There’s a lot to be said for style over substance.
Take for instance the 2011 KIA Sportage. The Sportage is probably the most attractive car in its highly popular and competitive small crossover segment.
No make that the Sportage is the best looking car in its segment. With chiseled features, a bad boy on the block lowered roof line and “look at me know” sparkling LED accents the Sportage is both youthful and refined when viewed from almost every possible angle.
So why not just cut to the chase and swoon with giddy delight while giving the Sportage a top shelf “Buy it!” TFLcar.com recommendation?
Just four small details hold the Sportage back from automotive perfection.
1) The seats are Amish hard
2) The ride suffers from too much wooden roller coaster personality
3) My tester had a persistent and annoying squeak that drove me batty
4) Anemic engine
Let’s start with the squeak. It used to be, especially back in the bad old car seventies and eighties that almost all cars, especially those built by Detroit, came factory equipped with complimentary squeaks, rattles and rolls.
But the Japanese manufacturers raised the bar on production and quality control to virtually zero defects.
So today this impossibly high standard has become the norm for most car companies. Which is a bit troubling because KIA has also jumped on that quality bandwagon.
Of course one squeak, all be it that crazy annoying kind of cheap plastic on cheap plastic, does not mean that the quality of the Sportage is suspect, but it does raise a small red flag when car manufactures aim for complete perfection.
You can also argue that the seats in the Sportage are subjective to the arbitrary whims of this reviewer’s behind. Who knows maybe I would feel a pea under my bed that you might consider a basketball?
I’ll give you that one, but KIA does need to sort out the Sportage’s handling.
Just like the Sorento I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Sportage suffers from the same lack of refinement when it comes to the car’s handling set up.
To be fair there’s nothing really wrong with the way the Sportage goes down the road. It soaks up the big bumps, and stays nicely flat and neutral around the tightest of corners. It’s just when the road turns gnarly, like in a construction zone, that you’ll notice the lack of refinement. The suspension thumps on washboard roads as if the engineers decided that you only need a firm yet compliant ride 80 percent of the time.
Finally the last problem, at least as tested at one mile above sea level, is the car’s 2.4L DOHC inline four engine feels starved for air and power. When trying to pass, or perhaps race that RAV4 in the next lane, you’ll get a lot of lightning and thunder from the Sportage but not much rain. Don’t even consider a stoplight drag race with the V6 Toyota RAV4 is gunning his engine next to you. The upside to the lack of power is of course respectable gas mileage (at least for an AWD Crosover) of 21 city and 28 highway with an EPA combined number of 23 mpg.
With all of these issues with the new Sportage you might be justified in thinking that I can’t recommend the car…you’d be wrong.
I like the Sportage a lot. My outrageously equipped test car stickered at a mere $29,990.00. That may seem like a lot of cash for a KIA, but when you consider that my car had almost every option under the sun including a panoramic roof over both front and read seats, heated and ventilated driver’s seat, plus navigation, sat radio, and about every electronic feature available on cars today, the Sportage emerges as a real value leader.
And I can’t even tell you how many people kept asking me serious questions about the car at every stop as if they were ready to run out and buy one after our brief conversation.
Yes indeed, there’s a lot to be said for style over substance…especially when the Sportage is just so tantalizingly close to combining impeccable style with substance.
Next year KIA will offer the Sportage with a bigger turbo charged engine that should sort out the “lack of power” issue.
Until them on the TFLcar recommendation scale of:
- Buy it
- Lease it
- Rent it or
- Forget it
I give the KIA Sporatge a:
Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he's not reviewing cars for the active set, you can find him training for triathlons and writing about endurance sports for, EverymanTri.com. Mica is also the Endurance Sports Examiner.