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2006 Kia Sportage

Martha Hindes

Kia Sportage
Kia Sportage Interior

Rugged? Kind of. Sassy? Definitely. Kia's Sportage drives into 2006 with a smoother, more carlike ride than earlier editions and an unmistakable family relationship to its long-range cousin Hyundai Tucson.

Changes this year are modest, dealing with trim adds after radical design updates a year ago. Those wanting more sport in their smaller sporty utility vehicle this year might opt for the Sport Package available on the LX V-6. Those touches include rear spoiler, fog lamps, dark toned metallic gray sidewise body cladding and black mesh grille. Inside, there's a sport gauge instrument cluster, leather steering wheel and shifter knob, and remote keyless entry, plus audio from the top-line EX. All models get standard filtered air.

Two engine choices are a 2.0-liter inline four and 2.7-liter V-6. Transmissions are five speed manual or four-speed automatic. All models are fitted with full-time four-wheel drive without low gearing. Sportages can tow 1,500 pounds (I4) or 2,000 pounds (V-6). That's enough for a small open trailer or small boat.

Sporty looks on all models come from standard towing hooks and roof rails, and available side step bars. A standard front-end skid plate confirms that it retains a true off-road capability, while standard traction control makes it more sure footed on pavement as well. Most safety features are included, among them a battery saver, and six standard airbags including full-length side curtains.

Kia didn't ignore comfort and cargo with this redesign. "Drop & Fold" rear seatings opens cargo space when rear seating on this five-seater isn't needed for passengers. There's no struggling to remove headrests in the process. Need to carry a lengthy object? Fold down the front "tray table" passenger seat for added cargo length. A dual opening rear gate adds versatility.

Perhaps Kia's biggest claim to fame, in addition to low prices starting just over $15,000, is what it terms the industry's best warranty. Clock in a hundred thousand miles during 10 years on the road, and the powertrain that drives it is still covered.