I recently bought a 2012 base FWD manual and could not be happier.
I wanted the function of a suv with the driving dynamics of a car and didn't want/need to spend a fortune.
I also wanted to row the gears myself.
After comparisons of all vehicles that met my criteria, I decided on the sportage because of value, comfort, room, and the fun to drive factor.
Plenty of storage, plenty of power - great standard features.
I have 3000 miles and am very happy with comfort (i'm 6'3), mileage (avg 27 mixed driving) and the fact that i'm always asked about it when i'm out and about.
So far, I have no complaints.
Bluetooth, Manual transmission availablility, great suspension setup (good handling with a compliant ride) room and value
Make sliding rear seat and lumbar seats standard across line.
Possibly a higher ratio in 6'th gear on manual for better highway mileage.