Kia Sportage EX 4X4 Review

They grow up so fast.

Yes, the phrase is usually associated with children, but in this case, I'm talking about small SUVs in general and the Kia Sportage in particular.

Not too long ago, the Sportage looked like a pretty risky purchase...a step or two up the evolutionary ladder from such mini-SUV forerunners as the Suzuki Samurai.

But time and Kia's constant quest for improvement has made the Sportage look like a sensible choice. Lay down $23,205 for a top of the line EX 4X4 (2 wheel drive LXs with manual transmissions start at a mere $16,360) and you get a 2.7 liter V6 engine, four wheel drive, a four-speed automatic, power four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, a sunroof, power windows, doors and mirrors, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system (with a cassette player...one of the few cars where you still have that option), trip computer and bunches more.

The tester I sampled for a week had one lone option...a $1,300 Luxury Package which added leather, heated front seats, automatic headlamps and an auto-dimming inside mirror. Oh, yeah...and a subwoofer for the audio system. Bottom line: Under $25,000. And that's for a vehicle that seats five reasonably, gets five-star crash ratings in all categories (four stars for rollover) and manages a respectable 17 city/21 highway in the EPA test (go bare-bones with the 4-cylinder and that jumps to 20 city/25 highway).

If your concept of a Kia Sportage is based on the original, take a look and a drive in an '09.