2011 Kia Sportage

In Consumer Reports’ recent tests of small vehicles that “straddle the line between hatchbacks and SUVs”, the Kia Sportage trumped the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and the Nissan Juke. However, all three vehicles, which fuse the features of SUV’s, wagons and hatchbacks, received a Very Good overall road test score.

 “The melding of more carlike qualities in these vehicles comes with some concessions like passenger room, visibility, and versatility compared with that of other SUVs,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. “But the Sportage outmaneuvered the other two competitors because it manages to have greater interior space without losing its fun to drive character.”

While these small vehicles received a Very Good test score, they are too new for Consumer Reports to have accrued enough reliability data to "Recommend." Notably, the Kia Sportage was redesigned for 2011; the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and Nissan Juke are new models for 2011. CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

That aside, CR notes;  “The redesigned Kia Sportage has a steady highway ride, but acceleration is leisurely, and its stiff ride and pronounced road noise detract from the driving experience.

The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is based on the Outlander SUV, but is smaller with less rear seating and cargo space. It’s not as nimble as its sibling, and acceleration is just adequate.

The funky-looking Nissan Juke is a small, fun-to-drive hatchback with nimble handling and punchy turbocharged powertrain. The Juke feels agile and sporty, but a stiff, choppy ride and noisy cabin undermine what would otherwise be an enjoyable driving experience.”

Prices for the small SUVs range from $23,300 for the Nissan Juke SV to $23,995 for the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE.

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Holly Reich writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on uptownlife.net.

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