Driveway Bases are covered
KIA’S fourth generation Sportage, launched in 2016, has just had a “product enhancement” to keep it, so says the press blurb, “fresh and relevant”.
That’s code for “the competition has lifted its game, so we have to respond”.
Kia has now made autonomous emergency braking, previously available only on the top spec GT Line, standard across the Sportage range.
There’s a catch; it works only from 10-80km/h.
Lane keep assist, which gives you audible and visual warnings if you stray on to the lane markings, and gently prods the steering back towards the centre of the lane, is also standard.
At base model 2.0-litre petrol Si level, Sportage still falls short of rival Mazda’s standard safety spec in the CX-5 Maxx.
As with parent brand Hyundai, Kia’s infotainment is designed to work with your smartphone via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Only with these do you get voice control functionality.
Other updates include an eight-speed automatic for 2.0-litre turbo diesel versions, tweaked suspension to improve ride comfort, more progressive steering, LED headlights on the GT Line, dual-zone aircon and the obligatory nose job/ tail-lights/alloy wheels cosmetic trifecta.
The Si, tested here, carries over the 114kW 2.0litre petrol engine with sixspeed auto and front-wheel drive.
The Sportage’s ride/ handling compromise is one of the best in the class.
By class standards, the ride remains firm but comfortable and absorbent on all surfaces, and wind and road noise levels are low.
On the road, the Si puts in an impressive performance for a base model.
Proof that low power and torque numbers don’t always mean slow progress, the 2.0-litre/auto combination is surprisingly nippy and there is quite strong pulling power lower in the rev range.
It’s also smoother and quieter than your typical four-cylinder and the sixspeed auto works with unobtrusive efficiency.
At speed, the Sportage has a tight, tidy Euro SUV feel thanks to suspension tuning from local engineers who know how to do decent handling. At base model front wheel drive level, the Sportage punches on par with more expensive machinery.
Verdict: Two years after launch, the Sportage is still competitive.It’s one of the better base model drives and, if you’re shopping in this class with a $30K budget, the Si delivers solid value and grieffree, low-cost ownership.