THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2007 Kia Sportage LX V-6 compact SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: We are told that the Sportage, which shares a platform with its Hyundai sibling Tucson, won't receive any major changes for 2008. The SUV is a great value for the money, mainly because of its laudable four-wheel-drive system. The Sportage is responsive on the road, with decent acceleration and flawless shifting. And you can be assured that if you do go off-road, the SUV will ride and handle quite well.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Available in six trims, the Sportage is equipped with a 2.7-liter V-6 engine that develops 173 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 178 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, which shifts seamlessly. Stability is assured via independent MacPherson struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar in the front and an independent dual-link suspension in the rear. The power rack-and-pinion steering is accurate and linear. Confidence-inspiring brakes can be attributed to 11-inch vented front and 11.2-inch solid disc rotors.
LOOK & FEEL: A black mesh grille with a Kia insignia in the center sandwiched between multi-reflector headlights shows off the front fascia. Walk over to the rear and you will notice the liftgate with a flip-up glass, spoiler and two exhaust pipes. Step inside and you will get only too cozy in the cloth seats and trim inserts. The four-spoke tilt steering wheel and shifter knob offer a firm grip. A digital clock atop the dashboard is a neat touch. The driver's seat can be manually adjusted eight ways while the 60/40 rear seat can drop and fold into the floor. This opens up 66.6 cubic feet of space for loading goods from the neighborhood home-building store. Also, more storage space is available in the dual center console, rear cargo under-floor and in the vicinity of the shifter knob.
SAFETY FIRST: Kia deserves a pat on the back for making dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, three-point seatbelts for all passengers and front-seat belt pretensioners standard features on the Sportage.
OUT THE DOOR: $21,195, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The $900 Sport Package, which fetches you a black mesh grille, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, fog lamps, keyless entry and cargo cover, among other goodies, is well worth it.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P235/60R16; wheelbase, 103.5 inches; length, 171.3 inches; weight, 3,406 pounds; fuel capacity, 17.2 gallons; highway, 23 mpg; city, 19 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: One of the best value-laden SUVs, the Sportage comes with Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile limited and five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranties. Now that should be enough to appeal to buyers for whom an affordable price coupled with a long but standard warranty are factors.