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

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Say “Aaah,” as in Sportage.

Like its sister company, Hyundai, Korean automaker Kia has been on a roll lately. Design and value is the name of the game, characterized by recent Kia introductions of the cheeky Soul, the sporty Forte and Forte Koup, and the attractive Sorento SUV, each surprising Canadian consumers with their competitive pricing, extensive standard equipment and appealing style.

The all-new 2011 Kia Sportage is more of the same, and that’s a good thing. Kia chief designer, Peter Schreyer, has waved his wand over the outgoing model and transformed its sheetmetal into a more modern, eye-catching, youthful and fun version. There’s really no magic involved, though, just taut lines, fresh shapes and an overall sense that this is a good-looking and up-to-date vehicle that you’d like to get in and drive.

2011 Kia Sportage
2011 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge

Starting at $21,995, the new Sportage arrives in LX and EX models, both powered with a 176-horsepower, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine (there is no V6 option anymore). A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the LX with front-wheel drive (FWD), and a six-speed automatic is optional (raising the base price to $24,295 including roof rails). A direct-injected turbo version arrives early in 2011. Both LX and EX models can be optioned with either front- or all-wheel drive. All AWD models have an automatic transmission and utilize a new intelligent “Dynamax” system designed by Magna International that features a centre locking differential.

Unlike some other brands, Kia’s base Sportage does not have obvious feature deficiencies that artificially create the low starting price. In fact, the front-wheel drive LX may be the most generously equipped “base” model that you can buy from any manufacturer.

2011 Kia Sportage
2011 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge

Standard equipment includes air conditioning; remote keyless entry; heated seats; fog lamps; multi-function tilt steering wheel; cruise control; 16-inch alloy wheels; Sirius satellite/AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input and USB; Bluetooth connectivity; power windows; power, heated mirrors; electronic stability control with traction control and Hill Start Assist.

But wait, as they say on TV, there’s more…

Exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, hill-descent control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, trip computer with outside temperature gauge; seat-mounted airbags with full side curtain airbags … well, you get the idea. I’ve likely missed a few items: Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system deserves special mention, as no other vehicle at this price point offers such technology. Vehicle Stability Management is an enhanced stability system that compensates for understeer and oversteer in everyday driving. The system monitors traction, steering and g-forces to ensure the vehicle is responding appropriately to driver inputs, and will mildly provide steering assist if required.

2011 Kia Sportage
2011 Kia Sportage. Click image to enlarge

Passive and active safety technology is comprehensive, and the 2011 Sportage is expected to receive a “Good” rollover rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) due to its extensive use of high-tensile steel and what is effectively a roll bar built into the body (the outgoing Sportage’s rollover rating was “Poor”).

The $26,995 FWD EX model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, telescopic steering column, solar glass, power driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, solar glass, and LED daytime running lights (late availability) to the LX specification and is also available with Navigation. A “fully loaded” EX AWD with Luxury and Navigation is $35,195.

Projected fuel economy over the previous generation of Sportage models is expected to improve. When equipped with manual transmission and FWD, expect 10/6.9 L/100 km, city/highway, while the FWD Sportage with an automatic should return; 9.5/6.3 L/100 km. All-wheel drive models get 10.0/7.1 L/100 km, city/highway.

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