When I was told I would be testing a Kia Sportage this week, I still had in mind the little humpty-dumpty, roly-poly sort of semi-sport ute that it used to be. Well, the Sportage has grown up.

There’s a whole lot that’s great about the little Sportage and only a little that isn’t. First the terrific. What was a barely competitive small SUV is now a gorgeous alternative to an Equinox, RAV 4 or Honda CRV.

Inside, the good news continues with styling that is first rate. Kia has come a long way from the old days when otherwise lovely interiors were only let down by some plastics suitable for Happy Meal toys.  And  the list of options available, and installed on our test truck, is comprehensive and allows the Sportage to play with the big boys.

Our truck had the sunroof, navigation system, rear sonar, heated seats and the whole cornucopia of SUV excess.  Off-road…no wait, you really don’t want to do that because ours was a two-wheel-drive model.  No, this little Kia is purely civilian transport, meant for hauling kids and stuff through the wilds of suburbia, sunroof open and premium stereo blaring.

Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine cranking out 240 ponies that have far less trouble pulling 4000 pounds around than the standard, 2.4-liter, 161 horsepower four that is also available.  On the highway, care must be taken as the steering is very quick and lane changes can get twitchy if you lose focus. Mileage is 22 city, 26 highway.

Now the bad. Our little front-wheel-drive trucklet stickered at $33,395. Now it has to really compete with the Equinox, for example, which has an available V6 and starts at just under $25,000. Kia’s trump card has always been price, so, now it will go head to head without that card in the deck.

That takes courage, but the Sportage is a high quality product. Let the games begin.

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