Hard to fault SUV
It’s best suited to town roads but is adequate in the scrub if needed
Kia has gone gangbusters in recent years, the quality and refinement of its current cars lifting it out of the value-formoney rut in which it was once stuck.
No longer are cars like the Sportage the ones you punt on when you can’t afford something better; they’re now cars you can buy with confidence and pride.
The transformation of the Sportage, Kia’s compact SUV, was complete with the launch of the third generation in 2010.
As an SUV that would do mainly urban duty, the Sportage rode high for a good view of the road and had the rugged good looks to appeal to townies.
Being a compact SUV the cabin was adequate rather than spacious but could fit five adults, even if the centre rear passenger found it a little squeezy. However, it was a pleasant place to be, the presentation modern and the switches and controls well placed and easy to use.
The three models, from the base Si to the range-topping Platinum, were well equipped with just about everything you could want. Bluetooth was one omission but that was introduced in 2011.
The Si was two-wheel drive only and it came with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a choice of five-speed manual or six-speed sports-shifting auto.
The SLi and Platinum had on-demand all-wheel drive, there was a choice of 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine or 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, but with just the one transmission, the six-speed automatic.
On the road the 2.0-litre engine was adequate rather than thrilling, and the economy was average for the class.
Being slightly more powerful the larger 2.4-litre engine performed a little better but the turbo diesel was the best of the bunch with the most pulling power and the lowest consumption.
The ride and handling was best suited to town roads where most Sportages will see duty, but the on-demand all-wheel drive setup could handle bush road duties.
Having not been designed for heavy off-road use, the Sportage ultimately was limited by ground clearance and suspension travel.
The recent leaps and bounds in Kia’s quality are reflected by the very low number of complaints.
Most owners say they are happy with their cars, including the Sportage, and happily recommend them to prospective buyers.
There may be few issues with the third generation Sportage but it is still very early in its overall lifespan. It’s always possible that issues could develop as the distance climbs.
When buying, think of the road ahead and check for a service record that shows your prospective purchase has been properly maintained.
Servicing is the key to a long and reliable life for any car, but it’s even more important with today’s hi-tech cars that are being built to ever tighter tolerances.
Kia specifies service intervals of 12 months/ 15,000km, which is pretty much industry standard, but grizzled old-timers would insist that’s much too long and recommend intervals of 10,000km.
The good news is that all Kia engines since 2010 have cam timing chains rather than belts, so there’s no call for regular changes.
Mark Ball’s 2011 Sportage SLi diesel has done 54,000km, trouble-free. “It’s easy to drive and we like the comfort and the fuel economy,” he says. “We chose the diesel because we tow a caravan and it handles that with ease. Our only concerns are with the blind spots caused by the thick windscreen pillars and rear-view mirrors, and the brakes, which we had to replace at 53,000km.
David Anderson bought a 2010 Sportage Si 2.0-litre “after having such a good run out of our 2001 Rio, and we think it is a fantastic car”.
A 2012 model, Robert Rose’s Sportage has clocked 62,000km. “It has done a lot of towing, it’s been driven on bush roads going camping and it has been faultless,” he says.
Hard to fault. Should be high on SUV shopper’s lists.