For two generations, the Kia Sportage was a compact SUV with a built-in connection to the average Canadian shopper after ruggedness, flexibility and a good overall deal.


Now entering its third generation, the 2011 model is hitting dealer lots with even more of the sensible, adventurous and wholesome stuff that made its predecessors a hit.


For its latest iteration, the German-designed, Korean-built Sportage has been designed for higher-than-ever levels of style and value, and the ability to tackle most any driving our continent’s craggy North might throw its way.


I recently spent two days and several hundred kilometres driving the now-on-sale 2011 Kia Sportage from Whitehorse to Skagway, Alaska, and back. The latest Sportage is no longer friendly and cartoony-looking, but rather more athletic, prominent and ag­­gressive than the former.

Inside, drivers are treated to an upscale environment with easy-to-use controls and adequate at-hand storage. Rear-seat passengers get plenty of room in virtually every direction, even if they’re grown-ups, and folding seats and a big, easily-accessible cargo hold help to maximize utility and flexibility.

Sportage’s interior is assembled as nicely as any of its Japanese competition — though trim materials won’t be blowing any socks off, and a little more colour could go a long way to brighten up the mainly dark scenery.

Sportage’s ride and handling should impress. Even on undulating or poorly-maintained highways, I found the suspension delivered a near-perfect blend of drama-free tautness and planted comfort.