2011 Kia Sportage EX FWD First Impression Review – The Sportage comes of age

Expert Reviews Kia

2011 Kia Sportage

  • Sharp styling
  • Good acceleration
  • Better than average MPG
  • Baby friendly access for moms and dads
  • Bluetooth® music streaming


  • Temperamental power steering
  • Slightly harsh ride

Driving Impressions

The redesigned Kia Sportage makes a very good first impression, having inherited its handsome looks from the Kue concept of 2007. The sloping windshield makes this one of the most sporty looking crossovers on the road today. The Kia Sportage has a more distinctive design than any of the competition – the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, even its close cousin Hyundai Tucson.

The low roofline, the high beltline, and the 18 inch alloys give the Sportage a commanding presence on the road. It comes with a 2.4L 16 valve DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine that puts out 176 horses and 168 lb-ft of torque, which doesn’t sound like much but is actually really decent in the Sportage. Off-the-line acceleration was good, although the Sportage feels faster than the 9.3-second 0-60 MPH time would suggest. I even managed to lose traction a couple times coming out of my driveway. Acceleration was smooth all the way up through the 6-speed transmission.

The only thing that jumps out at you is the motor-driven power steering. The steering wheel keeps wanting to snap back to the center. This is especially evident at highway speeds. The C pillar is also huge on the new Sportage. Style is not free afterall.

2011 Kia Sportage EX


The Koreans have really improved the quality of their vehicles dramatically in the past decade. The new Kia Sportage felt and sounded really solid on the road. I did not notice any creaks in the turns and road noise was acceptable. The doors are solid and weighty, and interior materials feel expensive for a compact sport ute. The tester was an EX trim and came with the optional navigation system, premium audio, as well as the premium package with leather. The interior panels fit together very well and both front and back seats are supportive and solid.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

The Sportage EX with the premium package has very well appointed on the interior. The driver seat is even air-cooled in addition to being heated. We found all the seats to be supportive and the leather feels as good as the leather you’d find in more expensive cars. We were able to put a baby seat in the back and there was decent interior space for that and two adult passengers in the back. The ride height of the FWD Sportage was perfect for loading and unloading the baby, definitely better than a regular sedan and not as awkwardly high as a normal SUV.

The navigation system with premium audio and satellite radio has an easy-to-learn touch screen interface and is really functional. Voice commands are also a breeze to learn and use. The single coolest feature that’s sure to be common in other cars soon is the Bluetooth audio streaming. I was able to wirelessly play songs off my iPhone on the car stereo. It was pretty darn cool. The steering wheel controls are great — the buttons and levers feel expensive to the touch, and the climate controls are also within easy reach and easy to learn.

2011 Kia Sportage interior 2011 Kia Sportage instrument cluster 2011 Kia Sportage display screen and Sirius satellite radio

The premium package also features the panoramic sunroof, another really cool feature that really lightens up the interior and makes the low roofline feel higher.

The smart key is cool but nothing special these days. It is cool to not have to take the key out of your pocket but the Kia key fob is quite bulky. What adds a nice touch to the Kia Sportage smart key system is that the interior lights automatically turn on when you approach the car, even before you press the button to unlock the car.

One minor issue with ergonomics on this car: the location of the rear hatch release button is located below the hatch door and a bit too low. I’m not even that tall (5′ 11″) and had to bend down in order to open the hatch.


I felt the Sportage’s 2.4L I4 delivers decent power to this sport ute. You’re not going to beat that Range Rover Sport at the red light but then again, he might be treading lightly since his ride drinks so much more gas than yours does. The Sportage gets a respectable 22/31 MPG. We observed 26 mpg during our week with the Sportage. Flooring the accelerator on the Sportage will give you plenty of get-up and go, but I wouldn’t bet that pink slip.

2011 Kia Sportage 18 inch alloy wheels2011 Kia Sportage LED DRL


As I mentioned earlier, the power steering feels weird. The steering wheel keeps snapping back to center and is fairly stubborn. Road feel is not a strong suit, but I felt pretty confident around the curves in the FWD Sportage. The suspension is tuned pretty tight, and as a result ride quality is not the greatest but really decent. I wouldn’t be mixing drinks inside the Sportage, but my baby had no problems rocking to asleep in the back.


With its new European designers (head designer Massimo Frascella worked at Bertone and Ford Premier Automotive Group and Kia’s design chief Peter Schreyer since 2006 gave us the Audi TT) Kia is on its way to completely revamp its line-up. The Sportage is arguably the best example of this new direction at Kia and wears the distinctive Kia corporate nose. The sharp looking headlights with LED running lights and LED tail lights remind one of Audi designs and give the Sportage a sophisticated air. Riding on standard equipment 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, the Sportage has a really commanding road presence. It looks really tall from far away but when you get up close you’re surprised by how low the roofline is on this sport ute. In short, I find the Sportage to be the sharpest styled compact sport ute on the market today.

2011 Kia Sportage EX


With the optional nav and premium package, the Sportage EX FWD MSRPs at just over $28k. I know, not the Kia Sportage you once knew. And you’re right, this is a totally different Sportage than the one your girlfriend drove in high school. When compared to its closest competition like the CR-V and the Nissan Rogue, the Sportage compares well on every front from price to performance to fuel economy. It does not have as much cargo space as the Honda CR-V or the Ford Escape, but it is by far the most stylish.

Who should buy it?

If you’re a young urban hipster looking to buy your first new car, and you value style more than pure utility, I’d say the Sportage is definitely something you want to look at. I mean, if you’re not the type to go camping every chance you get, do you really want to drive around everyday in a full CR-V or Escape? The options are really nice to have, but come at a great cost. With the EX FWD model starting at $23,295 you can get a very stylish sporte ute for just under $24k. If you don’t need those bells and whistles, the base FWD model starts at an even more affordable $18,295. Same great styling, same 2.4L 176 hp engine the EX model. Just fewer amenities.

Tessa likes the new 2011 Kia Sportage


The Sportage EX is definitely one of the most stylish cars on the road today. Its distinctive styling and modest utility make this a great package for anyone looking to get a compact crossover.

RATING 4.5 4.5 4.0 4.0 5.0 4.5 4.4/B+



2011 Kia Sportage Photo Gallery

2011 Kia Sportage LED DRL

2011 Kia Sportage EX Specs

Kia MotorsThe official website of Kia Motors – www.kia.com

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