This Sportage life
Upgraded for 2012, this Kia staple is still our compact SUV pick
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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