine which aren’t as pleasing to the ear. Despite the new engine’s obvious advantages, there will be some traditional V6 buyers who won’t want to substitute a turbo four for a six.

Still, turbo fours are popping up everywhere these days because of their fuel economy advantages, and they’re likely to continue to improve as the technology advances and gasoline gets more expensive.

2011 Kia Sportage SX
2011 Kia Sportage SX. Click image to enlarge

Standard equipment

While the base Sportage LX with the 2.4-litre engine starts at just $21,995, the 2011 Sportage SX is a fully loaded model at the top of the standard equipment chain, starting at $36,995. It looks similar to the $33,695 EX Luxury model but has a different grille, front and rear bumpers, sport wheels and dual rear exhausts. The SX comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode, 18-inch all-season tires and machine-faced alloy wheels, intelligent all-wheel drive system, fully independent suspension, four disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, traction and stability control, and Roll-over Prevention, and Hill-assist control.

A new Kia feature is Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), an automatic system that monitors wheel traction, steering angle and g-forces to ensure the vehicle is going in the direction the driver wants. If not, it will automatically adjust the steering in the correct direction. This is made possible by the Sportage’s new electric power steering motor. This feature only activates in emergency avoidance manoeuvres, such as when a dog runs in front of a vehicle and the driver swerves to avoid it. If you’re worried about the car “steering for you”, you’ll be glad to know the automatic steering feature is virtually undetectable by the driver.

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