Be a Sport! – Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage

Indwe - - Contents - Text: Bernard K Hell­berg Im­ages © Kia SA

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.

IM­PRES­SIVE RANGE

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.

DE­LIGHT­FUL IN­TE­RI­ORS

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.

EN­GINES

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.

FI­NAL SAY

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.

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