2011 Kia Sportage SX
Power:  260 hp, 269 lb-ft
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder
Fuel consumption: 22 city, 27 hwy
Price as tested: $30,990
kia.com

 

Strengths: Some cars just fit. That’s how the Kia Sportage feels. It’s not too big, but has a spacious interior for five adults and their gear. The driver’s seat is comfortable and, together with an adjustable steering wheel, allows a good position in terms of visibility and access to all of the controls—which are simple, attractive, and expertly laid out. The sweet turbocharged engine, sharp steering and taught suspension make this little crossover a blast to drive in dense city traffic or on the open road. We were surprised at how much fun it was, and how quiet the interior stayed. So many cars are uncooperative when driven briskly—the Sportage seems to enjoy it. Several women who saw our bright-red test vehicle with its glitzy wheels cooed in admiration. Guys just took it in silently, but you could tell it grabbed them, too.


Weaknesses: More than thirty grand is pushing it for a car this size from Kia. But to be fair, the model we drove was decked out with a $1,500 navigation system and $3,000 premium package that included luxury items we wouldn’t expect on a Kia, like heated and cooled seats and a back-up camera. Other than cost, our only other complaints are minor: The SX’s huge wheels can make the ride a bit more jarring than we'd like at times, and some menus on the optional touchscreen are unintuitive.


Final take: The Kia Sportage gets almost everything just right, which is rare even for cars that cost twice as much. Budget-conscious folks can forgo the $4,500 in additional amenities without regret, but we say pony up for the turbo-charged engine. It’s worth it.