By on December 14, 2011

Kia’s mission in America over the past decade was to compete squarely with the likes of Honda and Toyota. Lately however, the plucky South Korean brand seems to have larger aspirations. With the new Optima and Sportage turbos it would appear that Kia may just have budget near-luxury brands in mind as competition. Competition is fierce in the CUV market and the cute-ute segment is especially cut-throat with (by my count) no fewer than 11 vehicles that more-or-less compete directly with the Sportage. Among the main competition lurk the likes of the Rav 4, CR-V, Rogue, Juke, Compass, Patriot, Escape, Tiguan, Equinox, RDX and possibly the Q5.

However the 260HP turbo Sportage SX is possibly a different beast, and if you were to whittle this list down to just the 200HP+, turbocharged competition the list gets considerably shorter: Tiguan, Q5 and RDX. As Kia continues their claw upmarket, it should come as no surprise that Acura’s baby crossover should be found in Kia’s crosshairs. The question is: does the Sportage have what it takes to convince entry-level luxury CUV shoppers to stop at the Kia dealer? Or is this just faster competition for the RAV 4 and CR-V? Michael Karesh was able to get a Sportage SX turbo for a day from a local dealer, but what’s it like for a week? Lets find out.

From the outside, the new Sportage strikes a much more aggressive pose than the outgoing model. The clean lines and angular styling echo many of Acura’s latest design cues without being as “me-too” as previous Kia products. The large corporate grill looks at home on the Sportage and possibly better suited to the compact CUV than some of the other products that wear this nose.  While styling opinions vary, one thing seems to be universal: the Sportage’s proboscis is far more attractive than Acura’s ungainly beak.  In addition to the new engine, the SX model also gets large 18-inch wheels, a unique grill, dual exhaust, tweaked sills, aluminum door scuff plates, a different instrument cluster and some optional unique interior trim. Oh, and that T-GDI badge on the rear hatch.

The new Sportage’s interior was something of a let-down after spending a week inside the new Optima. That’s not to say the Sportage’s interior isn’t competitive, it’s just not class leading the way the new Optima SX is. Compared to other new Kia products, there are fewer soft touch plastics and no stitched-dash-trim bits to be found. Still, the interior is notably better than the majority of the competition in truth only a notch behind the likes of the more expensive Acura RDX. Even the new CR-V we crawled around inside during our coverage of the LA Auto Show only matches the Kia in interior refinement. Lesser Sportage trims are available in a two-tone grey motif that looks decidedly up-market,  the SX model however is available only in black, however the black-on-black-on-black interior of our test car made the interior feel a bit too cold and dark for my tastes.  The daring black and orange we saw on the 2011 model seems to have found few homes and is sadly no longer available. In comparison the interior of the RDX is a higher rent for sure, but the difference is mostly in design rather than component quality as the plastics inside the RDX are no more inspiring than the Kia. The RDX serves up similar proportions to the Kia but offers a modest 1.7 cubic feet more cargo room than the Sportage.

As is often the case with specialty trim-lines, it’s what’s under the hood that makes the SX worth the second look (and possible competition for the near luxury crowd). While the base Sportage gets by with a naturally aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder Hyundai/Kia Theta engine good for a middling 176HP and 168lb-ft of torque, the Sportage SX gets the new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder direct-injection engine from the new turbo Optima and Sonata. The new forced induction mill is tuned for 260HP at 6,000RPM and a beefy 269 lb-ft of torque from 1,850-3,000RPM. Like many turbo engines, the SX’s torque curve is flat, but unlike many turbo engines on the market it tapers off somewhat quickly at the top end. Compared to the heavy hitters in the near luxury segment, the SX tops the forced induction group with VW’s 2.0L turbo delivering 200HP and 206lb-ft of torque, Audi’s 2.0L cranking out 211HP/258lb-ft, and the RDX ‘s 2.3L turbo delivering 240HP/260lb-ft. The Theta turbo also delivers arguably more punch than the Q5′s 3.2L V6 or BMW’s naturally aspirated 3.0L inline-6. The cost for this extra punch? $2,500 more than a comparably equipped Sportage EX.

The RDX and other compact near-luxury CUVs sell on acceleration, sporty handling with a modicum of cargo capacity while the mass-market CUVs seem to focus mostly on upright seating, and this is where the Sportage seems to straddle the fence. Out on the road the light weight (3,466lb vs 3931 for the RDX), stiff chassis and wide 235-series 18-inch rubber conspire to make the Sportage a near equal to the RDX (or dare I even say EX35) when the going gets twisty despite not having Acura’s slick torque-vectoring SH-AWD system. Kia fitted their latest electric power-steering system to the Sportage SX which provides more road feel and feedback than I had expected. When throwing the baby-SUV into corners, the Sportage compares favorably with the premium compact CUVs on the market. What little the Sportage SX gives up to the RDX in handling, it makes up for it in straight line performance running to 60MPH 0.3 seconds faster than the RDX turbo and finishing the  quarter-mile 0.4 seconds faster as well. The SX also ran to sixty 0.4 seconds faster than a 2011 AWD RAV 4 I got my hands on, and 0.7 seconds faster than the Audi Q5 2.0T we tested in April.

Directing the power to the tarmac is the Hyundai/Kia 6-speed automatic transmission and an optional AWD system. Much like the RDX however, AWD is essential if you care about on-road performance as the turbo brings the torque to a boil quickly. (A FWD model we tested suffered from wheel hop and severe front-wheel-peel at the merest press of the go pedal). Kia’s AWD system uses a center clutch pack (rather than a true center differential) that can connect or disconnect the rear wheels at will but (unlink SH-AWD) will never send more than 50% of the power to the back. Sadly Kia chose not to snag the Optima SX’s paddle shifters for use on the Sportage SX, nor did the slightly sportier transmission programming make a cameo. When driven hard, the transmission is eager to down-shift to do your right-foot’s bidding, but its just as eager to up-shift as you brake to enter the next curve. While Kia does provide a manumatic mode, it is a bit slow to react and without paddle shifters, its less convenient to use as well. The RDX’s 5-speed transmission is more willing to dance and the shift paddles make commanding (and staying in) a particular gear easier.

Now to the nitty-gritty: While the base, naturally-aspirated, FWD Sportage starts at a reasonable $18,500, stepping up to the SX turbo with AWD will cost you an extra $9,900, bringing your total to $28,400. The FWD SX may be $2,000 cheaper and deliver 2 more highway MPGs, but trust me, powering all four wheels is worth both costs. Besides, if you cared about economy you’d be buying the base FWD Sportage anyway. Our tester also wore the $2,000 premium package which gets you the panoramic sunroof, power mirrors with turn-signals, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats and a cooled driver’s seat. The $1,000 navigation system option bumped our as-tested price to a somewhat steep $32,200. While I (like many of you) gasped at the total, a quick trip to my local Honda and Toyota dealers revealed the Sportage SX is actually a hair cheaper than a comparable RAV-4 (5 seater). Adjusting for options and the engine upgrade, the Sportage SX costs about the same as Honda’s CR-V, but is a significant $6,680 cheaper than a comparably equipped RDX which starts at $32,895 and comparably equipped (to our fully-loaded tester) rings in at $37,995.

There was a time where Kias were the cheap option, once that age ended, Kias became the value option, and today Kia has become a mainstream player. The Sportage is a perfect example of this transition, when Kia’s Sportage rolled into the light in 1993, it was cheap, and, well, cheap. The second generation Sportage was a value option to the main-stream shopper and as such, its faults could be forgiven because of its price. The base Sportage seems to slot firmly in the mainstream CUV line-up with competitive pricing, competitive features and average performance. Meanwhile, the Sportage SX seems to aspire to the near-luxury segment, trying to sell on handling and acceleration. While I’m not 100% sure the Sportage is ready to lock swords with Acura on the CUV battlefield, it is a very solid alternative for CUV shoppers. Of course, I value the “deal” so while the RDX is still the better small crossover, the Sportage SX is a close second and my personal choice, it’s just not quite near-luxury material yet. Wait till the fourth generation for that.

 

Kia provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.

Statistics as tested

0-60: 6.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Fuel Economy: over 629 miles, 23.0MPG

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92 Comments on “Review: 2012 Kia Sportage SX...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Alex, what did you think of some other factors that a near-luxury CUV should also be decent at, such as ride quality, seat comfort, noise levels, audio system?

    I really like the dashboard layout and steering wheel in this vehicle, they are unique and modern without going garish & chintzy like recent Honda interiors. Shame about the orange, that’s the color I would want for this thing.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Beauty is only skin deep. Ugly cuts clear to the bone.

    I (until recently) worked for a gear supplier in the keiretsu of One of the Major Japanese OEM’s (I won’t say which….you decide.) We were allowed by our OEM to bid for some Hyundai work, and one of the projects we quoted was to build the rear pinion assembly for Hyundai/Kia SUV’s, CUV’s and minivans, such assemblies as we also manufactured for our Japanese ‘parent’.

    The difference in the level of engineering is staggering. Our parent’s engineers demanded a 4-pinion gear rear-axle assembly, and the pinion gears themselves were stout, the assembly standards robust and precise. Hyundai/Kia’s design, on the other hand, was flimsy. The pinions were about 6/10ths the size of the Japanese standard. And, there were only 3 pinions in the assembly, instead of the 4 which was spec’d by our parent’s engineers and which, I believe, is common in most other similar trucklets. The design specs were skimpy, and they were unwilling to pay for much of the quality engineering and manufacturing techniques to which our company was accustomed and in which we took great pride.

    In short, praise Hyundai/Kia for their external design, their packaging, their marketing, their interiors. But where they get their cost advantage in order to do the above is by skimping egregiously on the hardware that few customers ever look at before a purchase.

    I, for one, will never, ever, ever own a Hyundai or Kia, after having seen and experienced how poorly they engineer the most important bits of a vehicle….

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      interesting insight. Did you ever have the opportunity to bid on work on behalf of a domestic manufacturer, and if so, to what level were their standards in comparison?

      • 0 avatar
        Mark MacInnis

        Yes….we did work for GM. Their standards were near our Japanese OEM, MUCH higher than Hyundai.

        Put it this way: Every OEM has to decide in which systems and attributes of a vehicle thay are going to invest their capital and purchasing dollars….in my experience, (working in the auto component industry for 20 years) Toyota invests their dollars in hardware and in driver and passenger interface points equally, in an attempt to create a harmonious vehicle in which the focus is reliability and utility, not necessarily comfort or style. Honda invested their dollars primarily in hardware, going for an ethic and aesthetic of simplicity, seemingly in the belief that if you create a simple, durable, spartan and functional vehicle, the consumer will find the beauty in it. The early 1990′s Accords and Civics hit this sweet spot…though lately they’ve somewhat lost that SIMPLE mojo. Ford in the past all about lowest-common-denominator engineering, getting the job done. But that was pre-Mullaly. Ford under Mullaly has done the best job, I think, of all the US OEM’s to partner with their suppliers. They spend a bit too much on the gimmicky interfaces, but they don’t let the rest of their cars suffer too much for that bias. GM talked the quality talk in their hardware (and by that I mean drive train) but the soft stuff and systems, and what I call their secondary hardware (PS pumps, electrical systems) they gambled a lot by ruthlessly cutting costs in those areas of the vehicle. I know a lot of people who drive GM who have wonky power window switches or dashboard lights, but keep driving them because the power train is reliable. I think the longevity jury is still out on Hyundai/Kia’a approach, which seems to be to under-engineer the hardware, over engineer the soft interiors and design, and hope John Q. doesn’t actually take a long look under the hood, while taking the risk on warranty costs and pushing the ‘longevity risk’ to used car buyers.

        All in all, I see, not surprisingly, that Toyota has the best, most balanced approach to this process. They didn’t get to where they are by not thinking the value proposition of their approach to building vehicles through so very completely….

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      Reading this comment brings to my mind’s eye visions of two teams stripping down comparable “value”-brand and “the usual”-brand cars and comparing the engineering of each subsystem by pointing out differences such as those described above.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      This is why Hyundai/Kia profitably offers a 10/100 warranty and the Japanese brands don’t, since H/K cars are engineered so poorly, right?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Carmakers don’t offer long warranties when they have earned reputations for quality products. Carmakers offer long warranties when nobody has confidence in their products. We had a Dodge with what was then an industry-leading 5/50 powertrain warranty. It was the only car we ever gave up on in less than 30,000 miles, and there are armies of lawyers whose job it is to write escapable warranties and to find outs when the text isn’t meaningless enough. The warranty never seems to apply to my landlady’s 2008 Kia, which has less than 35,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar

        There have been numerous reports that Hyundai makes warranty claims a struggle in many respects, so be careful in just paying attention to the numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        CJinSD,
        VW must have had tremendous confidence in the quality of my 2001 Passat with it’s 2yr/24k mile factory warranty.

        It’s pretty obvious after owning the car that VW didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to cover the inevitable failures that would have occurred under a more traditional 3yr/36k mile warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        VW has tremendous confidence in their ability to fool some of the people all of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Mark MacInnis: “Hyundai/Kia’s design, on the other hand, was flimsy. The pinions were about 6/10ths the size of the Japanese standard. And, there were only 3 pinions in the assembly”

      – Unless you can prove that the Hyundai/Kia’s design is either less reliable, or noisier, or make the car less rigid, you point is totally invalid.

      Over engineering is poor engineering, unless the extra cost can be justified by improved performance.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        @wsn

        “Over engineering is poor engineering, unless the extra cost can be justified by improved performance.”

        I’d like to introduce you to an engineer from BMW.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @grzydj: Given BMW’s reliability, I’ll pass on that conversation. And those ‘rock-solid’ VWs and ‘engineered’ Mercedes’ don’t pass muster in the reliability department, either. Appearances aren’t everything, and claims about superior engineering are just words.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        Exactly. If German cars are engineered so well then why do parts fail on them with so much regularity?

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        wsn – totally agree. If you can use a better material and manufacturing process to make a smaller component it only makes sense. Or if they are simply saving money by using a part that is only twice as strong instead of 10 time as strong as it needs to be that makes sense too. I am at 50k miles on my Hyundai with absolutely no mechanical failure or noticable wear. Original clutch, brakes etc. As gslippy says they couldn’t afford a 100k warranty using subpar components as you describe.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “I’d like to introduce you to an engineer from BMW.”

        I’m pretty sure that is sarcasm.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        @CJinSD

        You were correct. I was being sarcastic.

      • 0 avatar
        swilliams41

        Over engineered doesn’t necessarily engineered for best durability. At 80k I had to replace various bushings and struts on my 2003 BMW 530i. A v-6 Camry of the same era would not have probably required that. But then again my car rides great and STILL handles in a way the Camry does not. Over engineered??? BTW my doors still go clunk when closed, well built doors??? I remember Lexus pays lots of attention to this detail on their LS flagship, wonder why. Of course they pay lots of attention to everything on that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      And thats why I’ll probably never buy from Korean car companies nor Korean cars, they’re just cheap cheap and cheap when it comes to build quality.

      Why do you insist on hiding the OEM that you work for? I’ll take a guess that its Honda, since Toyotas been cutting corners recently.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      And yet, it is Hyundai which is rated at the top of AutoBild’s reliability rankings (known to be the most comprehensive in the industry) and the i40 Estate was the 1st Asian auto to be awarded the Golden Award at this year’s EuroCarBody Conference.

      “Regarded as the highest international accolade for body engineering, and the winner is decided after evaluation over a three day period by the EuroCarBody Board, as well as the entire international expert audience of 500 conference delegates.

      Hosted by Automotive Circle International, an organization consisting of top automotive suppliers and manufacturers, the judges praised the advanced engineering and effective use of materials, as well as the production efficiency of the i40 Wagon, which scored 37.98 out of a maximum 50 points. The closest competitor and second-placed car, the Audi A6, scored 35.86, with the Mercedes B-Class in third place achieving 34.66. A total of nine of Europe and Japan’s largest automotive manufacturers competed for the award.”

      - Now this certainly doesn’t mean that Hyundai is the best in this regard (they, like most other automakers can use improvements in any no. of areas), but I’d rather go by reliability reports and entire panel of judges say rather than some anonynmous internet poster.

      After all, it’s not like Toyota hadn’t been w/o its issues (due to their previous cost costing measures) and Toyota recently announced another cost cutting initiative.

      As for Honda, they, too, haven’t been w/o their issues like the prematurely failing AT (some owners on their 3rd or 4th AT) and cracking dashboards (maybe this is why Honda is slow to roll out new engine and transmission updates).

      Now, having said that, Hondas and Toyotas are pretty reliable, but let’s not pretend as if there haven’t been issues.

    • 0 avatar
      RobAllen

      Last year about this time, I had the opportunity to rent a Kia Minivan for a few weeks. When I picked it up, it had 18 miles on the odo; just enough to get it from the ship to the rental office. The doors felt solid, the engine felt strong and the brakes were very reassuring. Flash forward to the end of the rental, I had put nearly 800 highway miles on. The left sliding door wouldn’t stay closed unless you slammed it. The brakes felt like mush and engine lost a good deal of pep.

      I have had Kia’s as rentals before and am constantly disappointed in their ability to age. None displayed it so well as that 3 week long rental.

    • 0 avatar
      courtneymm

      I just have to offer up that I currently drive a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS V6 (unfortunately 2.4 L) that I bought new in 2002, I am at 80,000 miles and the ONLY drive train warrant work that was done on my car was new lower engine mount bushings… without my asking.

      I purchased a ten year/100k bumper to bumper on the car with a $100.00 deductible for $500.00 at the time of purchase.

      Under the original warranty (factory 5 year) I had my drivers side door handle replaced (the silver was flaking a bit and the car was four years old and I really just wanted to see if they would replace it before that warranty expired and they DID). A power window motor replaced and oxygen sensors.

      On my extended warranty I have had the Master Cylinder and proportioning valves replaced – that was this year so the car is 9 years old, it cost me $100.00 and the warranty actually gave me a rental car for that repair as well. During this repair is when Hyundai replaced my lower motor mount bushings – I was shocked that on a car that had an issue worthy of fixing and is out of warranty in under 9 months without a customer complaint was fixed for no cost, just “hey these seemed worn so if you don’t mind we are fixing it under your warranty”. Prior to that I did have my AC condenser and compressor replaced the car was 8 years old at that time that total repair actually came to $189.00 because the charge on the AC when it started going out was out of pocket ($89.00). It should be noted that my car was also wrecked on the front end when it was 4 years old and the AC system was replaced during that repair so what went out was a replacement part and not the original Hyundai equipment.

      I have driven my car daily with a mix of city and highway and while I am not a high mileage driver the car has been well used. All scheduled maintenance etc. done, but at the same time a woman with the exact same car/engine rode with me one day and made the comment that mine is “faster”.

      I am a very satisfied owner. I have never had a problem with the dealership, warranty or service on my vehicle. No one believes me by looking at the car that it is as old as it is. It hasn’t been problem free but it has been free of major mechanical issues and I still have no issues with any components on the vehicle. My husbands 2007 Toyota Tundra and his 2010 Mazda Speed 6 both had more warranty work dollar for dollar in those first three years than my car had in it’s first seven and most people don’t keep cars near as long as I do so had I been in and out in four years I would still have been a very happy owner.

      The car stickered at 23,500.00 new, I financed 18,000.00 and am selling the car for $6,250.00 and it is sold the buyer is just waiting on me to read more of these reviews and make a decision.

    • 0 avatar
      apiratemonk

      Well, being a Kia Sportage EX (2011) owner, I can say that the quality of this car Easily rivals anything Toyota has in the market. Assuming what you say is accurate, this tells me that Toyota is over engineering . I’ve owned several Toyotas ( and Hondas, as well as Mazda, BMW, Audi and Nisson) and this car is of equal or better quality than all of them, including the BMW (Z3, required lots of maintenance) and Audi (1999 TT…brand new… A POS). I’m coming up on two years and 30k miles on this Sportage and it still feels like new. Nothing rattles, nothing has come loose, the engine still gives me 30mpg and it’s required zero work done (other than oil changes).

      Maybe it doesn’t live up to ‘ your’ quality standards, but it surpasses what I ( and I’ll bet 99% of the buyers out there) need at an excellent price with high quality and substantially more style than anything Toyota or Honda has in the market.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Kia is the new Pontiac.

    • 0 avatar
      Oren Weizman

      agreed, I’ve sold a few and I can tell you, I’m starting to believe it

    • 0 avatar
      Jason

      I’ve owned a Pontiac, once. Now I own a Kia. I can attest that they’re not the same at all, because my Kia seems like it was assembled by someone who actually showed up to work sober and knew how to do his job.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Good God, you’re right. I was behind a new Optima today…man is that a cheesy, overstyled car. It has the same vibe as front drive Grand Prix. Completely tasteless buyers were left with no where to turn when Pontiac got axed, and that’s a lucrative market – shoot, Pontiacs sold better when they were covered with all the plastic crap – it was only a matter of time before another manufacturer stepped into the void.

      At least the Kias are probably built better. Probably.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    I really like this but man is that price a shock. I’d love them to offer the turbo as a stand alone option so you could get one at a much lower price (base models these days offer everything I want). This would be great to find gently used in a couple years.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The Forester XT isn’t a part of the 200 HP turbocharged competition for this rig? The Forester XT plays in the same field and has a much better AWD system than the Kia as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      The deal breaker with the Forester XT is ye olde 4 speed auto transmission. Trust me, I own this transmission and it is terrible.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        I’ve owned about a half a dozen of them now. Sure, you could add another cog, but these are durable transmissions and work quite well, despite being short a gear or two.

        Still, the AWD system in the Subaru is much better than the system that the Kia has. That would be the deal breaker for me.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        If it weren’t for that, the XT otherwise looks like an incredible value with its xenon lights and other goodies for around $30k.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The Forester is not quite a small CUV, it’s really just a tall AWD wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at Alex. It doesn’t compare to the Kia because of how you classify it?

        BTW, the EPA classification of the Forester falls under light duty truck. I don’t know where the Kia falls under.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting Alex, because the review on this website bitches about how Subaru lost its way with this redesign and made it into a CUV like all the others. I’m tempted to agree with grzydj on this…

        Plus, if not CUV, what is it going to be cross-shopped with? All the other tall AWD wagons out there? Arguably, the only tall wagons there are are CUVs in sum.

        Sorry, not to pick, but the Subie does offer a pretty compelling alternative to this, and by all reports the transmission may be down a cog or two, but the car suffers little based on that. Plus, I trust the Subie more in the longterm, and the ride quality seems more befitting the category.

      • 0 avatar

        “The Forester is not quite a small CUV, it’s really just a tall AWD wagon”

        That might have worked 15 years ago.The Forester has a totally unique body, designed purely as a CUV. Some height comparisons:

        Acura RDX: 65.2″
        Honda CRV: 66.1″
        Rav4: 66.3″
        Forester: 66.9:
        Sorento: 67.3″

        Does that help put into context?

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        To play devil’s advocate, the EPA classified the HHR and PT Cruiser as light trucks, too. Just sayin’.

        Anyone care to compare ground clearance on these SUV-lets? Seems like that might be more telling about classifying them CUV or wagon.

        The Kia Rondo was tall, too, but I doubt anyone would consider it a CUV. I realize, no 4WD, either…

    • 0 avatar

      The 4-speed was definitely a deal-breaker for me, too. Plus, when shopping the Sportage against the Forester, when shutting the driver’s door on the base-level Forester, I noted a distinct metal sound like a large pot being whacked by a spoon. Not very inspiring, very cheap-sounding. My father-in-law is on his third Forester, a 2010, and already has had some parts detach. He also had the head-gasket issue in his last one. Again, not inspiring.

      I bought a 2011 Sportage LX AWD with a few options, I didn’t opt for the turbo. The 6-speed gets enough torque to the ground even up steep hills. Still very happy 4k miles later.

      …and bar-none, this Sportage is the quietest highway ride I’ve experienced since my drive in a Rolls Royce Corniche with the top up. Maybe the turbo sounds different, I don’t know.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        Acoustical properties of a door shutting? Really? Was that with the previous generation with the frameless windows or the newest generation Forester? Still, I’m amazed that you’d listen for, or even notice the timber of a door as it shuts. That just floors me when people pick out things like that.

        Also, the ’11 Forester has the new DOCH FB engine, which is a totally new design, which should eliminate headgasket issues.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Did you “kick the tires’ also?

      • 0 avatar

        Here’s the thing about it: The sound the door made was nowhere near what I expected, so it stood out. It was a brand-new 2011 Forester. I’d been in and out of quite a few cars in the weeks before selection, and its “hwang” was quite different from a “whump.” I actually tried it a few times, because I couldn’t believe how tinny it sounded. It factored into my decision, along with my previous Subaru ownership (2 early 90′s Legacys) and my in-law’s and sister’s experiences with their 2nd and 3rd gen Foresters.

        My own Subaru experience has been parts disengaging themselves and failing up to and including a transmission. I could never get a purge canister solenoid on the Legacys to last more than a few thousand miles – poor placement, design, or both. I just got used to living with the CEL on all the time. My in-law’s 2010 Forester has parts which left their spot within the first six months. My criticism has been developed through my experience, not just the sound of a door.

        Damicko – no, I don’t kick tires.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Not noted in Alex’s review – the VW Tiguan is only slightly higher priced and while down on power somewhat, is a FAR more refined handler and highway cruiser than the Kia. Not even in the same league actually.

    Kia and Hyundai still need to do a lot of work on the suspension tuning of the Sportage and Tucson. ‘Buckboard’ is the word that best describes their highway ride on a concrete expressway with expansion joints.

    The VW eats these up, even with 18s and 19s running at the 38 psi recommended tire pressure. I WANTED to like the Tucson and Sportage when I test drove them but they proved that more fine tuning is needed to compete with the VWs and even Hondas and Nissans.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      If you are after a softer ride, then yes the VW Tiguan will deliver this, just don’t try to follow a Sportage or RDX through the twisties, you’ll loose.

      • 0 avatar
        klossfam

        Alex – I think that might be more of a seat of the pants impression based on the higher body roll of the Tiguan. As you know, the Tiguan is a GTI on stilts. I’ve gotten the same basic impression as I’ve driven all 3 but there is huge difference in overall composure in favor of the V-Dub.

        Also, if you go by a fairly standardized test like MTs figure eight, there is a very slight difference. The SX ran it at 28.1 secs @ 0.61 g and the Tiguan at 28.3 @ 0.59 avg g. See below from MT:

        Kia SX damping rates are stiffened to provide more body motion control to match the added scoot, and more aggressive tires add some stick, resulting in a figure-eight performance of 28.1 seconds at 0.61 average g-that’s 0.6 seconds quicker than the EX and 0.2 ahead of the Tiguan but trails the other turbo cute-utes.

        Just my ’2.0T cents’ on the subject.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Don’t know about the Tuscon, but I’d say while one can certainly feel the expansion joints or other road irregularities in the Sportage, it’s more of a solid thump than anything else.

      For those used to softer rides, it would be an issue, but those coming from sports cars, it’s something that one is used to.

      • 0 avatar
        klossfam

        I guess it’s just personal preference. I came from my 2008 G35xS (and my 2010 Ridgeline RTL which is actually a great highway cruiser). I found the Tucson EX ride with the 18s ‘unsophisticated’ at best. I will say the Sportage was a little better (I think they both use Sachs strut/shocks setup in these trims).

        Still, I love to wrestle away the fob for my wife’s 2011 Tiguan SEL. To me it has ride/handling combo of nearly any small CUV – superior to the Sportage SX or EX, Acura RDX. In recent extended test drives only the Audi Q5 2.0T was better.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    I love Kia’s. I really do. I’m glad and love their rise in quality and refinement. what i do not like, is their sudden alienation of price brackets and income levels. Kia, your efforts to move upmarket will only go so far. For $28k, you too have priced yourself out of the average jane and joe.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I actually think that is their goal. The base Sportage is for the average Joe or Jane. The Sportage SX is for Mr. Joe Esq keeping up with Mr Jones.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      It hasn’t seemed to stem their rise thus far. Granted, their newest models are the ones you’re referencing, but they also seem to be their best-selling. My father is in the market for a new vehicle, and we took a Sunday to shop at a (thankfully, closed) Kia dealer, with an eye toward the Soul. Sportages are a bit overstyled, and we were surprised at the prices on the loaded Turbos, but what really shocked us was the row of 5 Sorento SXs with between $37k and $40k on the stickers! I’ve driven quite a few new Sorentos (Sorentoes?), mainly in EX trim, and they seemed like very nice vehicles – nicer in my opinion than the Pilot or Highlander. But the SX’s price is hard to take. Despite this, I see quite a few Sorento SXs around.

  • avatar
    redav

    Why do car companies hate rear windows so much?

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      That’s another place where the Forester beats this Kia, in overall outward visibility. I think the Kia has nicer looking profile than the Forester, but at the expense of rear visibility.

      It’s a common affliction of lots of vehicles in this segment, including the most recent generation Honda CRV.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Its the result of todays obsession with “perceived tall back, low front stance” that you’ll find on every car, especially in the CUV market or as I say “station wagons for kids market”.

      This is also why a number of modern cars look fat from behind, its meant to look “aggressive” and “sporty” (two things that most of these cars aren’t) but in the end its just stupid.

  • avatar
    86er

    Kia… is that one of those things you water and it grows hair?

  • avatar
    orick

    I was checking out CUV last month and sat in a sportage. The visibility from the driver seat is horrible. Huge blind spots. Tiny rear window. Felt very claustrophobic inside. Didn’t even bother take it out for a test drive.

    I did like the Rondo next to it for more practical use. But after checking Truedelta reliability comparison, I decided to hold on to my Matrix a while longer. Kia still has ways to go to get the reliability up to Japanese standards and they really should ditch that ugly logo.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Butterfly

      Ditto on visibility. I was shopping for the Rio the other day and sat in a Sportage at the showroom. I was appalled by all-round visibility in that thing. Particularly forward visibility was shocking (I don’t mind if the ass is blind since many of them are equipped with backup cameras). I wasn’t a fan of Tiguan’s driving position, but compared to Sportage I realize how much better it is.
      Having said that, I’ve always driven cars- there’s no SUV/CUV in my driving history. Coming away from my current 04 Mazda6 with great visibility, any SUV will be terrible in comparison.

      P.S. Despite the Sportage, I still think Kia has a great line-up and I may end up parking the Rio before the end of this month.

      • 0 avatar
        PhilMills

        If you’re going to design a car with visibility that’s THAT BAD, then those backup cameras better be standard features.

        I’m taking delivery on a new Outback next week at least partly because I wasn’t willing to deal with that bad of rear/side visibility for the next ten years – the local dealer had some factory recertified Sportages for $6000 under the Subaru but six grand and another 60K miles of warranty was not worth the fear of running over a marching band or something every time I put it into reverse.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I have a general question about the turbo options as “step-ups” from the base engine. My question is why can’t the manufacturer just attach the turbo to the base engine, instead of turbo charging a smaller engine that probably requires the turbo to be active more often? I would think that having an add-on to the base engine might be better because the larger engine can likely handle more of the stresses placed upon it for normal acceleration, and then the turbo can kick in when it is absolutely needed. Could this save more fuel than the way it goes now? Is this a weight thing? Packaging space under the hood?

    I’m donning my helmet and preparing for large ponderous things to be thrown at me.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      The 2 liter Hyundai turbo engine is known as “Theta” and is a joint design with Mitsubishi, at least according to Car and Driver. The same basic engine first came out in the new Genesis Coupe, and the Evo X. Designed as a turbo engine from the start, and produces the required horsepower.

      Predictably, Hyundai, bold as brass, are repeating their past engine design philosophy. They used to use Mitsubishi engines, and gradually started to design their own. Reverse engineering really. So , knowing how Mitz design a rugged engine for turbo use, they are now off and running on their own 1.6 turbo for the Veloster. Let’s see how that one holds up.

      As for the story above about the 3 pinion differential, I’m not buying it. A differential requires 4 pinions. 3 don’t work! Misinformation from a competitor, unless the person advancing the tasty “tidbit” really has no mechanical clue, and is actually talking about something else completely. Can’t imagine what, though, in a “rear end”. I’d discount the rumor, because I and nobody else has seen disabled Sorentos littering the roadside with wise old mechanics rubbing their chins and nodding, “Ah yes, the dreaded Hyundai 3 pinion diff!”

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        It’s the GEMA engine joint venture btwn Hyundai, Mitsu and then Daimler owned Chrysler.

        Hyundai designed the block and then each automaker went their own direction from there.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I would take a VW GTI over this which has similar passenger and cargo volume….reliability be damned.

  • avatar
    ajla

    and if you were to whittle this list down to just the 200HP+, turbocharged competition the list gets considerably shorter: Tiguan, Q5 and RDX

    Mazda CX-7?

    I also think Saab managed to build like 5 examples of the turbo 9-4x before they shut down.

    • 0 avatar

      Sadly, yes. I still find the 9-4x one of the most attractive CUVs in a long time. By all reports though, its twin the Cadillac SRX also handles quite nicely in top trim forms.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I was unable to get my rear end into a CX-7, just goes to show there are many options in the small CUV class. The CX-7 is a hair bigger, but is is worth a look if you are shopping. The CX-7 ends up at $33,340 comparably equipped. Kia seems to target the SX squarely at the RDX however.

  • avatar

    I find CUVs like this confusing. If you want a CUV, its because you want to ride up high, in comfort, with the added advantage that gound clearance gives. The major advantage is mostly in suspension travel, so CUVs end up having softer, more absorptive suspension.

    Point made, I see the value.

    But to make a CUV that rides very hard, and will never handle as well as AWD car counterparts with superior ride quality, makes zero sense to me. RDX, EX35, this, I’m looking at you.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Can add the FX and X5 to the mix (not to mention the Cayenne), but some people like “sporty” CUVs (granted, a niche market).

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        where I live, sporty(ish) cuv’s sure dont seem very niche – unless using the word “niche” would also applicable when describing segments like “compact” or “truck”

        The horrendous roads around here do practically beg for either a truck/suv or a cuv. But I dont think most people buying an FX or X3 are really thinking about the suspension more than they are thinking about a few shiny badges attached to the exterior – which, of course, a bunch of car enthusiasts may find funny.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. My retired Aunt of significant means is planning on getting an RDX because her most trusted son has suggested it (he has had a TL, and now has an MDX). I like the RDX, but she lives in Kingston, Ontario, which consistently has THE worst roads of any midsize to small city I have ever encountered. Which makes the RDX precisely the wrong car for an older person who just wants something that is easy to get in and out of. In its place I argued for the Forester XT which, according to CR, has the most refined and absorptive ride of the lot.

        I can’t believe people don’t consider such key things like that when buying cars. Lately my criteria for the CUV/sedan classes are: a) is it quiet, b) does it rev reasonably low on the highway and c) does it ride well and soak up pavement imperfections. Its not that hard to figure out in the first 5 minutes of a test drive, and those are the features that you either enjoy or are always annoyed by with a car.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    $32,000 for THIS? I could have a Highlander Base V6 4×4 for that.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      The Highlander’s interior isn’t nearly as nice as the loaded Sportage’s, and you’d be missing all of the premium features that come in the SX. Bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, here. You could also probably find a used S-Class 4Matic for $32 grand. Doesn’t mean it competes.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      And one can get a base AWD V6 Sorento for $25K.

      All the latest tech gadgetry, not to mention leather and a panoramic sunroof gets expensive – so not at all an apples to apples comparison.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    “and if you were to whittle this list down to just the 200HP+, turbocharged competition the list gets considerably shorter: Tiguan, Q5 and RDX.”

    …aaaaaand the Mazda CX-7.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Still, I’m amazed that you’d listen for, or even notice the timber of a door as it shuts. That just floors me when people pick out things like that.

    Well, go open and close the door of a Mercedes or Volvo. To me, the heft and timber inspire confidence that it’s solidly built. But I’m shallow like that….

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Amen, I have heard much about Toyota’s quality in the 90s but honestly my Dad’s 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sounded more solid in a door slam than the doors on my uncle’s early 90s Trecel coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        That’s because GM doors are way heavy and way overbuilt where they need not be, and underbuilt where they should be overbuilt.

        Door stops, hinges and pins in the vast majority of GM vehicles wear out well before the car or truck does because the doors are so freakin’ heavy. There’s that nice “thwunk” sound you’re paying for.

        Subaru’s typically have very light doors and have reinforced A and B pillars, which is why they do so well in crash test ratings. Have you ever seen the ring shaped reinforcement on a B pill of an Impreza or other Subaru’s? Firefighters had to retrian to work on Subaru’s because they couldn’t get through them with the Jaws Of Life.

        So even if you don’t care for the sound the door makes(?!?!) when you shut it on a Subaru, at least you know the science behind it.

        Read on:

        http://www.firehouse.com/magazine/university-extrication/subaru-ring-shaped-reinforcement-frame

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Looks like Alex bailed out on this thread. I was interested to hear what else he had to say about other users remarks.

  • avatar
    plunk10

    Speaking of CUVs, what about the Toyota Venza V6? You can get loaded models around $30K, offering equal to better straight line performance.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I have seen a lot of strange and expected problems with 3-4 year old Kias. Flaking paint, flaking alloy wheels that are corroding, warped brake rotors, electrical gremlins, poor paint quality, rusted door seams, hard to open passenger doors, rusted A- pillars etc so for all those that claim they are superior to Pontiac i have to raise the BS flag. That obviously cheapened black lung interior would be a deal breaker for me on this odd looking ride.


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