2012 Kia Sportage SLi Diesel Review

Overall Rating

  • Interior

  • On The Road

  • Ancap

  • Value For Money

  • See Full Specs

What’s Hot

Practical sizing, excellent refinement from diesel powerplant.

What’s Not

Poor over-the-shoulder visibility.

X Factor

Its classy styling alone will win hearts, and it’s also one of the best drives in its class.

  • Country of Origin
  • Price
    $35,720 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    135 kW / 392 Nm
  • Transmission
    Sports Automatic
  • ANCAP Rating
  • Airbags
  • L/100 km
  • C02
    198 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
    462 L
  • Towing (braked)
    1600 kg
  • Towing (unbraked)
    750 kg
Tony O'Kane | Mar 26, 2012 | 21 Comments


Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $35,720 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.5 l/100km


The Kia Sportage was a slow seller last year, but not through any fault of its own.

Instead, runaway success in global markets meant supply problems for Australia. That left Sportages thin on the ground here and waiting lists were long enough to force potential buyers elsewhere.

Those supply issues are over however, and Sportage sales are now starting to account for a bigger slice of the Medium SUV market.

To re-acquaint ourselves with Kia’s classy-looking family wagon, we put the mid-grade Sportage SLi diesel to the test.


Quality: Forget what you know about Kias of old: the Sportage’s interior has a bold, modern design that elevates it above most of its competitors.

With stylish red illumination, finely textured dashboard plastics and piano-black facings, there’s a very nice feel inside. Some of the switchgear however, such as the windscreen wiper/indicator stalks, is not up to the same standard.

Also not so good, the flat dashboard surface and instrument cowl can reflect a little uncomfortably if driving into the sun.

Comfort: Headroom and legroom are plentiful for both front and backseat occupants, and although the moulded plastic ovals in each backrest are a little weird, the double-stitched black cloth upholstery feels durable.

The front seats give decent under-thigh support and the wide-set bolsters mean larger-framed occupants won’t feel hemmed in. The back seat is spacious enough for two adults, but the rear bench cushions are flat and not terribly supportive.

Equipment: Standard features on the SLi-grade Sportage include foglights, a rear-vision camera, a trip computer, cruise control, climate control an electro-chromatic rear vision mirror and 17-inch alloys.

The Sportage’s six-speaker audio system incorporates steering wheel-mounted controls, a USB input, a 3.5mm input and Bluetooth phone/audio integration.

Storage: Seats up, you’ll be able to fit a generous 740 litres of cargo in the Sportage’s boot. Fold down the 60:40 split rear seatbacks down, and you get a flat space that measures in at a sizable 1547 litres.


Driveability: The Sportage’s 2.0 litre R-Series turbodiesel is shared with its cousin the Hyundai ix35, and it’s an excellent powertrain.

Producing 135kW and 392Nm, it’s got the right numbers to pull the Sportage’s substantial 1.7 tonne body, and it’s exceptionally refined. A truck motor this ain’t.

The torque band is fairly slim though. Peak torque arrives at just 1800rpm (good), but tails off at 2500rpm (not so good). It definitely favours low-rpm running, but on the upside most motorists will rarely need to go beyond this rev range.

A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the diesel engine, and it makes good use of the diesel’s output.

It slurs smoothly through gears, kicks down fairly quickly and there’s a ‘manu-matic’ mode for when the driver requires more control - like when towing.

Refinement: Noise and vibration from the engine are quite low, and the gravelly note of the diesel motor is quite muted from within the cabin.

There’s also little in the way of wind rustle or intrusive tyre roar, but we did hear the occasional rattle from a piece of rear cabin trim.

Suspension: The Sportage’s suspension tune reflects the car’s name. It’s firmer than some other compact SUVs out there (though not as firm as the ix35), and the feel behind the wheel is one of sportiness and agility.

But it’s not spine-jarringly stiff. Instead, the Sportage neatly straddles the divide between sportiness and comfort with just enough compliance.

The steering lacks feedback though, it’s a bit numb at the straight ahead. However, the weighting through the electrically-assisted steering rack improves when cornering (especially when cornering quickly).

The Sportage has a car-like 10.6 metre turning circle, which makes it easy to navigate urban obstacles like crowded carparks.

Braking: The Sportage SLi’s all-disc brake package utilises slightly larger rotors than those on the base model Si, although this is more to compensate for the up-spec model’s extra weight than it is to improve braking feel.

Braking however feels strong and progressive, if a little over-assisted.


ANCAP rating: Five stars

Safety features: Front, front side and full-length curtain airbags are standard. All seats are equipped with three-point seatbelts, with the front seats also getting pre-tensioning belts and anti-whiplash headrests.

Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are standard, as is hill-start assist and hill descent control.


Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.

Service costs: Servicing costs vary. Consult your local Kia dealer before purchase.


Nissan X-Trail TS diesel ($35,990) - Nissan’s X-Trail rugged design and extra off-road versatility offers plenty of appeal, but it’s down on both power and torque compared to the Sportage.

Its interior is well laid out and spacious though, and while it’s a smidge more expensive compared to the Sportage, the slight gains in size and quality are well worth it. (see X-Trail reviews)

Subaru Forester 2.0D ($36,490) - The Forester is the reigning champ of the medium SUV segment, but the diesel variant is a manual-only proposition and doesn’t sell in the same volumes as its petrol-drinking brethren.

The current-gen Forester is also fast approaching retirement, and its interior shows it. (see next-gen Forester spy photos) (see Forester reviews)

Holden Captiva 5 diesel ($33,990 ) - The Captiva is compelling on-paper value, but its interior feels cheaper and lacks the class of the Sportage. Like the Forester, it’s also quite a dated design. (see Captiva reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.


The Kia Sportage is one of the best buys in the medium SUV market right now. It performs well, handles corners without fuss, rides comfortably, has an impressive interior and is priced competitively.

We highly recommend a close look at the Sportage. With supply from Korea now opening up, the waiting lists that frustrated potential buyers last year should now be non-existent.

Capable and stylish, there’s very little not to like.

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Filed under: Featured, review, wagon, Kia, kia sportage, sportage, diesel, 2012, awd, suv, automatic, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 5door, 6a, 5seat, available

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  • Roger says,
    4 years ago
    I would always buy Japanese in preference to others for build quality, but the X Trail is only 4 star ANCAP which is inexcusable today. I was going to get one, and that is what put me off.
    • OutbackOZ
      OutbackOZ says,
      4 years ago
      Yes safety is a key issue but so is the requirements. Korean cars have come along way and I wouldn't "not" look at one just becaus it wasn't a japan manufactor. As for the X-trail, yes it is only a 4 star but it is a good all rounder and a 4 star rating wouldn't turn me off it
    • D says,
      4 years ago
      What about the CX5? Better fuel economy, better handing, great drive.

      CX5 recently received maximum safety rating in the US so expect it to get 4 if not 5 when tested by ANCAP.

      • Tim O'Brien says,
        4 years ago
        1 like
        Yup, you're right D. Just got out of the CX-5 diesel, it is a cracking drive and a direct competitor to the Sportage.

        The more expensive CX-5 is the better car - with superior finish, more lively acceleration, and more sophisticated handling and on-road balance. (But the Sportage is pretty darn good too.)

        Hang ten and we'll have the review up for you soon.

  • Callous says,
    4 years ago
    I love my Sportage and overall your review is very accurate except for the 3.5 star score for value. Nothing (other than it's sister the ix35) comes close for value whiich I owned prior (the ride was too firm).

    I have the platinum diesel and it a superb vehicle with an equipment list that means ticking expensive boxes in the Tiguan. I suspect a hint of badge snobbery in your score.

    I also prefered the blue lighting in the ix35 which didn't seem to struggle with the sun's glare as much and the ix35 had a shroud over the top of the radio display making it easy to read.

    If people are like myself approaching the age where reading glasses are manditory then they will also find the steering wheel instructions (for the cruise control, radio etc) easier to read in blue.

    I look forward to seeing the repalcement for the Sorento in coming months and suspect it too will be a fantastic looking vehicle. Mine still gets comments almost a year after purchasing.

    Overall an excellent review and perhaps the most honest one I have read so far. You do however need to get pas tthe cheap cheery KIA's of yesteryear. Those days are thankfully gone. Keep up the good work!

  • Rob says,
    4 years ago
    The Sportage would be a great selling vehicle if KIA could supply it. I placed a deposit on a Diesel Platinum last March aka (2011) and it is now April 2012 and still no car (over 12 Months). The dealer has been very poor at letting me know when the vehicle would arrive forcing me to go direct to KIA customer service, they were a little better but still unable to provide a delivery date. My patience with KIA has been stretched and I am looking at the CX5 now. The article is well written except for the error in apparent supply increase.
    • Buzz says,
      3 years ago
      Can I ask what dealer was it...
  • Kristal says,
    4 years ago
    G'day proud owner of sli diesel!!... Went test drive captiva, stiff, cheap feeling and suspension too firm... Ix35 too space ship looking though slightly better value as had mechanic seat adjuster as supposed to manual in sportage and you get leather seats... But ride and drive quality was better in sportage and that is what swayed us... Subaru overpriced and dated, xtrail was all plastics very cheap quality though great on trails and the Mazda cx7 is a fuel guzzler like no tomorrow(being petrol)... mid size suv to me only players are the ix35 and ... Superior value brilliant drive train best in class and look hot... Just depends on if you like sporty looking sportage eith better drive dynamics or space shippy ix35 with more quality interior !!!!
    • Raphael Austria says,
      3 years ago
      Proud working at kia
  • Matt says,
    3 years ago
    I'm not sure if the reviewer actually sat in the back seat but headroom is very poor. As a person just on 6ft I found my head rubbing up against the roof. I was very impressed with the overall package - however the inability to take passengers who approach anywhere near the 6ft mark without them getting neck cramp ruled it out.
  • David says,
    3 years ago
    Driving up to 2000 Kim's per week means you get to have a real close look at cars, previous to having Platinum Diesel Sportage, I drove Territory's, found the Kia terrific, the car drives effortlessly on all roads, mileage is great, what I did find suprising was the tire wear, couldn't belive I almost got 80k out of them. I'm 6'4 so driver comforts important and the Kia ticks the box, yes there is head room issues for back but he'll I'm the one driving it. After doing 85,000 this year, the only issues that I have found is a wear mark in the leather steering wheel and another in drivers side door trim.
    As I said I have done 85,000kms in the little big car and I've just ordered another. Terrific bloody car.
  • Geoff Spackman says,
    3 years ago
    After two years researching the medium SUV segment, I finally took delivery of my new Platium Diesel last week.
    I looked at them all, drove them all but kept coming back to the Kia. It ticked all the boxes. We wanted a SUV for the ease of entry and exiting and comfort once inside. I am six foot and weigh over 105 kg. I set the drivers seat where I want it and can climb in both front and back seats without hitting my my head. Once inside, the drivers position very spacious, even in the back seat, it's very comfortable with plenty of leg and head room.
    All round this is a better vehicle than I expected it to be.
  • Tallyho says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    I'm confused whether to purchase the ulp or diesal in the sportage sli 2012.
    Which is better?
    And can someone tell me why when l search internet that the prices l see are cheaper than what l have been quoted for ulp.
    Has anyone an idea of the cost for the 2013 storage can't find any info.
  • Geoff Spackman says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    There are currently two 2012 sportage platinum models, the my12 & my13. The my13 being the later has the satnav, which explains the price difference.
    I paid $44888 for my diesel platinum, because my wife wanted silver and I wanted the my13 we a paid premium price, if you would settle on any colour you may swing a better deal.
    Either way, you can't go wrong. "you can't go wrong".
    • Bret says,
      3 years ago
      I have the latter model diesel 2012 platinum and I agree with most of the comments here . I will inform all I've had mine back to the dealer twice with a problem with the steering pulling to the left , have had second wheel alinement done now just under 4 weeks ? Other wise I'm pretty blown out with the car , I also have a VE SSV ute that I love driving but I must say I totally love driving the Kia Sportage for my job as a rep. Most of my friends couldn't believe I would buy this sort of car , but on their first drive of it, it changed theirs minds just like ME ! Trust me you'll love the car . smilesad
      • Grant says,
        2 years ago
        I'm having the same problem with my MY13 platinum diesel pulling to the left. Have you been able to resolve your problem and if so what was the remedy.
        Is anyone else having the same trouble(or had the same trouble)? What was your outcome?
        I've had my vehicle back to the Dealers but I haven't received much joy from that quarter to date.
  • ron colomiere says,
    3 years ago
    yes, i bought a sportage platinum diesel my12. Excellent car and love driving it. Buti have a concern and have had not much info or help from kia.
    My car has reached 30000 kms and i was advised on the last service that i require both a new set of brake pads, which is fair enough but what i do not undersand is why is the rotor unmachinable after only these klms. Surely it should go a lot longer. All thecanswerci getcisxthat it does happen. Can you expandcon thisxat all. Thanks.
  • Jane Smith says,
    2 years ago
    Hi, I have a 2012 Kia Sportage, a demo model purchased december 2012 with only 70km on it. From the first drive out of the dealers the brakes groaned. Always when releasing the brake slowly, or slowing in heavy traffic.

    I love everything about the kia except this. I would otherwise be over the moon with my carefully considered purchase. It was a big deal and almost unaffordable on our family budget to spring for a new car. We decided for the new car to avoid all the problems that can come with a second hand vehicle, as well as for extra safety for our children.

    The groaning brakes really spoil the look of the car on the road. It is embarrassing! Dealer said i needed to wear the brakes in and pointed out the brake dust. Now, 5 months in, he has sat in the vehicle as i drive and advised that i 'not ride the brake'. That is, do not release it slowly. Is this right? It has never been a problem in any other vehicle before. Now i am changing the way i drive and it is distracting. I have googled 'noisy brakes kia sportage 2012' and found i am not the only person with this problem. Are the brakes/rotors replaceable under the kia warranty ( i have the extended warranty!) thanks, Jane.
  • kelge says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Its by far the best looking suv in its class,
  • rob says,
    2 years ago
    Just had the rotors replaced on 12 month old sportage platinum 36,000 klms. At last service, Northern Kia Vic said they did not have the rotors to fit (strangely this was 2 days prior to the 12 month warranty expiry.) Now has cost me $460.00 to replace rotors that have never been machined. Staff very vague about the issue and stated not covered by warranty. Very strange and now suspect of KIAs policy towards after sales responsibility for goods sold.
    • CAZZO says,
      2 years ago
      Wear and Tear is never a warranty item, its in plain black&white in your documents sad

      My Falcon Ute 2008 BF11 is *still* on its first set of tyres, and pads,,,,,,138,000km, impressive! smile

      GOD bless Ford Australia, you will be missed sad
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