SUV goes one bet­ter

The new Kia Sportage has stood up to its Korean big brother from Hyundai, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test -

AUS­TRALIA is a grow­ing pri­or­ity for Kia of South Korea. Suc­cess Down Un­der is an in­di­ca­tor of the like­li­hood of con­quests in other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly as it bat­tles to make an im­pact against the se­nior part­ner in Korea’s biggest mo­tor­ing jug­ger­naut, Hyundai.

Cars­guide al­ready rates the Hyundai ix35 as one of the best new SUVs of 2010. We’ve now had time with the Kia Sportage— and it’s bet­ter.

The two fam­ily haulers are twins un­der the skin but Kia has its own body and, cru­cially, its own sus­pen­sion and steer­ing for Aus­tralia.

The changes may sound mi­nor but they make enough dif­fer­ence to sway a po­ten­tial buyer.

The lat­est Sportage — and re­mem­ber the name­plate has been around since 1993, long be­fore the Hyundai takeover — is a huge ad­vance over ear­lier mod­els and is now wor­thy of se­ri­ous com­par­i­son with a Honda CRV, a Toy­ota RAV4 and the other Ja­panese com­pact SUVs.

Value

NO ONE can crit­i­cise the value at Kia, and the Sportage kicks a big goal with prices that are $1000 be­low an equiv­a­lent ix35.

The price spread is $25,990 to $38,990, from a front-drive Sportage Si with a 2-litre petrol en­gine and man­ual gear­box up to the all-wheel drive Plat­inum diesel with six-speed auto.

The six mod­els are all five-seaters with bod­ies sized right for the class and ev­ery­day fam­ily work. Even the Si starter car comes with air­con, al­loys and the usual elec­tric as­sists, but you only have to move up to the SLi for leather trim, a trip com­puter, cruise con­trol, re­verse cam­era and a bunch of other fun stuff.

The Plat­inum pack at the top end pro­vides a sun­roof, LED day­time lights, a thump­ing sound sys­tem and a ‘‘smart key’’ with start but­ton.

Technology

THE new Sportage is big­ger than the out­go­ing model and has a lot of ex­tra space in­side, as well as a new me­chan­i­cal pack­age.

The three en­gines — two petrol, one diesel with a spread from 122-135kW and 197-393Nm — are con­fig­ured in a se­ries of log­i­cal steps.

The 2-litre petrol comes on front and all­wheel drive mod­els with five-speed man­ual or

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