Sure doesn't look like the frumpy little cousin of Hyundai we used to know as Kia.
Might be time to get reacquainted.
Let's go for a ride in the 2011 Kia Sportage EX and check the tech.
If you don't have good taste, you can always buy some.
That's what Kia has done--hiring Peter Schreyer a couple years ago.
He's the designer behind the original Audi TT and the new Beetle back when he was at VW Audi.
As a result, the Sportage no longer wears that doughy, sort of fussy ornamented look of before.
It's distinctive now by virtue of its uprightness, its stern family face, and really chunky seat pillars.
But at least you'll notice it.
Unexpected are things like a panoramic glass roof, optional but definitely stepping up the game for a car in this class.
Groovy little dashboard in here.
They've really added some style to the Sportage.
You've got a very different looking kind of dash with the sort of second tier climate controls.
We've seen this head unit before.
It's a nice one in terms of its rendering and the graphics quality.
Easy to read the street names on this.
There are none of those weird jaggy ones that get tortured.
Touchscreen, as you can see, and a good responsive one at that,
but I like using the actual dedicated buttons for a lot of things when they're there and they are.
You've got lots of those on the right for navigation and on the left primarily for media, and I can't emphasize enough how important it is that you have enough processor on these units and in this model year, Kia and other cars are at least trying to see more CPU behind these things.
More often, it's flash memory as opposed to DVD.
All these things are coming together to make these things really responsive.
This system's a good example of that.
Live traffic, as you can see, is displayed here in logical colors.
I could point to some car companies that don't use green for light and yellow for medium.
They shall go unnamed but these guys aren't among them.
Of course, we have Bluetooth handsfree on this car as well and you've got separate controls for that over here on the wheel.
Let's get to your media functions now.
AM/FM, no HD radio.
Notice the nice big button display here, kinda iPod-esque almost with that wheel in the middle but it doesn't turn.
Your satellite radio is SIRIUS on this guy.
Under media, we've got our CD because that's a single slot optical disc right up here.
No DVD playback, by the way.
iPod, got that connected right here.
The iPod Touch shows up.
Again, lots of good use of the real estate here and among the better responding systems for scanning an iPod.
Unfortunately, when you wanna go through a lot of tracks or artists, it doesn't go to a speed up mode by letter, it just pages through every artist.
That's a little bit behind the times.
If you unplug the iPod harness, you find it's one of these dedicated devices that Kia and Hyundai use.
USB and AUX bonded together in a special cable.
Don't lose it 'cause your standard iPod cable will get you nowhere.
The good news is, when you pull that out, you then can use only a USB drive if you want, only an analog AUX device if you like, or, of course, with this cable, an iPod device.
Nothing too high end about the actual output side of this system.
It's not some 90-speaker Bose surround bladdy-blah.
No synthetic surround of any kind here, but it sounds pretty good.
The nav rig option does bump up that lowly four-speaker audio system to better amps and a subwoofer.
When you get the navigation package, that rolls in a rearview camera, and as you can see, there's no trajectory prediction on it, just your colored zones for how near you are to something you're about to cream.
Separately from the backup camera are rear bumper sensors.
Those are part of another package which is the one that brings you leather so they kinda played some games there.
If you want all the backup technologies, you gotta go get two chunky packages.
Also as part of our leather premium package, not just the rear sensors but an interesting sort of a classism here for the front row passengers.
Over on the right, we have a lovely button here for the heating for the front row passenger.
Over on the left, we have a button for heating and cooling for the driver, so, basically, screw you if you're riding shotgun, I get all the toys.
One engine, one gearbox, couple of drivetrains.
2.4-liter inline 4 with variable valves.
It delivers 176 horsepower, 168 foot-pounds of torque.
That goes out through a one-choice six-speed automatic with a shiftable gate in the back, but no paddles.
On an all-wheel drive car like this, it's 21/28 for the MPG.
Get the front wheel drive and you go up to 22/31.
All of this is not bad, but something's gotta give and it's the acceleration, with 60 taking about 8 and a half seconds.
Now, the Sportage part of a Sportage is kind of the S part of a Sportage.
It's not a sports car.
It's a perky little driver, but it's not a car for drivers.
It's got good around-town pickup, if you will, but not overwhelming power out of this 4 cylinder.
There will be, apparently, a 2-liter direct injection turbo gas engine coming in an EX trim but that's not what's available yet.
So this is an ample little grocery getter that's absolutely fine at getting up around and have it's own way.
Doesn't make any terribly unpleasant noises when you make it rev.
I do find that on the freeway,
the electric power steering is tuned or bias in such a way that the on-center hunting becomes annoying.
Just holding a lane, you gotta have three strong men and a monkey to kinda haul on the wheel to even make a slight little nudge, so they need to tune that a little bit.
Other than that, the tires which are sort of all weather are kinda drummy, but the ride is, you know, typical Korean firm and there's not much to complain about.
Now, Kia has to get their image brushed up and this car is one of the vehicles that's doing it.
Again, that stylish interior, I think,
and some good layers of different types of materials, not all of them are soft and pliable but at least you get a look of a little more than this car really costs.
Now, let's price this '11 Sportage.
This guy's the EX, the high trim car.
Front wheel drive, it's about $24,000 even.
Add $1500 for the all-wheel drive, like we have here, one pick on the gearbox, it's that six-speed automatic.
Now, to tech this guy up CNET style, go for the nav package, of course,
which also brings you voice command and rear view camera, little better audio.
That's $1500, good price.
The premium package has leather and some other non-tech niceties but also gets you the rear backup sensors and the panoramic roof and that's three grand more.