While keeping a good deal of its mechanical specifics under wraps, Kia has released this first look at the next-generation of its compact 2011 Sportage crossover that will formally bow in at Geneva. This all-new iteration embodies the same kind of bolder and more athletic appearance cues that chief designer Peter Schreyer continues rolling into all new Kia offerings -- highlighted by its more crisply rendered front sheetmetal, prominent fender flares and distinctive side sculpting. However, the 2011 Kia Sportage still retains the kind of basic SUV elements -- notably its command driving position and elevated ride height -- that should keep typical soft-roader types happy as well as comfortable.

Officially, Kia admits the new five-passenger Sportage is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor and will offer more space for both people cargo. A longer wheelbase and wider track also promise better ride and handling. Unofficially, the new Sportage -- which shares its basic platform architecture with its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Tucson -- is likely to come with a high-efficiency four-cylinder direct-injected engine, offer the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions and be available in front-drive or all-wheel drive configurations when it goes on sale here in mid-year.

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