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Driven: Kia’s suave Sportage SUV

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

YES, it is that good. The medium SUV is a sharply de­signed prod­uct with the back­ing of the in­dus­try’s best new car war­ranty.

The Sportage is at the fore­front of the brand’s surge with sales of the medium SUV up more than 40 per cent yearon-year and the mar­que’s sec­ond best seller af­ter the Cer­ato.

The base model front drive only 2.0-litre Si petrol is $29,990 on the road while the re­view ve­hi­cle with all the bells and whis­tles, the 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel Plat­inum GT Line, is $49,990.

There is a huge price dif­fer­ence be­tween the en­try level and the top of the range, but the Plat­inum is a classy and qual­ity ve­hi­cle.

DE­TAIL­ING

The Sportage is among the slick­est medium-sized SUVs with con­cept car-like 19in rims, a body kit, black­ened ex­te­rior and the cool head­light ar­range­ments, in­clud­ing ice cube day­time run­ning lamps, giv­ing it an up-mar­ket pres­ence.

Kia has adopted the same front-end ar­range­ment across most of its range, with the large, key­hole-style grille a dis­tinc­tive fea­ture.

In­side, the Sportage is quite dark through­out, thanks mainly to its GT Line sta­tus.

Dif­fer­ent shades of grey and black dom­i­nate with a lighter roof adding some brighter con­trast.

At least in this top-spec ver­sion, in terms of prac­ti­cal­ity the Sportage is per­fect in a lot of ways. It has loads of fea­tures that will be used ev­ery day and man­ages to avoid the ma­jor­ity of fid­dly ex­tras that won’t be used all that often.

It has a wire­less charg­ing pad for smart­phones.

The mul­ti­me­dia screen is small, but high qual­ity, and can be con­trolled ei­ther by a touch

or a clear, con­cise and easy-to­op­er­ate line of but­tons on the cen­tre con­sole.

A pair of tra­di­tional ana­log in­stru­ments flank a wide dig­i­tal screen in the cen­tre of the dash.

Stor­age is plen­ti­ful and clever with­out go­ing over the top.

There are two cuphold­ers line astern in the cen­tre con­sole, space for larger bot­tles in all four doors, as well as a pair of slightly un­der­sized cup hold­ers in the rear cen­tre arm­rest.

It’s well-equipped with leather trimmed seats, 19in al­loys, auto emer­gency brak­ing, lane de­par­ture, au­to­matic tail­gate, key­less en­try, auto lights and wipers, LED lights and fog lamps, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, vented and heated pow­ered seats, and park­ing as­sist.

The AWD ver­sion of the Sportage gets a six speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, as well as a re­mote but­ton to lock the cen­tre diff, while a ‘Drive Se­lect’ switch al­lows for Eco and Sport modes for gear­box and throt­tle.

DRIV­ING

The Sportage is easy to drive, even with the ad­di­tion of the heav­ier AWD/diesel driv­e­train.

It’s also quiet, but the larger, wider, lower pro­file tyres, trans­mit road noise on coarse bi­tu­men.

The lit­tle diesel is lively and, while there is a bit of gruff­ness at start-up, it quickly fades when the car is up to speed, es­pe­cially when cruis­ing at 100km/h

The steer­ing is not too light and will vary with speed. It’s also got a sur­pris­ing amount of feel for such a small, high-rid­ing ve­hi­cle. The six-speeder can also be con­trolled via pad­dles.

The com­mon rail di­rect in­jec­tion 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is a will­ing per­former with ex­cel­lent man­ners.

Max­i­mum power of 136kW ar­rives at 4000rpm, while its 400Nm of torque is avail­able from as low as 1750rpm.

Kia claims a com­bined fuel econ­omy fig­ure of 6.8 litres per 100km. I saw a best of 7.3L/100km over 350km. The 62-litre diesel tank gives a the­o­ret­i­cal range of 795km.

Kia’s seven-year/un­lim­ited km war­ranty in­cludes road­side as­sist and a free first ser­vice at three months.

DE­CID­ING

Cheap and cheer­ful doesn’t cut it for Kia any­more.

The Sportage Plat­inum GT Line is well-re­solved, well­pack­aged and thor­oughly en­joy­able.

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