Be a Sport! – Kia Sportage
Taking full advantage of the swing towards SUVs in general, and mid-sized ones in particular, Kia South Africa recently impressed with the introduction of seven new derivatives of the increasingly popular and dramatically attractive Kia Sportage. The launch also saw the introduction of a 1.7-litre turbo diesel which, while only producing a fairly modest 85 kW, adds an impressive 280 Nm of torque for some real pulling power.
Kia’s strategy cleverly seems to indicate that there should be a Kia Sportage for every taste and budget. Starting with a 2-litre manual petrol version at R370,000, many buyers will be tempted to pay an additional R13,000 for the joy of an automatic gearbox.
The 2-litre petrol models (all four of them) are followed by the sole 1.7-litre turbo diesel, which only comes in manual transmission mode, and will be available at R407,000.
Still staying with 2-litre petrol versions, but now with several enhancements under the EX banner, there’s an automatic at R430,000 and another automatic version, described as the EX PLUS, at a further R460,000. These versions are followed by two 2-litre turbo diesels, the automatic CRDI EX at R488,000, and the PLUS version at R518,000.
The last three models in the line-up have been around for a while, and consist of the 2.4 SX AWD automatic at R558,900, the 2-litre turbo diesel SX AWD automatic at R568,000, and the stunning 1.6-litre turbo GDI GT Line AWD with the equally impressive DCT gearbox at R600,000.
BOLD NEW DESIGN
The fourth generation Sportage features an even bolder new look courtesy of KIA’s European design studio in Frankfurt, as well as input provided by other design centres in Namyang, Korea, as well as Irvine, California. Visually, the Sportage, extended in length by 40 mm, appears larger than it really is, with higher headlamps and a lower, wider grille. The GT Line models are visually recognisable by their “Ice Cube” LED fog lamps, while the rear end had also received some attention with a smoother tailgate to emphasise width and give the car a more stable appearance.
There was a time when Kia interiors did not emit the delightful aroma of high grade leather. Rather, it was the bothersome acidic smell of cheap plastic, which I found offensive. The new interior, with its high-quality cloth or leather (depending on model), is now a pleasant environment with a wide, driver-oriented dashboard, blending metal with soft-touch materials for the kind of perfect fit expected of a quality vehicle.
Below the display zone is a control zone which is tilted 10 degrees towards the driver for safe operation, even while on the move. Buyers choosing a GT Line model may also specify sporty add-ons such as a D-shaped steering wheel, highquality piano-black fascia and aluminium alloy pedals.
Any interior, however, should be way more than shiny and pretty, and should place the focus on passenger comfort. This the Sportage does with well-shaped seats and decent legroom which, while adequate in the past, now adds another 19 mm for that elusive “limo” feel. The rear seats may be reclined from 23 to 37 degrees for even greater comfort, especially on long-distance trips. Thanks to good design thinking the adjusting levers are now located lower down, enabling adjustment while the doors are closed and the vehicle moving.
The base engine, the reliable 2-litre petrol version, is completely adequate for most buyers, and makes 114 kW and 192 Nm of torque. Despite being a carry-over from the third generation, this four-cylinder now has variable valve timing, and a lighter, all-aluminium block, as well as improved injectors for better fuel economy.
The 2-litre turbo diesel (my personal favourite) is a real powerhouse with 130 kW and 400 Nm of torque – outputs which should make towing a horsebox or a ski-boat while driving through the front wheels a real pleasure.
The 2.4 petrol direct petrol injection engine is new and does duty in the EX AWD model. It produces 135 kW and 237 Nm which, with a six-speed automatic gearbox, turns this model into a longdistance tourer as well as a competent suburban all-rounder.
The other engines – the 1.7-litre turbodiesel and the advanced 1.6-litre GT Line petrol version – are all technologically advanced and provide customers with a wide choice. Some would say too wide perhaps, though.
It’s tough out there in what is, arguably, the most competitive market segment. This is the world in which Hyundai’s Tucson plays, where Volkswagen’s superb Tiguan is right at home, while Mitsubishi’s ASX may also be considered. Nissan’s two offerings, X-Trail and Qashqai, may also be regarded as potential rivals, albeit somewhat smaller than the Sportage. Selling some 70 units each month, though, the Kia Sportage is an excellent choice and worthy of consideration as a brilliant and reliable all-rounder amongst this selection of popular SUVs.