VALUE IS ITS VIRTUE
The Sportage update brings expected tweaks … and prices worth exploring
Here’s how fast the competition is moving in Australia’s booming SUV segment. The Kia Sportage has just had a major makeover — even though the styling changes are subtle — and it’s barely two years old.
Among the updates are added safety technology that can prevent a crash, such as autonomous emergency braking and lanekeeping assistance, and high-resolution touchscreens across the range.
To better handle bumps and bends, the suspension and steering have been given a tune-up.
And top of the range versions gain luxurycar tech such as radar cruise control, LED headlights, electric park brake and premium audio with digital radio, among other mod-cons.
Beyond these, the most important thing to know for those in the market to buy one is how to dissect the pricing so you don’t pay too much.
In the case of the model year 2019 Sportage, only the Si-Premium, the most popular grade, comes with a permanent drive-away discount on Kia’s website.
Car brands must publish drive-away prices. Some are discounted heavily, a little or not at all.
Car companies are no longer allowed to advertise only the recommended retail price (RRP) because it can be misleading — adding registration and dealer delivery fees increases the final drive-away price.
The deal on the Si-Premium works like this: the recommended retail is $32,290 plus on-road costs, so full price should be $34,990 drive-away or more. However, Kia has listed it online at $31,990 drive-away from the get-go.
Confusingly, other grades of the Sportage don’t automatically get the same discount. The flagship diesel, with RRP of $47,690, increases to $50,500 or more drive-away.
We asked Kia Australia executives whether it was fair for customers to aim for the RRP as a drive-away price on other Sportage model grades. The answer: yes.
Why aren’t all Sportages listed with a sharp drive-away deal on the “build and price” online calculator? To give Kia an opportunity to squeeze a little more profit out of the other grades, a tactic used by other brands.
If this explanation seems convoluted, it’s for a good reason: the $3000-odd difference between the full retail and the likely transaction price significantly affects the value equation.
At full freight, the Sportage is on par with rivals. At the price that customers in the know will end up paying, it’s one of the bargains in the segment.
ON THE ROAD
The changes to the suspension and steering are subtle but worthwhile. On winding country roads, it feels more secure in corners and better composed over bumps.
Around town, it feels middle-of-the-road to drive. It’s not outstanding but nor is it at the bottom of the class. Most buyers will get in and feel at home. If we were picky, I’d say the steering still could do with a little more finessing than has been done with this update.
I’d also encourage Kia to ask head office to not send Nexen tyres our way. We know this Sportage and its peers aren’t trying to handle like a Ferrari but, in relative terms, the Nexens are OK in the dry and not-so-great in the wet.
Other examples of this type of Nexen tyre we’ve tested in the wet feel far less grippy than they ought to.
The Sportage also comes with Kumho or Hankook tyres, which are much more surefooted in the wet or dry. However, it’s a lottery as to what brand your car is delivered with.
The petrol 2.0-litre (114kW/192Nm) frontdrive and 2.4-litre (137kW/237Nm) all-wheel drive carry over with smooth-shifting six-speed automatics.
The 2.0 turbo diesel (136kW/400Nm) with all-wheel drive, which accounts for one-third of sales, gets a performance and economy boost with an eight-speed auto.
The diesel itself is still relatively noisy, as diesels customarily are, but it has plenty of oomph at low speeds and delivers super-frugal economy on the freeway.
The all-wheel drive versions of the Sportage — petrol or diesel — would suit those who cover dirt trails or make regular visits to the snow.
However, for mainly city and suburban driving, a 2.0 front-driver has the advantage of sharper starting prices — and running costs that won’t break the bank.
The updated Sportage would make my top three (of 24) if shopping for a mid-size SUV.