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September 2006
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2006 Kia Sportage 4x4

The Good :)  Versatile and affordable.  Solid ride and automatic four-wheel drive.  Stability control and six airbags standard. 

The Bad :(  Engine and transmission needs to be more responsive and powerful.  Lacks fun feeling.  Front end needs to be restyled.  0-60 in 12.45 seconds.

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            The Kia and Hyundai partnership has translated into a major upgrade for Kia Motors and the result is better designed and built vehicles, inside and out.  Hyundai has improved upon the old Sportage by offering Kia the guts of a Tucson, changing from the old truck like system to a more car like underbody.  Using the Elantra sedan foundation to construct the Sportage, the idea was to build a vehicle more like a car than a SUV. 

            The Sportage is available in either a LX or EX trim.  Both levels can be ordered with 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive and the LX trim can be ordered with a four cylinder or a six cylinder engine.  The EX trim is only available with a six cylinder engine.  Our model tested here is the LX with the V6 engine.

         The exterior of the Kia Sportage leave us with something to be desired.  In a standard SUV package the Sportage looks a bit wimpy with lights and a grill that imitates a Honda CRV.  Body cladding is long outdated with clean flowing designs leading the way.  From the front end you notice the large single beam headlamps that are just oddly shaped.  A fog lamp system does give it more off road SUV looks but the bumper it is placed in is a flawed design.  The two-tone paint scheme used on our Sportage was a nice touch however it should have been carried through to the rearview mirrors and door handles as well which are black plastic.

         The rear end of the Kia Sportage is styled quite differently offering a more sporty and stylish appearance.  It seems as if two different persons designed this vehicle.  The rear bumper is smooth showcasing a built in dual outlet exhaust with square chrome tips.  The recessed glass borrows from a look we have seen in the Volvo XC90.  A large KIA logo on the back takes the fizzle away.  The Sportage has the height to conquer off road challenges.  Also stylish are the wheel designs, at least you are not getting wheel covers.  A simple yet stylish roof rack completes the off road look.  The long 103.5-inch wheelbase, overall width (70.9 in.) and modest overhangs push the Sportage's wheels toward the corners for improved stability.  

            The interior is where you will be impressed at the level of quality from a Kia.  There are huge improvements in style, fit and finish.  We immediately liked the overall flow from right to left.  Dashboard materials and upper door panels are made to look like leather and are similar to that found on German makes.  There is a nice leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a very important part of driving.  Aluminum like trim is found on the center stack, gear shift gate and grab handle on the passenger side.  What is amazing is that while the trim on the grab handle is real, the console and dash trim is not, but looks darn good.  The only way to tell is by seeing what warms up in the sun. 

            Seats are not just one material either: a soft checkered fabric is in the center portions and vinyl is on the side portions.  We liked that attention was paid to putting rubbery leather like material on the front center armrest, which raises by the way to better accommodate you, as well as on the door arm rests.  Roof material is still a fuzzy fabric when most vehicles use a checkered cloth that adds more depth and style.

            A simple instrument cluster does the job well and offers a dual trip distance calculator.  We would like to see a real trip computer that computes gas mileage.  The stereo is useful with a cassette deck built in, which is often forgotten, but lacking is a simple auxiliary input for an Ipod device.  The CD player can also play MP3 files so you can make your own CDs and play them in the car.  Speaker quality is good and you should not need to change this system unless you are an audiophile. 

            The climate control system is a manually operated one with three dials to control fan speed, temperature, and air direction.  All knobs feel solid with rubbery grips on each dial.  The air direction dial is a electronic system so you do not have the feeling of actually turning a vent inside the dash when you turn the knob.  Air filtration is standard on all models.  

            Ample storage is available in the floor console up front however we thought it was a bit too deep giving it a retro feeling.  It just felt like driving a car from 1980 rather than a modern sleek automobile of 2006.  All storage spaces have rubbery non-slip floors and the armrest storage is lined in velvet.  Doors have larger bottle holders up front and plenty of space to throw your belongings.  Only the driver's window is automatic for up and down functions and it would be nice to have all four windows with an automatic feature. 

            Both front seats are manually controlled.  We did not like the dial used to adjust seat height and angle on the driver's side, it was quite difficult to turn.  The front passenger seat back can fold down flat to make room for long items and form an ottoman for someone who wants to be driven rather than drive.  Kia calls it a table.  The rear seats are 60/40 folding and also recline for a more comfortable angle.  Seats easily drop down without removing the headrests and the bottom cushion moves forward and down into the rear foot well area automatically, allowing the seat backrest to be folded completely flat and onto the same level as the trunk floor. 

The fabric used throughout is better than most for keeping off pet hair.  We would rather have a leatherette material or real leather which cannot be that expensive in Korea and China.  The design of the doors in back is nice with a downward angle to better fit your arm however a grab handle is lacking which would enable you to hold onto the Sportage when driving quickly. 

            Unique in the rear trunk is a under floor storage space that is nicely segmented.  With a clean appearance and mostly hard plastic lining the sides, cleaning is made faster.  A cover stretches in two ways and is placed in the middle of the rear cargo area so that the rear seats can recline while you keep your cargo private.  The rear glass also opens separately for carrying longer items as well.  All this makes the Kia a versatile vehicle. 

            The 2.7 liter V6 engine on our Sportage makes 173 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque, both low numbers for a V6.  A full time electronic control on demand four-wheel drive system sends power to the wheels.  A simple lock button on the dash enables you to lock the system in four-wheel drive mode.  A four speed automatic transmission is adequate and smooth shifting though a five speed should be standard.  A four cylinder engine making 140 horsepower and 136 lb.-ft. of torque is also available but we would not recommend, as it's hard enough moving the Sportage quickly for passing with the V6 engine. 

            An all-steel unibody with independent front and rear suspension keeps the vehicle moving along smoothly, even on rough roads.  Use of stabilizer bars in front and back keeps body lean to a minimum and at levels you would expect for a SUV.  The steering is sharp and gives the driver good feedback while driving. 

            Behind the wheel the Sportage feels like a small SUV.  The seats are small and not made for larger adults.  The Sportage feels narrow and passengers get the sense of a confined space.  Driving at night we found the headlights to be very good, in low beam with fog lamps and while using the high beams, they impressed us a great deal.

            The delivery of power to the wheels is not as quick and smooth as we would like.  The Sportage feels sluggish when the pedal is pushed to the metal.  The engine just was not free flowing as we have found in other low horsepower engines made in Germany.  The engine when asked to wake up, just drops out of bed.  We found the manual shifting mode to be useless in keeping the vehicle in the gear we wanted it to stay in.  At full acceleration the vehicle shifted from 1st to 2nd and quickly by itself to 3rd, and did not stay in 2nd up to redline.  This resulted in some very poor 0-60 mph times.

            The four-wheel drive system detects when front wheels loose grip and send up to 50 % of the power to the rear wheels.  It operates without any need to push a button or do something else.  Only a button to lock the system at low speeds is available, and when you reach 20 mph the system changes to front wheel mode by itself. 

            What is best about the Sportage is that electronic stability control is standard.  A feature that needs to be standard on all cars has finally made it here in a low priced vehicle.  This will truly help you while you are driving in everyday situations and is a feature you cannot live without.  Also standard is ABS braking and traction control to avoid wheel spin at takeoff.  A tire pressure monitor is standard in the EX trim levels. 

            To help protect you in the event of a collision, all Sportage models offer standard six airbags: front and rear side curtain airbags, front seat mounted side airbags and dual advanced driver and passenger front airbags.

            A great warranty of 10 years and 100,000 miles on the powertrain with 5-years and 60,000 miles on everything else is what you get when you buy a Kia.  Roadside assistance is offered for 5-years.  A 1-year tire and road hazard protection warranty is offered, something no one else does.  This is one of the best warranties available in America.

            The base price of our Sportage is $21,045.  Added to this are optional items such as the Sport Package for $900 which offers a black mesh grille, exterior cladding and flairs in the bumper color, special instrument gauge faces, a AM/FM/Cassette/CD/MP3 player, aluminum trim on the dash handle, keyless entry and alarm, fog lamps, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and a cargo cover.  This is something you cannot live without.  Carpeted floor mats are $85.  A rear spoiler black and unpainted is also included.  This brings our total to $22,030 and with $595 of freight charges the grand total is $22,625.  Most buyers will likely pay much less with incentives and dealers selling close to invoice price.  The US/Canadian part content is 2% with Korea supplying 92% of parts.  The final assembly point is Korea with engine and transmission also coming from Korea.  EPA fuel economy is rated at 19 city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway.

            The Kia Sportage is a SUV in a competitive market with a good amount of choice offered and new small SUV's being introduced recently.  More improvements in style are needed as buyers are young and hip seeking a elegant and stylish vehicle to dive.  While the drive is fine for city commuting, the Sportage is not a long range cruiser.  Even though young buyers will be seeking out the Sportage most of the time, we think they deserve more style and a better driving experience for their money.

 

 

PRICING INVOICE RETAIL
Base Pricing 19,870 21,045
Destination 595 595
Sport Pkg LX w/V6 Engine 800 900
Value Pkg LX w/V6 Engine 580 650
Engine Start, Remote Control Models w/Auto Trans 215 250
Roof Rail Crossbars 170 200

 

  2006 Kia Sportage
LX 4dr SUV 4WD (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
2006 Jeep Liberty
Sport 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 6M)
2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara
4dr SUV 4WD (2.7L 6cyl 5A)
2006 Saturn VUE
4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A)
2006 Mitsubishi Outlander
LS 4dr SUV AWD (2.4L 4cyl 4A)
MSRP $21,045 $22,800 $21,399 $23,045 $21,499
Invoice $19,870 $21,348   $21,201 $20,267
Basic 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi.
Drivetrain 10 yr. / 100000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 7 yr. / 100000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 10 yr. / 100000 mi.
Roadside 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 5 yr. / Unlimited mi.
Rust 5 yr. / 100000 mi. 5 yr. / 100000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 6 yr. / 100000 mi. 7 yr. / 100000 mi.
Base Engine Type & Cylinders V6 V6 V6 V6 inline 4
Base Engine Displacement 2.7 liters 3.7 liters 2.7 liters 3.5 liters 2.4 liters
Valvetrain 24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
12 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
24 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
16 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
Horsepower 173 hp @ 6000 rpm 210 hp @ 5200 rpm 185 hp @ 6000 rpm 250 hp @ 5800 rpm 160 hp @ 5750 rpm
Torque 178 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 235 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 184 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 242 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 162 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm
Independent Suspension four-wheel front four-wheel four-wheel four-wheel
Stabilizer Bars front and rear front and rear Being Researched front and rear front and rear
Wheels alloy
16 x 6.5 in.
steel
16 x 7.0 in.
steel
16 x 7.0 in.
alloy
17 x 7.0 in.
steel
16 x 6 in.
Side Air Bag dual front   dual front   dual front
Front Fog Lights Optional Optional   Optional  
Anti-Theft Alarm System remote anti-theft alarm system - Optional remote anti-theft alarm system - Optional Being Researched remote anti-theft alarm system  
Video       DVD player - Optional  
Turning Circle 35.4 ft. 35.9 ft.   39.4 ft. 37.4 ft.
EPA Mileage Estimates Sportage Liberty Grand Vitara VUE Outlander
City 19 mpg. 18 mpg. 19 mpg. 19 mpg. 21 mpg.
Highway 23 mpg. 22 mpg. 23 mpg. 25 mpg. 25 mpg.
Length 171.3 in. 174.5 in. 176 in. 181.3 in. 179 in.
Width 70.9 in. 71.8 in. 71.3 in. 71.5 in. 68.9 in.
Height 66.7 in. 71.5 in. 66.7 in. 66.5 in. 66.3 in.
Weight 3521 lbs. 3851 lbs. 3682 lbs. 3631 lbs. 3505 lbs.
Wheel Base 103.5 in. 104.2 in. 103.9 in. 106.6 in. 103.3 in.
Ground Clearance 7.7 in. 9.2 in. 7.9 in. 8 in. 8.3 in.
Front Headroom 40.7 in. 40.7 in. 40 in. 40.4 in. 38.9 in.
Rear Headroom 39.4 in. 42.2 in. 38.2 in. 40.3 in. 38.2 in.
Front Shoulder Room 56.7 in. 56.5 in. 56.3 in. 55.4 in. 56.1 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 56.3 in. 56.5 in. 54.9 in. 55.3 in. 54.4 in.
Front Hip Room 54.6 in. 57 in. 55.5 in. 51.6 in. 51.5 in.
Rear Hip Room 54.6 in. 47.4 in. 44 in. 52.7 in. 51.8 in.
Front Leg Room 42.1 in. 40.8 in. 41.3 in. 41.2 in. 42.3 in.
Rear Leg Room 37.2 in. 37.2 in. 37.2 in. 36.8 in. 35.5 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 23.6 cu.ft. 31 cu.ft. 24.4 cu.ft. 30.8 cu.ft. 24.4 cu.ft.

 

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