Apart from its value-for-money pitch there wasn’t anything special about the Sportage when it first landed here in 1996 — it was the SUV you bought because you couldn’t afford anything better. It has since come on in leaps and bounds.
In 2010 Kia launched the SL model, a major leap forward as it was longer, wider and lower than the outgoing KM series. Fresh and contemporary looks made the SL an altogether more appealing vehicle.
There were three models in the range, which started with the front-wheel drive Si, above which were the all-wheel-drive SLi and top-line Platinum.
The Si came with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which had to work hard to keep the wagon on the pace.
If you chose the SLi or Platinum, the engine options were still four-cylinders — a 2.4-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel. With more grunt than the engine in the Si, the 2.4 was much more capable. The turbo diesel provided an attractive blend of economy and performance.
For transmissions, the Si had a five-speed manual as standard and an optional six-speed auto. Buyers of the SLi or Platinum got the self-shifter.
The all-wheel-drive fitted to the SLi and Platinum was an on-demand setup. It operated in front-drive in most situations but if conditions called for it up to 40 per cent of the drive could be directed to the rear wheels.
On the road the Sportage was stable and assured thanks to unique tuning of its suspension and steering to suit Australian roads.
Kia updated the Sportage in 2013 when it released the Series II. There were a few changes, mostly cosmetic, the main one being the 2.4-litre petrol engine was dropped and the 2.0-litre became the sole petrol option.
It wasn’t unusual to hear owners complaining about the quality and reliability of their Kia cars in the early days of the brand here, but it is today.
Few people have anything but high praise for their cars; those who do complain usually only have very minor issues to report.
While build quality is impressive no car is immune to problems and Kia recalled the SL series in January 2014 to rectify a problem with the tensioning cable in the seat belt pre-tensioners. It was feared the cable could break when deployed and not be able to fully restrain the occupant in the event of a crash. The recall affected just over 2900 vehicles built between August 2011 and March 2012.
The recommended service intervals are 12 months/ 15,000km and it’s important that the servicing is done as Kia recommends. With that in mind check for a service record that shows the car of your choice has been properly maintained.
Check for underbody scrapes from off-road work. The Sportage is reasonably capable off the black top but it’s not a bush-basher and any vehicle that has been used hard off-road should be rejected.
My 2014 Platinum turbo diesel has clocked only 8000km but there have been no issues whatsoever to date. It has good performance if you want to go hard and the driveability offers acceptable comfort. I use the full 4WD lock when it is wet and slippery and it easily tows a loaded trailer to the tip. Fuel use is 9.5L/100km in city driving but low 7s on the highway. Best city performance comes by using the manual gearshift as sixth gear seems too high for anything other than highway speeds. My only complaint is that there are not enough pockets and places to store bits and pieces. As well, these newer vehicles do not have the more convenient six-stacker CD or tape players. As I am over 60, the height of entry and exit suits me better. This is an excellent high quality medium SUV with paint, leather and general finishes without blemish.
My 2011 Platinum AWD diesel is without doubt the best car I have owned. The engine is as smooth as silk and the pulling power is fantastic. There have been no warranty issues in 60,000km. Dealer servicing was starting to get expensive, but Kia now offer fixed-price servicing which has evened out the cost. For me it’s reliable, low cost motoring.
My 2012 Platinum diesel has covered 62,000km and the only problem has been the failure of the satnav. A new device has been installed with no further problems. I am extremely happy with it and the service I’ve received. My best fuel consumption is 4.7L/100km. With only a 50L tank, I’ve driven from Melbourne to Bowral, NSW without stopping for fuel. It has power to burn for overtaking, hills, loads etc. The original brake pads are not 50 per cent worn yet, same with the rotors. The chilled glove compartment is a ripper for keeping drinks cold. I do take it on fire trails etc and have had it balancing on opposite wheels — two wheels completely off the ground — and still been able to drive forward and backwards to extricate myself.
I looked at all the SUVs in this class and none stacked up against the diesel auto Platinum. It has all the features I want, the motor is strong, it tows my tinnie easily, and the fuel economy is good. I’m glad I bought it.
I’m in my 70s and wanted a car that was easy Do you own or have you owned a Ford FG Falcon XR6? Share your experience with other Carsguide readers by sending your comments to Graham Smith at [email protected]pond .com or write to Carsguide, PO Box 4245, Sydney, NSW 2010 to get in and out of, had good economy, was powerful, reliable, comfortable, and reasonable to look at. The Sportage ticked all of those boxes, and then some.
Highly acclaimed by owners for reliability, driveability, fuelefficiency, comfort and looks.