KIA'S SPORTAGE HAS EVOLVED FROM A HUMDRUM SOFTROADER'TO THE FAR MORE POLISHED - AND FAR MORE DESIRABLE - FOURTH GENERATION MODEL YOU SEE BEFORE YOU.
And it’s at its most impressive when experienced in the range-topping Platinum spec tested here.
It’s not cheap at roughly $50k including on-roads, but it’s packed with plenty of gear, boasts a spacious, well-designed interior and has a distinctive style that sets it apart from the sea of other midsize SUVs now prowling Australia’s roads.
Is it worth the spend? If you don’t mind just five seats, you bet.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $45,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 136kW/400Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.8 l/100km | tested: 7.5 l/100km
The new Kia Sportage is one of the freshest models in the booming medium SUV segment, having launched here at the start of the year.
Since then, sales numbers have improved Kia’s fortunes in that segment markedly. It trails the CX-5, Tucson, RAV4, X-Trail and Forester, but it moves more metal than the Honda CR-V and is roughly line-ball with the Outlander.
Our view is that it's one of the best buys there, pure and simple, even without Kia's industry-leading seven-year warranty.
- Standard equipment: Cruise control, dual-xone climate control, power adjustable front seats, rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, reversing camera, 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, satellite navigation
- Cargo volume: 466 litres minimum, 1455 litres maximum
While Australians have warmed to the idea of proudly parking a Hyundai in their driveway, buyers seem to give its corporate cousin Kia a little less love in the showroom.
Why? Maybe it's a lingering attitude that Kia is a budget brand with the quality to match, but such prejudice has little relevance to Kia products today. And most especially when we’re talking about the Sportage.
The base model Sportage Si is good enough in its own right, but the range-topping Platinum boasts an upmarket well-appointed interior.
Beige-on-grey leather wouldn’t be my first choice of colour combo for a family car, but it looks good, the stitching is tight and it helps impart a premium aura over the rest of the car.
So does the expansive panoramic sunroof and generous use of fine-grained soft touch plastics on the dash and doors. The $45,990 Sportage Platinum diesel is very much priced at the upper end of the midsize non-luxury SUV segment, but you get top-end features, obvious quality and attention to detail here.
Quality switchgear, quality design and a quality build. Nothing rattled in our tester, everything worked and it’s hard to fault the ergonomics.
Maybe the glossy black plastics are a little too easy to smudge with greasy fingers and the hard plastic shells of the front seats look a bit downmarket, but those are honestly our biggest gripes.
How good is it at toting passengers? Up front there’s loads of room for mum and dad (let’s face it, families are going to be the primary buyers of the Sportage) and the high seating position gives a great view of the road ahead.
The back seat is surprisingly spacious and comfortable enough for two more adults or three kids. The centre seat position even scores its own height-adjustable headrest, something that’s not always standard in the segment.
The two outboard seats are equipped with ISOFIX anchorages to make removing and fitting a child seat or baby capsule a cinch, but if you’re a small kid in the back of a Sportage you probably won’t get much of a view outside thanks to the rising shoulder-line and small side-glass.
On the plus side, rear face-level air-vents are provided along with a USB charging port and fold-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders.
There’s even an inductive-loop wireless charging pad to free you from the tyranny of USB cables - a fairly cutting-edge feature for a mass-market medium SUV.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 136kW.400Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Transmission: Six speed automatic, all-wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: Ventilated disc, front and rear
- Steering: Electrically assisted
- Towing capacity: 750kg unbraked, 1900kg braked
With a meaty 400Nm of torque at its disposal, the Sportage Platinum diesel barely raises a sweat. Coupled to a clever six-speed automatic and with all-wheel-drive as standard, the Sportage’s drivetrain is fuss-free in its operation and perfectly suited to schlepping about town.
The revs stay low, gearchanges are nicely slurred and, for a diesel, the Sportage is impressively refined. Some European diesels can’t match Kia’s 2.0 turbodiesel for smoothness or quietness.
Kia claims a 6.8 l/100km average fuel consumption, and our 7.5 l/100km real-world average is appreciably close.
If you prefer a petrol powerplant there’s a 136kW/237Nm naturally-aspirated 2.4 litre available for the Sportage Platinum, but be warned that it’s a much thirstier beast with a claimed average of 8.5 l/100km. We’d take the diesel.
Kia Australia makes a special effort to tailor the suspension tunes of its cars to Australian conditions, and the fruit of their engineering efforts is evident in the Sportage.
It feels tied-down without being overly firm (even on the big 19-inch alloys), and body control is outstanding for a big SUV. Pitch under braking and roll during cornering is well contained, and it lives up to the promise of its “Sportage” moniker.
Note however that the Sportage Platinum gets its own bespoke suspension tune - we have yet to put the Si and SLi through the wringer of our test route, though their performance at the national media launch was promising.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.62 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, stability control, traction control, six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain), hill start assist and downhill brake control and a rear view camera are standard across the range.
The Sportage Platinum also scores forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane change assist, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and smart parking assist (self parking).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Sportage shines bright in its segment not because it excels at any one thing, but because it is consistently good across the board. Quality, space and driveability are all core considerations in the medium SUV segment, and the Sportage doesn’t fall short in any of them.
That’s good for Kia, because there’s no shortage of rivals in the increasingly-crowded SUV market. Here’s a few of the Sportage’s sharper competitors:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s a winner, this car. The Kia Sportage Platinum Diesel offers pretty much everything you may want in an SUV this size, and then some.
It’s comfortable, spacious, tremendously easy to drive, has the agility of a much smaller car yet offers a capacious wagon body and is well-built. A lack of seven seats is perhaps the only negative, but that’s not exactly common in this segment anyway.
And while the sticker price is high, you should factor in Kia’s generous seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty and fixed-price servicing scheme. That’s tremendous peace of mind for long-term ownership.
If you’ve got the dollars, not only should you put the Sportage Platinum on your shopping list - you should put it right at the top.