Pre­dictabil­ity not al­ways a bad thing

Truro Daily News - - SALTWIRE WHEELS - SAB­RINA GIACOMINI WHEELS

My very first con­tact with the Sportage was back in 2012. I spent a week in the pas­sen­ger seat ex­plor­ing New­found­land dur­ing the Targa New­found­land Rally.

Kia had two par­tic­i­pat­ing cars in the rally that year, in­clud­ing one driven by a team of col­leagues who en­rolled me for pho­tog­ra­phy and so­cial me­dia.

At the time, the Sportage was an ex­cel­lent choice for the trip: it pro­vided space for some of the gear and lug­gage of our teams and was com­fort­able enough to go for hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres ev­ery day with­out hav­ing to stop at the gas sta­tion ev­ery se­cond hour.

It was the dawn of the reign of the com­pact SUVS and, al­ready, the Sportage had proven its value, its util­ity, and its versatilit­y in a rather de­mand­ing con­text.

Fast for­ward seven years and not much has changed. Of course, Kia has been hard at work to keep the model up to date and cur­rent, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a new gen­er­a­tion in 2015.

For the 2020 model-year, the ve­hi­cle was re­freshed and re­ceived a new de­sign, trad­ing the al­mond-shaped head­lights for big­ger and shapely light­ing units as well as a mod­ern­ized tiger-nose grille.

Also new for this year is the ad­di­tion of a few, now stan­dard fea­tures, namely an eight-inch dis­play as well as Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity. On higher trim lev­els, new safety fea­tures have been added as well, which in­clude lane-keep­ing as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol, emer­gency brak­ing as­sist, and such. Noth­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary, but a few wel­come ad­di­tions that help in­crease the model’s so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

Now, I’ll be blunt. The Sportage is far from be­ing a mem­o­rable ve­hi­cle, but for what it is sup­posed to do, it does very well. Sim­ply put, the Sportage has been de­signed to take you where you need to be with as lit­tle in­con­ve­nience as pos­si­ble and it per­fectly ful­fills its mis­sion.

The cabin of the ve­hi­cle is open, wel­com­ing, and com­fort­able. I even tested fit­ting my long legs at the back and I sat be­hind the driver’s seat with room to spare. The cargo area is spa­cious and prac­ti­cal as well — the “full Costco run” type of spa­cious. If you can’t make it fit, you’re do­ing it wrong.

While there’s noth­ing in­her­ently ex­cit­ing about the Kia, there’s also noth­ing wrong with it. The ride is com­fort­able and the cabin well in­su­lated from ex­te­rior and road noises. A strength of the Kore­ans is to take cheaper ma­te­ri­als and en­hance them in a way that makes them look and feel more pre­mium and the Sportage is no ex­cep­tion. While there’s an abun­dance of hard plastics, matte fin­ishes and tex­tures cre­ated a more el­e­vated look.

At the cen­tre of the dash­board, an eight-inch touch­screen gives ac­cess to a stan­dard menu of func­tion­al­i­ties in­clud­ing satel­lite ra­dio, Blue­tooth pair­ing and stream­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, and such. The EX trim level I drove was also equipped with a wire­less charg­ing pad which dou­bles as a prac­ti­cal com­part­ment to store your smart­phone.

The com­pact SUV uses a 2.4-litre, four-cylin­der en­gine that pro­duces 181 horse­power and 175 lb.-ft. of torque, power fig­ures that po­si­tion the model in a com­fort­able mid­dle-ground within its seg­ment. The block is mated to a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. In ad­di­tion, the Sportage is equipped with the all­wheel-drive sys­tem.

While the pow­er­train works well for the size of the ve­hi­cle, there is one thing you shouldn’t ex­pect from the Sportage and that’s fuel econ­omy. I’m not a hy­per­miler by any means. On the con­trary, I would even say I’m a lit­tle heavy on the ac­cel­er­a­tor which tends to give me higher con­sump­tion num­bers. But at close to 12.0L/100km, lead foot or not, this re­mains a high num­ber con­sid­er­ing the size of the ve­hi­cle. Most of that mileage was clocked in the city and in rush hour sit­u­a­tions.

Granted, there are drive modes (Eco, Nor­mal, and Sport). I pos­si­bly could have ended the week with a lower num­ber had I stayed in Eco mode but, to be frank, it makes the ve­hi­cle un­driv­able. While the Sportage isn’t meant to be a beast of per­for­mance, some­times get­ting de­cent ac­cel­er­a­tion can be cru­cial — I call that “get out of the way” power. I know the Eco mode is de­signed to help im­prove fuel econ­omy, but it’s so in­va­sive and it makes the ve­hi­cle (too) slug­gish and the ac­cel­er­a­tions slow and un­re­spon­sive. So I left the se­lec­tor in Nor­mal mode and went with it.

The han­dling is smooth and what I usu­ally re­fer to as “pre­dictable” — the model han­dles ex­actly the way you ex­pect most com­pact SUVS to han­dle. Not com­pletely dis­con­nected from the road like big­ger or pre­mium ve­hi­cles, but def­i­nitely not as ner­vous or re­spon­sive as com­pacts or sedans.

One thing I didn’t ex­pect, how­ever, is how well the Sportage cor­ners. I al­ways make it a mis­sion of mine to take a few curves with en­thu­si­asm to test the body and the sus­pen­sion’s re­sponse (also a lit­tle bit be­cause I have fun do­ing so).

Holy smokes, I did not ex­pect the Kia to han­dle this well; the body roll was a lot less no­tice­able than I an­tic­i­pated and it rocked from left to right sure­footed and con­fi­dent.

Bravo, Kia, that was a nice sur­prise.

The model has a lot to of­fer at a price point that’s more ap­peal­ing than most of its com­peti­tors, which is its big­gest sell­ing point in my opin­ion. The Sportage comes in at around $2,000 be­low most of the other com­pact SUVS on the mar­ket with a start­ing price of $25,795 for the en­trylevel.

That and the fact that Kia en­joys an over­all good rep­u­ta­tion when it comes to reli­a­bil­ity.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

2020 KIA Sportage EX Pre­mium.

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