2011 Kia Sportage

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2011 Kia Sportage. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Modern design
  • Standard USB port and Bluetooth
  • Available panoramic moonroof

The Bad

  • Short side windows reduce visibility
  • Large rear doors might be difficult to open in tight spaces

Notable Features of the 2011 Kia Sportage

  • Redesigned for 2011
  • Newly available turbo four-cylinder
  • Six-speed manual or automatic
  • Available UVO connectivity system
  • FWD or AWD

2011 Kia Sportage Road Test

David Thomas

It's not often that a compact SUV can turn heads, but the new Kia Sportage does. And while the exterior design may be eye-catching, the interior could be considered class-leading, putting Honda and Toyota on notice that even a Kia can compete with their best-sellers.

There's so much Kia gets right with the 2011 Sportage that it's almost too easy to overlook its few glaring shortcomings.

Looks
You wouldn't call the Sportage stunning, as that term is reserved for sports cars and exotics. But while the Sportage isn't stunning, it is visually dynamic and it turned heads everywhere I drove. The last car I saw turn as many heads for around $30,000 was one of the first Dodge Challengers to land in Chicago. And it was bright orange, not plain-Jane silver, like the Sportage I drove.

The aggressive front end kicks things off, but it's the slick rear — with angled taillights that pay homage to the latest Audis — that marks the Sportage as an aesthetic winner. The 18-inch wheels that come standard on the top, EX trim level I tested were a bit more polarizing; some editors thought they were too much, while others (myself included) thought they were a must.

There's no doubt in today's crowded car market that looks sell cars … or leave them to languish, depending on how radical the look. The Sportage plays the cool-versus-radical game quite well.

Interior
No one was conflicted about the Sportage's interior. Surrounding its passen...

It's not often that a compact SUV can turn heads, but the new Kia Sportage does. And while the exterior design may be eye-catching, the interior could be considered class-leading, putting Honda and Toyota on notice that even a Kia can compete with their best-sellers.

There's so much Kia gets right with the 2011 Sportage that it's almost too easy to overlook its few glaring shortcomings.

Looks
You wouldn't call the Sportage stunning, as that term is reserved for sports cars and exotics. But while the Sportage isn't stunning, it is visually dynamic and it turned heads everywhere I drove. The last car I saw turn as many heads for around $30,000 was one of the first Dodge Challengers to land in Chicago. And it was bright orange, not plain-Jane silver, like the Sportage I drove.

The aggressive front end kicks things off, but it's the slick rear — with angled taillights that pay homage to the latest Audis — that marks the Sportage as an aesthetic winner. The 18-inch wheels that come standard on the top, EX trim level I tested were a bit more polarizing; some editors thought they were too much, while others (myself included) thought they were a must.

There's no doubt in today's crowded car market that looks sell cars … or leave them to languish, depending on how radical the look. The Sportage plays the cool-versus-radical game quite well.

Interior
No one was conflicted about the Sportage's interior. Surrounding its passengers in black fabric, leather and plastic, this SUV has an air of sportiness in its palette. Overall, the design is pretty remarkable for a compact SUV that starts under $20,000. The dash has a winged effect, the gauges are sharp and sporty, and even the vents have hefty, chrome-accented levers.

If the design itself weren't a high point, the materials would be. In its price range, the Sportage equals or beats every rival. The Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester are available at a similar cost, but their interiors are inferior. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are bigger and cost more, and their interiors don’t offer the level of quality and aesthetics that the Sportage's does.

All this hard work would be worthless if the Sportage weren't comfortable to sit in and drive, and it is. There was ample room in the backseat for all passengers, and when I sat behind the driver’s seat (adjusted for my size, 5-foot-10), I had inches of knee room. This interior roominess is remarkable for a vehicle that's shorter than its competition, including the Rogue and Forester. The Sportage has 100 cubic feet of interior volume, which is more than the Rogue and Chevy Equinox, despite their larger frames.

Some of the taller Cars.com editors found the interior roomy enough for them in both rows as well, despite the fact that our tester's optional panoramic sunroof cut into headroom. I also took my 2-year-old son for a few errands in the Sportage, and his child-safety seat fit fine, with his feet barely touching the front passenger seat when it was adjusted for a real-life person. I, of course, move it up when it's empty to avoid getting scuff marks on it. 

Kia's seats are firmer than average, though, so long road trips won't be quite as comfortable. Still, during my hour-plus commutes, I never experienced any overt discomfort.

Performance
All this remarkable work inside and out is hurt by the Sportage's overall driving experience. While the steering is precise — and the steering wheel is quite heavy — the 176-horsepower four-cylinder engine is not a smooth customer, and the Sportage's ride is extremely stiff. I can put up with a gutless engine, and I think many compact-SUV buyers can too. But a super-stiff ride? That may be a deal-breaker.

Similar to the harsh ride we noticed when testing the Hyundai Tucson, a sister vehicle to the Sportage, our EX tester was remarkably rough on all road surfaces. I'd like to drive a Sportage with the 16-inch wheels — which are standard on lesser trims — to see if they make it any better, but I don't think all the harsh jolts sent through the chassis would be negated by smaller wheels. It's likely our test car's all-wheel-drive system made the Sportage heavier and slower, and perhaps affected the ride a bit, too, versus a front-wheel-drive version with smaller wheels. Again, we'll weigh in on other models when they become available to test. Potential buyers, though, should spend their test drive paying close attention to ride comfort. The power itself is on par with the competition, but the six-speed automatic offers coarse shifts. When you hammer down the gas pedal to get up to highway speeds, the engine bogs down and takes quite some time to get you comfortably merged into traffic.

Gas mileage is quite good, with front-wheel-drive models coming in at 22/31 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 21/29 mpg with the manual. Automatic all-wheel-drive versions are rated 21/28 mpg. Few competitors match this mileage, besides the Chevy Equinox (22/32 mpg, front-wheel drive). The base trim level is only available with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. 

The engine is also quite loud, with noise intruding into the cabin more than you’d expect in a modern car of any stripe. Wind noise is minimal, presumably thanks to the aerodynamic shape of the little crossover. Road noise is a tad loud with the large, 18-inch wheels and tires, but it’s not unforgivable.

Features & Pricing
Have you ever seen a car commercial that says ''Starting at $18,295*,'' yet in small print that asterisk reads, ''As shown, $29,990''? Well, those are the starting and as-tested prices of our 2011 Kia Sportage. The base front-wheel-drive model starts at $18,295 before the destination fee, and our all-wheel-drive EX test car was $29,990, including a Premium Package with leather seats ($3,000), navigation system ($1,500) and destination charges ($695).

That's not a small disparity, but there's plenty of comfort room in between for shoppers to find a lot of value.

At the base price, you get the same style and engine as the other trims, with 16-inch alloy wheels. You also get a stereo with USB input, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls and a trip computer. 

The LX is the middle trim, starting at $20,295 for front-wheel drive and $21,795 for all-wheel drive. The LX adds the automatic transmission, privacy glass and keyless entry as standard equipment, but that’s about it. A number of option packages are also available, however. 

The EX starts at $23,295 for front-wheel drive and $24,795 for all-wheel drive. The EX adds the 18-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, a spoiler, roof rails, dual-zone climate control, a telescoping steering wheel and a cooled glove box.

In terms of equipment and pricing before options, all three trims compete exceptionally well against the competition. Other than the Hyundai Tucson, no competing SUVs start below $20,000. 

Cargo
Where you lose out by picking the Sportage is in cargo room. At 26.1 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 54.6 cubic feet with them down, it falls short of the competition — even the relatively miniscule capacities of the Nissan Rogue, at 28.9 and 57.9 cubic feet, respectively.

During my week testing the Sportage, though, I didn't feel like the cargo space was unusable. In fact, the narrow cargo bay of the larger Equinox isn’t overly cargo-friendly despite its larger overall measurements.

Safety
The 2011 Sportage features six standard airbags, including front-seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags for both rows. Electronic stability control is also standard. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the Sportage a Top Safety Pick based on its tests of the Hyundai Tucson, which is structurally similar to the Sportage. That means it earns top marks in front, side and rear crash tests, as well as IIHS' new roof-strength crush test. 

Sportage in the Market
The compact crossover segment is a heated one, with the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V ruling the roost in terms of sales. With its low starting price, array of standard features, high-quality interior and head-turning looks, though, I expect the Sportage to do quite well in that field, despite its poor ride comfort and sluggish engine.

Send David an email  



2011 Sportage Video

Cars.com's Dave Thomas takes a look at the 2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD. It competes with the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape.

Latest 2011 Sportage Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.7)
Performance
(4.1)
Interior Design
(4.4)
Comfort
(4.3)
Reliability
(4.4)
Value For The Money
(4.3)

What Drivers Are Saying

(2.0)

Poorly put together

by Carlsonaj from Pine city, mn on August 20, 2018

I live on a dirt road and the vehicle handles the wear and term of it terribly. It packs mud and snow which causes it to shudder until you blow it out with hot water. It burns through sensors like ... Read full review

(5.0)

Love the ECO Engine with great gas mileage.

by KYucker from Moncks Corner on June 21, 2018

I just bought my 2011 Kia last October 2017. The mileage was 96,846. I did not let the high mileage deter me from buying it. Even though my Sportage have a few quirks like you can roll down the ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2011 Kia Sportage currently has 3 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2011 Kia Sportage Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Kia
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    120 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 60,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    5 years or newer/less than 60,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    12 months/12,000 miles

  • Powertrain warranty

    10 years/100,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    164-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Sportage received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker