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  • 2011 Kia Sportage SX FWD

    Posted on April 1st, 2011 ninarussin

    Retuned compact crossover shares Optima’s turbocharged engine

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Kia Sportage SX

    This year, Kia expands its roster of SX, high-performance offerings, to include the compact Sportage crossover and  Forte. The new models join the Sorento and Optima SX models, which rolled out in 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 respectively.

    The Sportage SX shares the two-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine with the Optima SX sedan, while the Forte SX features a 2.4-liternaturally aspirated engine, along with special wheels and sport-tuned suspension.

    While performance tuning is a relatively new venture for Kia, the automaker maintains its tradition of value pricing, equipping all SX models with premium features such as alloy wheels, upscale interiors, keyless start and heated seats. Pricing for the Sportage SX starts at $25,795: far below the price ceiling for our ALV best-value category.

    Options on the front-wheel drive test car include a navigation system and audio upgrade ($1500), and a premium leather package which adds heated front seats, ventilated driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof, backup warning system, cargo cover and heated outside mirrors ($3000). A $695 destination charge brings the price as tested to $30,990.

    Intercooled turbocharged engine

    2011 Kia Sportage SX

    The SX engine integrates two key technologies, direct injection and turbocharging, to simultaneously enhance power and fuel economy. Direct injection delivers fuel directly from the injectors into the combustion chambers, reducing the amount of unburned gasoline, and enhancing throttle response.

    The twin-scroll turbocharger in the Optima and Sportage SX is integrated into the exhaust manifold to reduce the unit’s overall weight. Not only is the one-piece stainless steel casting lighter, it also cuts down the number of parts under the hood. A split between cylinders one and four, and two and three reduces interference between the cylinders. An intercooler brings a cooler and therefore denser air charge into the blower, to maximize its benefits.

    The Kia design uses the turbocharger to heat the catalytic converter up to operating temperature. Computer controls can’t take over engine operation until this happens. Faster warm-up times translate to better gas mileage.

    Turbochargers also decrease parasitic power losses at altitude. They have the advantage over belt-driven superchargers of being smaller, and easier to package under the hood.

    Although the Optima and Sportage SX share the same engine, the block is slightly less-powerful in the crossover. The reason is more backpressure in the exhaust system, which reduces engine efficiency.

    Still, 256-horsepower is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is the engine’s 264 pounds-feet of torque. The engine reaches peak torque at extremely low speeds: about 1850 rpm. As a result, the Sportage rolls up steep grades without breaking a sweat.

    Validated for durability

    A traditional criticism of turbocharged engines has been long-term durability. Kia engineers tested the two-liter GDI engine for 300 hours at wide-open throttle, including 20 hours of over redline to reduce concerns about major repairs.

    Test drive in the Tonto National Forest

    2011 Kia Sportage SX

    This week, I had the opportunity to drive the Kia Sportage SX on a 150-mile route including sections of the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix. The route included some city streets and highways in Phoenix’s east valley, a 15-mile section on the Bush Highway and a longer stretch on the Beeline Highway going north towards Payson.

    The difference between the performance of the retuned SX model and the base Sportage is immediately obvious. One of the reasons is the larger wheels. The 18-inch rims and tires give the SX much bigger contact patches for better handling in the corners.

    Firmer damping also makes a difference. Steering weight for the SX model is slightly heavier, for enhanced on-center response at speed.

    But the biggest difference is the engine, which is incredibly strong. During the steep climb up to Payson, any downshifts were virtually unnoticeable.

    A manual gear selection function is useful at slower speeds, keeping the engine in its sweet spot of about 2000-3000 rpm. The turbocharger enhances acceleration off the line and in the 20-50 mile-per-hour range which drivers use on highway entrance ramps.

    Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is quite good. The rearview camera display on the test car projects a wide angle view to the back. It eliminates blind spots in the rear corners and below the back glass.

    Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Sportage in a firm, linear fashion.

    Spacious interior

    Kia Sportage SX Interior

    Despite its compact proportions, the Sportage SX holds up to five adult passengers. The rear floor tunnel is quite low, maximizing legroom in the center position. Theater-style seating positions second-row passengers slightly higher than those up front, to give them a clearer forward view.

    Keyless entry and start saves the driver for fumbling for the key fob: it adds a measure of safety for those who work in urban areas and leave after dark. A key slot in the center console bin ensures that the keys won’t get left behind if a valet parks and retrieves the vehicle.

    As someone who is especially picky about seats, I was impressed with how comfortable I found the power driver’s seat. There is ample lower lumbar support. While the seats are firm, bolsters are not so aggressive that they bothered my hamstrings on the two-hour drive.

    A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view, and a safe distance from the front airbag. Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise control functions minimize driver distraction.

    Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. The navigation system includes real-time traffic updates and rerouting. A split screen includes details of any upcoming turns. It is also easy to turn off the voice command function, if the driver simply wants to use the maps.

    The dual panoramic sunroof brings an abundance of light into the cabin, which is especially noticeable in back. Both rows of passengers have ample access to bottle and cup holders. USB and auxiliary ports up front make it easy to plug in an iPod or MP3 player. There are two 12-volt power points at the base of the center stack and one in the cargo area for recharging portable electronic devices.

    Kia Sportage SX Cargo Area

    The second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor. The Sportage meets our bicycle-friendly criteria. An under-floor storage area has compartments to prevent smaller items from sliding around.

    Roof rails make it easy to mount a bike rack or cargo carrier up top.

    Standard safety

    The Sportage SX comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Downhill descent control limits vehicle speed to help the driver maintain directional control on steep grades. Front active headrests and daytime running lamps are also standard on all models.

    Kia continues to offer its 10 year/100,000 mile basic powertrain warranty, including five years of roadside assistance.

    Likes: An affordable crossover vehicle with a versatile interior, high level of standard safety, appealing styling and excellent performance.

    Dislikes: Glovebox does not lock. There are no air vents behind the center console or in the ceiling to circulate air through the back of the vehicle.


    Quick facts:

    Make: Kia
    Model: Sportage SX FWD
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $25,795
    As tested: $30,990
    Horsepower: 256 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 264 lbs.-ft. @ 1850 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No*
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 22/27 mpg city/highway
    Comment: *The Sportage SX is also available as an all-wheel drive model.


    2 responses to “2011 Kia Sportage SX FWD”

    1. We bought our very 1st Kia for me in February…a new 2011 KIA Sorento SX…after a lot of test driving everything else, and reading all we could find. Supurb vehicle! After putting 7000 miles on it, we are still pleased with it it every way!

      So last week, we bought our 2nd KIA..yep…a 2011 Sportage SX Turbo. I can truthfully say “OMG!” when referring to this suv/crossover! It may be the little brother to the Sorento…but it has a whole different and funner (is that a word?) attitude!

      The looks are striking, and it is really wild how people notice it, stare at it, and follow you to ask questions and get a closer look! Especially is “car jaded” Southern California!

      The turbo gives you a real kick in the butt level of entertainment..and great mileage to boot. And the KIA 100,000 mile warranty is just icing on the cake! I would have bought and enjoyed it with just a 5 year warranty! 😉

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