This Sportage life

Up­graded for 2012, this Kia sta­ple is still our com­pact SUV pick

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

YOU have to won­der whether the Kia brand isn’t seen as a bit of an up­start by its Hyundai over­lords, thumb­ing its nose at the par­ent com­pany by mak­ing a bet­ter SUV from an iden­ti­cal ve­hi­cle.

The Sportage hit the ground run­ning in Aus­tralia, with styling that ap­pealed and a value pack­age when it came to fea­tures, and came very close to be­ing 2010 Cars­guide Car of the Year.

Kia’s Aus­tralian engi­neer­ing team’s work on the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing was a clear and present dan­ger to its si­b­ling com­pany. The Sportage’s driv­ing man­ners re­main a high­light in the 2012 up­date.

VALUE

Priced from $35,720 the mid­spec­i­fi­ca­tion SLi does not lack for stan­dard kit, in­clud­ing 17-inch al­loys, re­vers­ing cam­era, auto head­lights (but no rain-sens­ing wipers), cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth phone and au­dio link, sixs­peaker sound sys­tem and a leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel with all the an­cil­lary but­tons. The newly added sat­nav is a $1500 ex­tra.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The Sportage has two petrol vari­ants but the pick of the lit­ter is the 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo diesel.

The lit­tle pow­er­plant punches above what the num­bers sug­gest, is rea­son­ably quiet and quite flex­i­ble.

The other high­light on the Sportage— which it got be­fore Hyundai— is the fully vari­able all-wheel drive sys­tem that sends drive fore and aft de­pend­ing on driv­ing con­di­tions.

DE­SIGN

Kia has done the most of any Asian brand to ad­vance styling. This re­mains a head-turner — the sharp lighting pack­age, high

waist­line and mus­cu­lar stance all make for a hand­some pack­age.

The cabin is fairly som­bre with dark coloured trims and red lighting. It’s com­fort­able and with enough room to carry a fam­ily and as­so­ci­ated para­pher­na­lia. Bootspace is good given there’s a full-size spare wheel un­der the floor.

The price paid for the stylish ex­te­rior lines is a nar­row rear win­dow, which makes the rear cam­era com­pul­sory.

SAFETY

The Kia ranks five stars from the ANCAP crash test­ing pro­gram.

Key fea­tures are an au­todim­ming cen­tre mir­ror, hill start and de­scent con­trol. With just un­der 180mm of ground clear­ance this is one of many com­pact SUVs that’s more

suited to the school run than the Gun­bar­rel High­way, but get­ting it dirty isn’t im­pos­si­ble given the abil­ity to lock the all­wheel drive sys­tem into an even front-rear split.

DRIV­ING

A pleas­ant sur­prise on the road for so many rea­sons.

While much of the prod­uct from South Korea to ex­port mar­kets didn’t ride, han­dle or steer well, the Sportage had at­ten­tion from Kia Aus­tralia en­gi­neers be­fore its ar­rival on show­room floors here.

It worked— the ride is good, al­most sup­ple and is at its best when sit­ting on the 17-inch wheel-tyre pack­age of this mid-spec SLi. This model sits on 60-pro­file tyres, whereas the Plat­inum goes up to 18-inch wheels and down to 55-pro­file rub­ber, which ex­pe­ri­ence has shown trans­mits more small ruts and bumps through to the cabin.

The SLi is one of the bet­ter SUVs around a cor­ner at pace, only push­ing its nose a lit­tle wide when the Kumho rub­ber runs out of grip. The sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem is a lit­tle prone to in­ter­vene but can be switched off.

The lit­tle diesel is flex­i­ble and quiet enough when cruis­ing— it still has the thrum of a four-cylin­der oil-burner but it’s not hugely in­tru­sive. The Ge­trag six-speed auto slurs through gearshifts smoothly, well-matched to the diesel’s out­puts, and rolling along through traf­fic is an un­fussed man­ner of progress thanks to the low-stress power de­liv­ery char­ac­ter­is­tics.

VER­DICT

This car fin­ished on the podium when it ap­peared in Cars­guide’s 2010 Car of The Year and time has not tar­nished its per­for­mance.

Pleas­ant sur­prise: The turbo diesel punches above its weight

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