2014 KIA SPORTAGE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $41,390 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 135kW/392Nm 4cyl diesel | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 8.6 l/100km
After three generations and numerous upgrades the Sportage now sees plenty of tough competition - but still manages to keep its head above water.
What’s the secret to that longevity? Continual improvement.
As anyone who has driven a first-generation model can attest, this newest generation is leaps and bounds ahead of those beginnings. It's now one of the best buys in the segment.
So, with the newest Series II model, tested here in top-spec Platinum trim with turbo diesel engine, does the most expensive of the Sportage family do enough to hold its own in an increasingly crowded marketplace?
Quality: Despite first breaking cover in 2010, the interior design holds up well.
You may notice that the hard plastic centre panel across the dash isn’t the preferred soft-touch of today’s newer models, but otherwise, everything is firmly fixed in place and with generally good grained-finishes throughout.
The rubberised touch-points to the controls and switches impart a premium feel.
A two-tone black and grey theme on the door trims raises the tone inside and the leather seats have a supple, soft finish. All of this provides a quality impression to the feel of the interior.
Comfort: Front or back, the Sportage seats are wide and reasonably well-shaped. An absolute rarity in the category (and more than welcome during a Melbourne winter) are heated heats on front and outboard-rear seating positions.
Cushioning for the front seats is rather firm, but not bum-numbing. Power adjustment for the driver, plus a tilt and reach adjustable steering column make the driving position easy to tailor.
Cushioning on the rear bench is comparatively soft, though there is no recline adjustment there. Despite a sculpted indentation on the outer seats, the rear is perfectly useable for three.
The dual-pane sunroof of the Platinum makes the interior feel extra-roomy, and it opens over the roof so doesn’t deminish headroom.
Equipment: Standard fare in the Sportage Platinum includes dual-zone climate control (without rear face-level vents), proximity key with push-button start, electrically folding mirrors, automatic Xenon lights, automatic wipers, trip computer, and multifunction steering wheel for audio, Bluetooth and cruise control
There are heated front and rear seats (outer positions) plus a powered driver’s seat and leather-accented trim on the seats, steering wheel and gear shifter. A powered dual-pane sunroof with manual blinds is standard plus 18-inch alloys wheels.
Tunes are pumped through a six-speaker Infinity Audio system, featuring AM/FM/CD/MP3 playback with USB and Auxiliary inputs, plus satellite navigation and reverse camera displayed on a seven-inch touchscreen.
Storage: Compact exterior dimensions hide a 564 litre boot with the rear seats up, folded that space grows to 1353 litres, plus there’s a small lidded-bin to one side of the boot floor.
Beneath the boot floor you’ll find a full-size alloy spare wheel.
Unlike some newer SUV’s there’s no reclining or sliding rear seat, nor does the rear bench fold completely flat. In an era of added versatility this stands out as a demerit.
Each door features a bottle holder, the fronts have small map-pockets, there are seat-back pockets on the front seats plus dual front and rear cup-holders and a front coin-tray.
Both the lidded console and glovebox are deep enough to hide any odds and ends you may carry with you.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While the 2.0 litre petrol variants got a small boost to torque and fuel economy for 2014, the 2.0 litre diesel tested here soldiers on unchanged.
No worries there though; with 135kW at 4000 rpm and 392Nm from 1850-2500 rpm there’s no shortage of 'oomph'.
Kia claims average fuel consumption of 7.2 l/100km and while we didn’t match that on test, ours was a fairly fresh engine - experience tells us that our figure of 8.6 l/100km would improve once run in.
Realistically that’s a big chunk of torque to get to the ground, but even in the wet we found the AWD system knows its game. The Sportage is actually quite swift on the open road and has no trouble flattening hills - even with a load up.
And, for those venturing a little further off made roads, there is a 'lock mode' for the AWD system.
The six-speed auto is buttery smooth on upshifts, but we often caught it napping. It needs a swifter kickdown response.
The engine may be partly to blame, instead of one smooth linear sweep of torque, the power delivery felt a little notchy - surging and dropping off at various points around the tacho dial.
Also, chunky pillars in the front and rear eat into visibility; negotiating roundabouts takes a double-take and backing out of supermarket spaces can be iffy. Thankfully, there are huge wing mirrors to reduce blindspots.
Refinement: Away from the constraints of residential speed restrictions the Sportage eats miles in comfort with ease. Road and wind noise are quite subdued for a car of this category (and with a diesel in the snout).
Closer to town, the Sportage is less impressive. In traffic, the rise and fall of engine revs makes for plenty of diesel clatter, and at both 60 and 80 km/h the engine revs harder (staying too long in lower gears) than it does at 100-110km/h.
Ride and Handling: While still adhering to 'SUV-specific' laws of physics (relating to height and centre of gravity), the Sportage surprises by being better than average in the handling department.
The ride is taut, but not harsh; body roll is limited and composure through bends is generally very good. The steering feel is numb howvere and lacking feedback (but nicely weighted for tight parking around town).
Braking: With shorter travel and a firmer pedal than usually found in its class, the Sportage's braking performance is adequate for normal driving. But give it a workout and it can turn doughy pretty quickly.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.1 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Standard safety includes six airbags (front, front-side and curtain). All seats are equipped with three-point seatbelts, the front seats also feature height adjustable seatbelts with pre-tensioners and anti-whiplash headrests.
Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are standard, plus hill-start assist and hill descent-control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Scheduled services are set for every 15,000km or 12 months, and under Kia’s fixed-price servicing scheme range from $364 to $569.
Over a five year/75,000km period the Sportage Diesel’s total service cost would be $2212. For full details and inclusions consult your Kia dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai ix35 Highlander ($41,990) - If you’re keen on the Sportage, it makes sense to take a look at Hyundai’s ix35, which runs the same engine and transmission.
There’s a strong features list too, with a few minor differences. (see ix35 reviews)
Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ($47,030) - The CX-5 is priced a little higher (there’s a safety-minded Akera model higher up the price list) but it feels more spacious and sporty than the Hyundai and Kia.
Fuel consumption is spectacularly low, and interior quality, and on-road elan are strong points. (see CX-5 reviews)
Ford Kuga Titanium ($47,740) - Like the Mazda, the Kuga boasts extra space but has the lowest power and torque figures amongst this group.
The interior is a very nice place to be, and safety is a priority - including the ability to automatically dial 000 after a severe crash. (see Kuga reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Even with a few years under its belt, the Sportage has managed to hold its own among some strong contenders in a cut-throat SUV segment.
While things have moved on a little - especially with the arrival of the impressive Cherokee - the value equation for the Kia is impressive.
With a willing drivetrain and impressive dynamic composure, plus a very nicely kitted interior, the Sportage Platinum warrants investigation for anyone shopping in the category.
Four years on, it certainly looks the part.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Sportage Si FWD - petrol manual: $25,990
- Sportage Si FWD - petrol auto - $28,190
- Sportage Si Premium FWD - petrol auto - $29,990
- Sportage SLi 4WD - petrol auto - $34,790
- Sportage SLi 4WD- diesel auto - $37,790
- Sportage Platinum 4WD - petrol auto - $38,390
- Sportage Platinum 4WD - diesel auto - $41,390