Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Kia Motors America’s new Sportage small-midsize cross/utility vehicle bows tomorrow at the New York auto show with a 2.4L 4-cyl. engine, but a more powerful powerplant is in the works for the revamped model.

The 2.4L will be rated at about 176 hp, but Kia plans availability of a 2.0L direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cyl. later in the model year.

It will be Kia’s first DI engine in the U.S., following the path of sister brand Hyundai, which just launched a 200-hp 2.4L DI 4-cyl. in its new ’11 Sonata sedan.

The ’11 Sportage, going on sale in early summer, is a more “urban” vehicle than the model it replaces, destined to woo “new and more sophisticated customers,” Michael Sprague, vice president-marketing-KMA, says in a statement.

Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors Corp.’s global design chief, told Ward’s at last month’s Chicago auto show a smaller-than-average greenhouse, with a “very extreme” ratio between glass and sheetmetal, is a design feature of the new Sportage. The CUV was shaped in the U.S., but its interior was penned at Kia’s European design studio.

The exterior of the ’11 Sportage is meant to convey a “hunkered-down position,” Kia says, with sweeping angles and pronounced wheel flares.

Kia calls the tabbed grille of the Sportage, also found on Kia’s new Sorento CUV, a Schreyer signature.

The Sportage grows in size from its predecessor, being longer, lower and wider.

It offers an all-wheel-drive system, featuring a stability-enhancing, driver-selectable lock mode to distribute torque evenly between front and rear axles at speeds up to 25 mph (40 km/h).

The Sportage’s independent suspension – MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear – is “newly engineered” for better responsiveness to driver input. Kia says the Sportage also employs a hydro-formed subframe to isolate passengers from bumpy roads.

Kia will offer two grades, LX and EX.

LX buyers have a choice between a 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmission. The EX is standard with the automatic.

The LX boasts standard 16-in. alloy wheels, body-color door handles and, when equipped with an automatic, adjustable side mirrors with turn-signal indicators. Standard interior features include power windows, 12V outlets in the front cabin and cargo area and a tilt steering wheel.

The EX gets 18-in. alloy wheels, body-color heated side mirrors, roof rails, rear spoiler and chrome trim. Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an illuminated and cooled glove box, telescopic steering wheel and an automatic folding rear seat also are standard on the EX.

Both trim levels have an indicator to encourage eco-friendly driving, as well as a satellite-radio-ready audio system with USB jack and Bluetooth.

Standard on Sportage EX is Kia’s UVO powered by Microsoft in-car communication and entertainment system.

Ward’s data shows Sportage sales rose 29.8% in 2009, easily outperforming the 32.9% slide in its segment.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com