Road Test

2012 Kia Sportage SX

Pace + space make new Sportage a winner

2012 Kia sportage sx
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$21,995 base. $36,995 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 10.0 city. 8.0 highway. 10.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
Turbo 2.-litre four, direction injection, 260 hp, 269 lb.-ft. torque, 6-spd auto, AWD
Pros & CONS
  • More power than competition
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Stand-out styling
  • More power than competition
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Stand-out styling
2012 kia sportage sx dash.JPGKia’s current-generation Sportage was an immediate hit when introduced for the 2011 model year. The stylish newcomer was a visual standout and as usual boasted amazing value with a full array of features and equipment at a price the competition couldn't touch. If there was one gripe, it was the highway (passing, hill-climbing) performance, or rather lack of, with the 176-horsepower engine.

As has become its custom. Kia addressed this immediately. The 2012 version of the Sportage is available with the same turbocharged engine found in the Optima, a 2.0-litre four, punching out 260 hp and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. With almost 50% more power, that perceived or real shortcoming has been cut off at the pass.

This class-leading power is achieved without sacrificing fuel economy — a rare treat. Impressive fuel mileage is available because the engine produces maximum power (torque) at only 1800 rpm so you never have to delve into the upper reaches of the tachometer for extra grunt when passing or climbing hills. This ability to accelerate effortlessly with minimal throttle makes for a very relaxed drive.

Under normal driving circumstances, with the turbo lying in wait, the high tech engine produces impressive numbers. This is one of very few vehicles in which I was able to come anywhere close to Transport Canada ratings. Over a 150-km highway run, I averaged 100 km/h and 7.9 L/100 km. In city driving, the number climbed to slightly above 11.0.

The SX comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and Kia’s reactive Dynamax all-wheel-drive system. Under normal conditions 100% of engine output goes to the front wheels for maximum fuel economy and directional stability. When accelerating, some power is diverted to the rear wheels. When things get slippery, as much as 50% of available power is sent aft. In truly nasty conditions, the driver can lock power distribution at 50/50 at the touch of a button. The system will remain locked in this mode until 40 km/h; at that point, it returns decisions to the onboard computer and a network of sensors. Dynamax also incorporates downhill brake assist, hill start assist and traction control.

The new engine is available only on the top — SX — trim level and comes with a lengthy list of standard features and equipment. Unfortunately there are some compromises; for example, if you wish to order the optional navigation system, you have to do without Kia’s excellent UVO infotainment system. Similarly, if you wish a heated steering wheel you have to order the navigation system.

Other than that there is little to fault with the list of equipment, which includes: dual zone climate control, power windows, locks and heated mirrors; remote keyless entry, push-button start, audio system upgrade, wireless connectivity, tilt and telescopic steering column, backup camera, cargo cover and net, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink. On top of this are some unique features: a cooled glove box, heated and cooled seats, and a fixed glass roof over the rear seat in addition to a power sliding sunroof over the front row. 

The Sportage SX also gets a unique honeycomb grille, special 18-inch alloy wheels, two big chromed exhaust outlets and a T-GDi badge (Turbocharged, Gasoline, Direct-injection). Inside, you will step over chromed scuff plates to be welcomed by a unique instrument panel and leather seats with contrasting stitching.

In addition to performance and standard equipment, the 2012 Sportage punches above its class when it comes to interior space. While listed as a compact, there is mid-size space for people and their stuff. The front buckets are wide but not especially supportive. The rear seat offers plenty of headroom despite the presence of a sunroof and with all seats in place, there 740 litres of cargo space. Thanks to the tall roof and impressive packaging, cargo space more than doubles to 1,547 litres with the rear seat folded down. Access to that space is easy through a large and almost square rear hatch.

The downside of being so stylish is a very dark cabin. Many vehicle designers, including Peter Schreyer (head of Kia design), tend to dress in black. That carries over to the interior of this vehicle. Combined with a dark charcoal exterior, the coal black interior, with nary a letup in sight, was not to my taste. Since I’m griping, visibility out the rear window is abysmal. More of a slot than a window, and the opening is very high. A rear-view camera and wide, crystal clear display help identify objects when reversing, but when going forward rear visibility from the driver’s seat is that of the sky rather than following vehicles.

On the road, in addition to the readily available power, the Sportage SX displays decent road manners 2012 Kia sportage sx detail.JPGwith a pleasant ride. But should you run across any rough surface conditions, the ride can get brittle thanks to the short sidewalls of the low-profile tires. But, those same low low-profile tires allow steering inputs to be passed along to the treads with minimal delay or interference.  

The Sportage SX offers some serious pace to go with the plentiful interior space.

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