Saturday, December 31, 2011

Update: The Kia Sportage lives up to expectations

Kia Sportage
This week I rented a Kia Sportage from Enterprise, and am happy to report that the high expectations I laid out in my post from a few months ago were met! Furthermore, the Kia was overall better than the Nissan Rogue I recently reviewed. Click through for a quick update.

The styling of the Sportage is, in my opinion, revolutionary in the small crossover segment. It is well-proportioned, well apportioned, and attractive from any angle. I was gutted that the base model I was driving did not have the awesome LED headlights! But more importantly, now I can also comment on how the Sportage drives. I was driving the less powerful 176-hp 4-cylinder engine with AWD transmission, which isn't blistering by any means, but packed enough torque at the right time to make it pleasurable to drive - and more so than the Rogue. A turbocharged version of this engine would admittedly be more of a blast - in scenarios when I needed to speed up quickly, acceleration was "capped" or "limited" by the engine. Engine noise, while nothing to write home about, sounded less of a lawn mower than the Rogue. The AWD system was very surefooted and I never felt nervous driving on slippery winter roads.

The interior of the Sportage is cleverly designed. The radio controls were attractive and easy to operate, and the steering wheel controls were intuitive. There were some hard plastics on the doors and dash that cheapened the look slightly, but it was still much more stylish than the Rogue. The seats were comfortable and adjustable for my long trip. I found it difficult to store my cell phone anywhere other than the cupholders, which was less than ideal, but otherwise the cabin was roomy. One other minor gripe: the emergency brake was positioned too low and impeded upon the space where my left foot was supposed to rest.

After driving the Sportage for 5 days, I can safely announce that I would buy this car if I was in the market for a small crossover (of course, I would get the larger engine and LED headlights). There is no better looking crossover in the segment, and Kia has produced a pretty compelling package for the price point.

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