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2011 Kia Sportage Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Kia Sportage was new.


Performance: 8.0

Some reviewers call the Kia Sportage an adequate and agile partner around town, while others complain of a rough ride and steering that is seriously lacking.

  • "During our brief initial evaluation drives, we found the Sportage to be a well tuned, comfortable and enjoyable compact crossover that is capable of both delivering the goods as a fun and sexy daily driver and even leaving the pavement on occasion." -- Left Lane News
  • "How's the Sportage drive? Solidly, like a sportier version of the Hyundai Tucson, a vehicle that impressed us with its firmly tuned suspension and near-athletic moves." -- Autoblog
  • "We particularly like the size of the Sportage in a dense urban area. It never felt ungainly, and the high seating position helps visibility on crowded streets." -- CNET
  • " . . the Sportage models tested around here rode hard, beyond simply stiff." -- USA TODAY
  • "For all the attitude served up by its bossy looks, driving the Sportage is a decidedly benign experience.” -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Kia Sportage comes with a 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on base models; all other trims get a six-speed automatic that reviewers say is pretty good. Acceleration on the Sportage isn’t blistering, but most reviewers say it moves around town just fine. If you want more power in your Sportage, you’ll want to wait until January 2011. That’s when Kia will release the Sportage SX. The Sportage SX is a performance-oriented model that will feature a turbocharged four-cylinder making more than 200 horsepower.

Fuel economy on the Sportage is decent. According to the EPA, front-wheel drive Sportage models should get 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway when equipped with the automatic engine. With all-wheel drive, those numbers drop to 21/28 mpg city/highway. For a compact SUV, the Sportage’s fuel economy numbers are very good.

  • "Although the Sportage's drivetrain is certainly very competitive for the class, we found that it stopped slightly short of offering a truly sporty appeal." -- Left Lane News
  • "The grunt is enough to move the Sportage about in a quick - if not genuinely brisk - manner. Sports car? Again, not really. But definitely quick enough to easily merge onto highways and provide good entertainment when the going gets twisty." -- Autoblog
  • "The ride continued smooth, but in passing maneuvers we found the limits of the engine. Slamming down the gas pedal, the transmission kicked down, letting the engine run up to peak horsepower. The Sportage did not bolt forward dramatically, and a painful whine sounded from the engine compartment, but we were able to overtake and pass other cars." -- CNET
  • "We'll stipulate on the drivetrain: better than ever. Powerful enough to climb from near sea level to some 2,300 feet without strain carrying a couple of fellows who'd never find work as jockeys. It shifted acceptably and sounded mostly OK while doing so." -- USA TODAY
  • "And around town, there is decent acceleration off the line -- and it has more horsepower than the outgoing V-6. Getting up to speed on the freeway takes a little longer, and the four could use more torque, but the six-speed auto does an admirable job of managing the power." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Kia's four-cylinder is a few hp brawnier than both the Nissan Rogue's 170-hp four and the Ford Escape's base 171-hp four, yet it's a few horses shy of the four-bangers found in the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, which are rated for 179 and 180 hp, respectively." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Reviewers aren’t as kind about the how the Kia Sportage handles as they are about its powertrain. Complaints about the steering are common, with many reviewers saying the system is twitchy and doesn’t give enough feedback. Several reviewers also call out the Sportage for a rough, jittery ride.

  • "The new electric steering was very consistent at all speeds and leaned towards heavy - very closer to a natural hydrualic system would feel. Despite the consistent steering, it felt as if it and the rest of the vehicle lacked in giving proper feedback." -- Left Lane News
  • "On the negative side of things, the examples we drove felt pretty twitchy, with a ride quality that was sometimes jarring on bumpy, truck-worn freeways." -- Autoblog
  • "How much joy can you extract from what felt like commendable handling in those tight curves if the vehicle slams and slaps on anything except the smoothest roads?" -- USA TODAY
  • "Body lean is well-checked in fast turns, but the steering feels somewhat light and lifeless." -- Consumer Guide
  • "But the chassis is stable and responsive, and the brakes have been upgraded. ABS and ESC are standard, as are the newly available hill-start assist and downhill stability control." -- AutoWeek
  • "The steering felt sharp, responding well to speedy turns." -- CNET

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