New KIA Sportage Highlights Evolution Of The Brand

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    380pxKia-Sportage---Rear-Street

    Yep, in case you’ve been out of the loop, Kia has been completely reshaping its brand.

    No longer is it one of those car companies you’d only consider if low on cash and just needed a cheap new ride to get around. And that message doesn’t ring any clearer than with the new 2011 Kia Sportage.

    The redesigned crossover is as impressive as you’ll find in its segment.

    No, seriously, it’s that good.

    ‘CONTEMPORARY COOL’

    The most obvious appeal of the new Sportage is its exterior design. While a definite contrast from the previous model and much sportier, the styling isn’t too over the top. Some carmakers that have built their brands on value push the design envelope too far when aiming for more appeal, and that vehicle seems kinda out of place in its segment.

    Sort of like hitting a hot after-hours spot in Chicago that plays house in a tuxedo you’d wear to a high school prom, rented shoes and all. Yeah, you might be able to do it, but you’re going to look odd considering the vibe.

    Not the case with the 2011 Sportage. The new Kia’s styling has just the right amount of edge where there’s a cool factor, but not too aggressive where you’ll look dated driving it in two or three years.

    Key styling cues, drawn from the Kue Concept, include Kia’s new signature grill, with dramatic swept back headlamps available with LED daytime running lights (NICE), and a distinctive lower fascia treatment that gives the new Sportage a cat-like presence on the road.

    The CUV’s rear design features unique taillights set in the rear lift gate. And the fact that the 2011 Sportage is longer, wider and lower than the previous model helps to give it even more appeal.

    The 18-inch alloy wheels available on the EX model (the line-up includes three – Base, LX, and EX) also add a nice touch to the design. The EX model also features roof rails, a rear spoiler and chrome body trim and door handles.

    Much of the “contemporary cool” appeal of the new Sportage, which is the third generation of the CUV first introduced, is carried over inside.

    LET’S GET IN

    Details like a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, telescopic steering wheel, illuminated vanity mirrors, automatic folding rear seats, illuminated and cooled glove box, and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support available in the EX model just the right touch for the segment.

    Kia’s signature three-pot instrument cluster is standard and the interior space is comfortable for the segment.

    All LX models come standard with convenience features like power windows, 12-volt power outlets in the front and cargo areas, power side mirrors with integrated LED indicators, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, keyless entry with panic alarm and multi-way adjustable front seats.

    There’s no shortage on cool tech stuff either. An audio system with CD/MP3 and Sirius Satellite Radio capabilities is standard. Both trims also come standard with auxiliary and USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players and Bluetooth wireless technology connectivity with steering wheel-mounted voice activation controls so you can keep those hands-free when driving.

    The 2011 Sportage also will be among the first Kia models to offer UVO powered by Microsoft, an advanced version of the hands-free in-car communication and entertainment system that’s driven the popularity of Ford’s SYNC technology. C’mon, you had to know that Ford wouldn’t be the only carmaker with this feature.

    The difference, according to Kia, is that UVO, the advanced version of the Microsoft technology, features some voice command controls that cut down on the steps for interacting with the hands-free system that enables drivers and passengers to answer and place phone calls, receive and respond to SMS text messages and access music from a variety of media sources.

    HD radio also will be made available in the new Sportage near future.

    MORE FOR LESS

    The new Sportage comes standard with a 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine that offers more power (176 hp) and better fuel economy (22 city/31 hwy) than the previous 2.7-liter V6 engine. Don’t you just love the advancements in engine technology?

    A more powerful but fuel efficient 2.0-liter turbo GDI engine delivers V6-type power with a four-cylinder engine that produces 270-plus horsepower also will be available in the 2011 model year.

    Offered with either a front-wheel drive (FWD) or a Dynamax all-wheel drive (AWD) configuration paired to either a six-speed manual transmission (base) or a six-speed automatic transmission.

    The ride and handling has been improved with a newly engineered suspension.

    The new Sportage also features downhill break control and a hill start assist control. Other standard safety equipment includes driver and passenger advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags and front active headrests, four-wheel antilock brake system, electronic stability control and electronic brake distribution.

    Options for the Sportage EX include leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, an air-cooled driver’s seat, push button start with Smartkey, rear sonar detector and rear-view back-up camera, heated side mirrors and a panoramic sunroof.

    Available upgrades for the LX trim include 17-inch alloy wheels, navigation with SIRIUS traffic data, rear sonar detector and rearview back-up camera, heated side mirrors, an air-conditioned and illuminated glove box, telescopic steering wheel, roof rails and a rear spoiler.

    The new Sportage comes standard with Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. Vehicle overage also includes a five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan.

    What’s most impressive is that with all the Sportage’s new “cool” elements, Kia’s managed to keep the pricing at $18,295 for the base model and around $20,295 for the LX model.

    Then again, without having a compelling price point, Kia loses one of the key elements of the brand.

    Marcus Amick is a national automotive lifestyle writer and consultant. He can be contacted at Marcus@WheelSide.com.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Base Price: $18,295
    • MPG: 22 City/31 Hwy
    • Available UVO technology
    • Optional 18-inch wheels

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