The Sun (Malaysia)
Kia Sportage 2WD: Basic, but better
It may be more basic, but the new Kia Sportage 2WD is anything but dull
REGULAR readers will remember that we tested the thirdgeneration Kia Sportage 4WD crossover not too long ago. Though it has a few quirks, the premium-spec 4WD variant’s features list, practicality and surprising durability scored well during our test.
However, as more and more competitors compete in this segment, sometimes a much more ‘basic’ approach seems to work just as well. To fill this segment, Naza Kia Malaysia introduced the Kia Sportage 2WD, offering buyers a much more basic entry-level version of the crossover at a lower price tag as well.
Exterior-wise, there are little differences between this 2WD base model as compared to the face-lifted 4WD variant introduced last year. One hardly notices the smaller 17-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels as oppose to the premium variant’s 18-inch types, as well as the new bulb-type taillights replacing the premium variant’s LED-type units. There still Is LED lighting integrated with the headlamps up front, but they are mere guide lights now instead of daytime running lights. Overall though, these minute changes have done little to the Sportage’s stylish stance and attractive outlooks.
One only begins to feel this crossover’s ‘basic’ nature upon climbing aboard the Sportage 2WD’s cabin. Greeting occupants here are fabric-covered seats as opposed to leather. Also deleted here is the electric driver seat adjustment, as well as Kia’s nifty ‘Flex Steer’ variable steering weight adjustment. The Bluetooth media and hands-free connectivity feature is also gone, automatic dual-zone air conditioning is replaced with a regular manually operated unit, as well as the panoramic sunroof and instrument panel’s neat 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-info display in favour of a more basic dot-matrix display unit.
Despite having all the aforementioned premium features deleted, this entry-level crossover does not feel all that bad. It still has a crisp-sounding Infinity seven-speaker audio system, a 4.3-inch touchscreen infotainment screen with an integrated reverse camera, not to mention the cooled glovebox, electric folding mirrors, as well as cruise control. Minus the lack of Bluetooth connectivity, the standard features available in the base model are not too bad after all in our honest opinion.
The biggest difference can only be felt once you take the Sportage through its paces on the road. The Sportage 2WD still retains the same Nu 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-cam petrol engine with DCVVT variable valve timing, as is the six-speed automatic transmission. However, the 152hp and 191Nm of torque it develops are now powering the front wheels exclusively.
With that, plus the deletion of the extra components for the 4WD such as the transfer case, central differential, as well as the extra drive shaft, weight has been shed drastically, resulting in a much more refined driving experience. With this front-wheel-drive layout, the engine’s power delivery has improved with no signs of struggle whilst the transmission, which now undergoes less stress, also felt refined and smoother.
More importantly, this powertrain layout is also less taxing on fuel consumption when driven right, the 55-litre tank is able to provide a maximum range close to 450km – with efficient driving of course.
Despite being a high-riding crossover, the Kia Sportage 2WD’s handling abilities is still rather decent. The lightened weight does make it a little more nimble, but more importantly the suspension and damper settings remains just as comfortable as in the premium 4WD variant. Also a huge benefit is the crossover’s ground clearance, as well as the grip levels of the Kumho tyres all round, meaning conquering unpaved village roads or soft terrains is still possible.
While not as nimble as the brand’s Cerato saloon, the Sportage redeems itself by having a highly comfortable ride – something normally expected of any high-riding crossover indeed. Complementing that further is the respectable high noise-suppression levels, with road and wind noises becoming much more apparent only at speeds past 150km/h.
Crucially, the Sportage 2WD excels brilliantly as far as safety is concerned. It may be a mere ‘base’ model, but the presence of six airbags in the cabin, ISOFIX childseat anchors, all-round disc brakes with ABS, EBD, and BAS, both traction and electronic stability control (TCS and ESC), as well as Hill-Asist Control (HAC) and Downhill Brake Control (DBC) make it one of the most safest SUVs of its size available in the market currently. In short, this basic 2WD variant offers the same peace of mind offered by its more expensive and premium 4WD sibling.
Perhaps the icing on the cake for the Sportage 2WD comes down to its price. Unlike the premium 4WD variant, which starts at RM137,800 on-the-road with insurance, the more honest and basic Sportage 2WD is RM18,912 cheaper at RM118,888. Not just affordable, the inclusion of a fiveyear unlimited mileage warranty further adds to the Sportage 2WD’s value-for-money, and begs you to reconsider from choosing a smaller B-segment crossover that is only just a few thousand Ringgit cheaper.
Practical, decent, capable, not to mention safe, the Kia Sportage 2WD’s cause is hard to refute. If you are in the market for a decent family runabout, this is Kia is worth considering.