Kia moves up­wards but so does the price

New Sportage can com­pete with the best of them but it comes at a hefty premium

The Star Early Edition - - MOTORING - JESSE ADAMS

IF KIA crossovers are still fly­ing un­der your radar, the new Sportage could be the ve­hi­cle to change that. While the pre­vi­ous ver­sion launched in 2010 had al­ready made strides in both qual­ity and style de­part­ments over its rather dumpy pre­de­ces­sor, and was in­deed a ma­jor player in the highly com­pet­i­tive small SUV seg­ment, the new fourth-gen­er­a­tion model has moved the game even fur­ther, adding a healthy dose of tech to the mix – es­pe­cially in higher spec ver­sions like the flag­ship GT-Line on test here.

Of course, all the new glitz, glam­our and flashy ex­tras have had an ef­fect on pric­ing too, with this ver­sion com­ing in at just five bucks un­der the R600 000 mark. Ex­cept for the fan­ci­est Honda CR-V, the Sportage GT-Line is the most ex­pen­sive in its class, out-pric­ing any Kuga, Qashqai, RAV4, or Tiguan. It’s even 80 grand dearer than the prici­est Hyundai Tuc­son 4WD Elite – a ve­hi­cle it shares its plat­form, driv­e­train and many fea­tures with.

Up front is a 1.6 tur­bopetrol en­gine with 130kW and 265Nm, and though it’s shy of the 150kW Veloster Turbo with a nearly iden­ti­cal en­gine, it’s peppy enough to run with its most pow­er­ful ri­vals. Kia claims a rel­a­tively quick 9.1 sec­onds for 0-100 and a top speed of 201km/h. It’s a fairly re­fined unit with min­i­mal lag at low revs, and is a quiet revver up un­til the 5000rpm mark when it starts to sound a bit huffy, puffy and over­worked.

Dual-clutch gear­box tech­nol­ogy is a wel­come ad­di­tion to Korean sis­ter brands Kia and Hyundai, and for the most part the new seven-speeder used here per­forms well. Shifts are smooth un­der reg­u­lar con­di­tions and ra­tios are nicely spaced, but it is in­de­ci­sive at times. Sud­den throt­tle in­puts can some­times catch the trans­mis­sion off guard with stut­tery up-and-down changes un­til it finds a gear its happy with. If VW’s DSGs are 10s, this scores a solid eight. It’s darn good but not the best.

All-wheel-drive is a nice in­clu­sion, and can come in handy for some mild ad­ven­tur­ing, but it’s still a rather ba­sic sys­tem geared more to­ward peace of mind in crummy weather than gen­uine of­froad­ing. As usual it’s a front bi­ased driv­e­train in most sit­u­a­tions with the abil­ity to send some power rear­ward for added trac­tion in slip­pery con­di­tions. There’s also a se­lectable hill de­scent con­trol sys­tem and lock­able cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial which works at slow speeds only.

The new Sportage is longer than the pre­vi­ous model with some of the ex­tra length stitched into the wheel­base. This not only makes the in­te­rior more spa­cious, but also helps with im­proved ride qual­ity. My time with the GT-Line saw all types of roads and it’s as rock steady on fast free­ways as it is on loose gravel. An in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion soaks up rough sur­faces very well, and even with the low­est pos­si­ble pro­file 19-inch tyres the ride is­sorted.

The GT-Line’s over­flow­ing with gadgets and on top of the usual cruise con­trol, park­ing sen­sors, electric tail­gate, steer­ing con­trols, key­less en­try and rain-sens­ing wipers, there are also some un­ex­pected niceties like cooled (and heated) seats and a wire­less phone charg­ing pad.

Safety is cov­ered with six airbags, ABS with EBD brakes and blind spot monitors in the mir­rors, but it was the rear cross traf­fic alert that saved my ba­con when I nearly re­versed into the path of a speedy GTI af­ter a Christmas shop­ping ex­pe­di­tion at the mall.

At the new Sportage’s me­dia launch last year the folks at Kia were mighty proud that colour touch­screens with nav­i­ga­tion are now on their menu, and right­fully so con­sid­er­ing they’re avail­able in even the most ba­sic bud­get hatches to­day. Kia’s 7-inch unit is slick in op­er­a­tion, and its lay­ers of menus are easy to un­der­stand but it’s not with­out some flaws. It takes a good few sec­onds to boot up af­ter each startup, and agree­ing to its safety dis­clo­sure ev­ery time is an an­noy­ance. You’ll also need to man­u­ally se­lect paired Blue­tooth de­vices ev­ery time, as it frus­trat­ingly de­faults to ra­dio, and its colour func­tion­al­ity is wasted with black and white dis­plays in au­dio modes.

The cabin’s a classy place with loads of black sur­faces in shiny, matte, tex­tured and pretty much ev­ery other imag­in­able fin­ish. Our test car came with op­tional twotone black and grey leather up­hol­stery, but I’d ad­vise stick­ing with all black if kids and/or dogs are reg­u­lar pas­sen­gers. It’s also cheaper and, in my opin­ion, a bit more el­e­gant in ap­pear­ance. Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6 turbo, 130kW/265Nm 7-speed auto, AWD - R599 995 Ford Kuga Ti­ta­nium 2.0 turbo, 177kW/340Nm 6-speed auto, AWD - R507 900 Honda CR-V Ex­clu­sive 2.4, 140kW/240Nm 5-speed auto, AWD - R608 400 Hyundai Tuc­son Elite 1.6 turbo, 130kW/265Nm 7-speed auto, AWD - R519 900 Nis­san Qashqai Acenta 1.6, 120kW/240Nm 6-speed man­ual, FWD - R421 900 Toy­ota Rav4 VX 2.5, 132kW/233Nm 6-speed auto, AWD - R515 600 VW Tiguan High­line R-Line 2.0 turbo, 162kW/350Nm 7-speed auto, AWD R560 200

Sportage is an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion in the com­pact SUV class. Our test car was the blinged-up GT line model.

Power by was pro­vided by a 1.6-litre tur­bopetrol de­vel­op­ing 135kW and 285Nm. Wheels are 19-inch al­loys.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.