IT SEEMS HARD TO BELIEVE, BUT THE KIA SPORTAGE IS NOW ENTERING ITS FOURTH GENERATION SINCE ARRIVING IN THIS MARKET IN 1997.
While the first two generations may not have been memorable, the just-superseded model, styled under the guidance of Peter Schreyer as part of Kia’s design revolution, managed to catch plenty of attention.
This latest version is every bit as eye-catching.
While the engines are fundamentally unchanged - the entry level 2.0 litre drops a little in power and torque - the refinement, interior, and technology however have all been given a boost, endowing the new Sportage with a mature feel, but youthful good looks.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Si 2.0l Petrol FWD $28,990
Si 2.0l Diesel AWD $33,990
SLi 2.0 Petrol FWD $33,990
SLi 2.0l Diesel AWD $38,990
Platinum 2.4l Petrol AWD $43,490
Platinum 2.0 Diesel AWD $45,990 (plus on-roads)
114kW/192Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol | 6spd automatic
135kW/237Nm 2.4 4cyl petrol | 6spd automatic
136kW/400Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd automatic
2.0l petrol claimed: 7.9 l/100km
2.4l petrol claimed: 8.5 l/100km | tested: 8.0 l/100km (freeway biased)
2.0l diesel claimed: 6.8 l/100km
There are changes to the Kia Sportage range - there’s no manual transmission for a start, making the new model $3000 more expensive than it used to be, starting at $28,990.
There’s more equipment, more safety features, and more room inside to offset the difference in price, and, comparing a like-for-like Si automatic, reveals an increase of just $800.
Adding a diesel costs $5000, but also adds all-wheel-drive.
In between, there’s a $33,990 SLi petrol and $38,990 SLi diesel. At the top of the range is the $43,490 Platinum petrol, with all-wheel-drive standard and a larger 2.4 litre engine, and a diesel for $45,990 - both over $4000 more expensive than before.
Does that make the Sportage poor value? It depends on the value you place on the new safety features at the top end of the Sportage range, and the improved quality evident inside and on-road. The range has certainly stepped up a notch.
- Si: Cloth seat trim, manual air conditioning, trip computer, cruise control, rear air vents, reversing camera, rear park sensors, auto headlights 17-inch alloy wheels
- SLi: (in addition to Si) Leather seat trim, power adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, rain sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, TFT colour instrument cluster display, LED tail lights, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Platinum: (in addition to SLi) power adjustable passenger seat, heated and cooled front seats, proximity key with push-button start, flat-bottom steering wheel, Bi-Xenon headlights, wireless phone charging, GT styling package, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen, six speakers, Bluetooth, USB inputs, MP3 playback, (SLi and Platinum add satellite navigation)
- Cargo volume: 466 litres minimum, 1455 litres maximum
Our first brush with the new Sportage was in the entry level Si, but you could have just as easily convinced us it was a higher grade of vehicle, such is the level of finish.
The hard-plastic dash facia of the old model is gone, replaced with a smart stitched-look soft surface.
There’s a few 'entry level' items: you still have to insert and twist the key to start it, there’s no climate control, and the seats are manually adjusted, but the plastics throughout have an excellent finish, the cloth seats are comfy without looking ‘basic’, and there’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen in front.
There’s a generous amount of space in the front, a comfortable and easy-to-set driving position, and a rear bench that’s more comfortable thanks to extra recline adjustment.
You will also find good knee, foot, and headroom there
Step into the SLi and the seats gain leather trim with a powered driver’s seat, satellite navigation is added to the touchscreen’s list of abilities, dual-zone climate control and a self-dimming interior mirror are also included.
The Platinum scores a proximity key and push-button start, the no-cost option of two-tone interior trim (available on selected exterior colours), heated and cooled front seats, a powered tailgate, Qi wireless phone charging, panoramic sunroof, and GT Line exterior sports styling.
There’s a full-sized spare in each model, boot space is 466 litres with the seats up and 1455 with them folded, and the boot floor itself is lower for easier loading. There’s now a dedicated spot to stow the cargo blind, too.
No matter which version you choose there’s no longer a CD player nor is there a ‘high end’ audio version for the higher grades, but Bluetooth, USB inputs, MP3 playback, and six-speaker audio are standard across the range, with a software update coming later in the year bringing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.0l Petrol: 114kW/192Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder
- 2.4l Petrol: 135kW/237Nm 2.4 litre four cylinder
- 2.0l Diesel: 136kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, FWD (2.0l Petrol) AWD (2.4l Petrol and 2.0l Diesel)
- Suspension: Front MacPherson strut, rear multi-link
- Brakes: 305mm ventilated front disc, 302mm solid rear disc type
- Steering: Electrically assisted, turning circle: 10.6m
- Towing capacity: 750kg unbraked, 1600kg braked 2.0l Petrol, 1500kg braked 2.4l Petrol, 1900kg braked 2.0l diesel
The Sportage range features three engines - there’s a diesel teamed with all-wheel-drive available on all variants, a 2.0 litre petrol engine with front-wheel-drive for Si and SLi, or a 2.4 litre petrol with all-wheel-drive for the Platinum.
All come teamed with a six-speed automatic as standard.
While the previous 2.0 litre engine was good for 122kW, the new one is less powerful with just 114kW, thanks to the loss of direct injection. Torque drops from 205Nm to 192Nm as well.
Despite that, and the fact the new car is slightly heavier, the Sportage Si and Sli petrol both feel lively enough darting through city traffic, and we found no trouble maintaining momentum on the highway.
It wasn’t until we pointed it up a fairly steep incline that the entry-level engine lost its shine.
It also makes a fair amount of noise when pressed hard, but in general cruising it’s well mannered and quiet. In fact, cabin noise has been greatly reduced over the outgoing model and on all but the very coarsest of bitumen the Sportage is very nicely hushed.
Moving into the 2.4 litre petrol Platinum adds all-wheel-drive, and the extra 100kg system makes the performance difference between the 2.4 and 2.0 litre engines moot. The 2.4 however doesn’t ever seem to have to work as hard though thanks to 135kW and 237Nm, and is quieter.
The star of the range has to be the 2.0 litre diesel though - plenty of torque makes it the most relaxed performer and the refinement levels are just as high as the petrol engines.
With 136kW and 400Nm, the outputs are just a tad higher than the outgoing model, but the match to the six-speed automatic is better making the engine feel more responsive as a result. This is the one to choose if you are doing a lot of highway driving; it will effortlessly swallow long kilometres and untroubled 'up hill and down dale'.
Kia has tuned the Sportage’s suspension for Australian conditions (it has a suspension development team here), and the confidence and control it displays on both smooth and broken surfaces reveals just how thorough that development program is.
Oddly enough the smaller-wheeled Si (riding on 17-inch alloys) felt just a tad firmer than the Platinum on 19-inch alloys, despite the Platinum receiving its own, unique ‘sporting’ suspension tune.
Both are settled over corrugations and pockmarks at speed on rural roads, and we’ll delve deeper into the urban ride when the Sportage passes through the TMR garage for a full review.
Steering is also a given a tweak for Australia, tuned to offer a more effortless feel at parking speeds, but a more stable setting on the open road.
ANCAP rating: The Sportage has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: All Sportage variants feature six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain), ABS brakes, stability and traction control, hill start and downhill brake control, rear view camera, the top-tether child seat anchorages and two ISOfix positions.
The Platinum also comes with forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, lance change assist, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and smart parking assist (self parking) for parallel and 90-degree spaces.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Hyundai Tucson offers a similar feel inside but more engine and specification choices, the Mazda CX-5 can be pricey at the top end, but is something of a dynamic benchmark.
If you need seven seats, the Nissan X-Trail can help where few other medium SUVs can, while the Toyota RAV4 is now sharper to look at, and to drive, thanks to a recent update.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The thing about the Sportage is how it looks, you may have mixed feelings about that, but it stands out from the pack and that’s something that will appeal to many.
Beyond that though, its great on-road manners, well finished interior and strong equipment list will help it ‘seal the deal’ with buyers.
Kia may not do budget pricing anymore, but its car don't feel 'budget', look smart, are exceptionally well-built and comfortable and, dollar for dollar, generally represent good value.
If you may not have given much thought to a Kia in the past, the Sportage now certainly deserves a look. The new model is a proper challenge to any mainstream brand you’d care to mention.
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