Kia’s Sportage is, possibly, the one vehicle from the Korean company, that exemplifies just how far they’ve come in a comparatively short space of time. The first Sportage was an average looking, average performing, plasticky mid sizer when released in 1993 and is now a great looking, sensationally performing, non plasticky mid sizer in 2014.
A Wheel Thing has been on the shortlist to review the Sportage and was eventually lobbed the keys to the diesel powered, mid range Kia Sportage SLi, clad in Kia’s “Sand Track” metallic paint. The question was, simply, is the Sportage worth the fuss or is it a middle bang theory?
As Tom Jones said, it’s not unusual. What he meant is that diesels have more torque than their petroleum powered siblings, with 392 torques on offer from the 2.0L diesel, as opposed to almost half that in the same sized petrol donk. It’s available between an immensely usable 1800 to 2500 revolutions per minute rather than 4000. What is unusual is the power; it’s 135 killerwatts at 4000 rpm, with the petrol throwing out 122 kW at 6200 revs.
Hooked up to the six speed auto (the only flavour available with the diesel), it means near perfect power availability, with the get up and go turning into a low revving grunt factor. The auto itself is seamless in its changing, smooth and rarely anything other than delicious. With a surprisingly hefty 1700 odd kilos to move, it’s disconcerting to see the speedo swing around so easily. Even with an AWD system (part time and lockable), it’ll cause the front tyres to scrabble for grip before hooking up and moving the bulk with alacrity.
The Sportage would have to be parked near a very angry mob to be described as anything other than a sweet looking beast. It’s an engaging mix of feminine curves at the rear and masculine edges at the front. By bringing in Peter Schreyer, a hugely respected designer, Kia’s identification of design as a core element in its future growth has come to fruition.
There’s the “tiger” grille, an instantly identifiable part of a Kia; a well proportioned look, a somewhat overthick rear pillar but it’s a harmonious presence none the less. It’s a comparatively compact design; at 4440mmlong it somehow packs a wheelbase of 2640 mm. It’s broad at 1855 mm and reasonably tall at 1640 mm, meaning there’s plenty of usable space inside (1353L, seats folded).
There’s stylish 17 inch alloys, clad with 225/60 rubber, pushed to each corner to help maximise internal space. The Sportage finishes with a bluff, truncated, upright tail that seems to work, rounded as it is against the angular front.
On The Inside.
Kia works to the “If it ain’t broke” philosophy; showing common DNA yet manages to make their cars individual. You’ll recognise design elements from the Sorento to Sportage to Rio to Cerato; it’s a smart commonality and looks great in the Sportage. The driver gets a chunky and comfortable steering wheel, classy but simple to use controls, clearly marked speedo and tacho dials framing a clear colour LCD screen.
A sweeping, curving dash houses vertically slatted aircon vents, a large touchscreen for navigation and audio (although Kia insists, like it’s cousin, Hyundai, in not providing Radio Data Service info) sitting above a somewhat awkwardly places aircon control panel, placed at an angle and recessed in, itself sitting above the Auxiliary and USB inputs that sit further back into the dash itself.
The gear lever is elegantly housed in a circular insert, just ahead of a grab handle and cupholders, centred between two cloth and leather seats. There’s a tasteful mix of black and a dull aluminuim look, providing a friendly contrast level. The rear has the now familiar 60/40 split fold setup plus cargo blind, providing 564L of cargo space with the seats up and 1353L folded flat.
On The Road.
The Sportage rolls on a 2640 mm wheelbase, with wheels varying between 16 inch diameter for the entry level Si, 17 inch for the Si Premium and SLi then 18 for the PLatinum. Tyres on the 17 inch are Hankook’s 225/60 and provide a good measure of grip. As a part time all wheel drive setup, drive is sent to the front wheels and to the rear on demand if the centre diff isn’t locked.
There’s some understeer, as a result, with the system powering the front through the turns. Handling, though, is instinctive, with cognitive thought put to one side as the Sportage feels more like a comfort oriented sports car, following directions, absorbing most bumps competently but does pogo and wallow through uneven surfaces.
The engine can be a light switch, if not driven with a practiced right foot; there’s nothing below 1800 revs then it kicks in like an electric shock, front tyres scrabbling and the gears punching through as the tacho swings around, drops and swings again. Acceleration is ferocious when asked, docile otherwise and a lovely, progressive brake system instills confidence.
The steering is light but doesn’t disassociate the driver from the road and there’s minimal roll when hustled. Safety wise the Sportage gets Downhill Brake Control across the range, as is Emergency Stop Signal, Hill start Assist Control, rear parking sensors and airbags all round. It’s a largely enjoyable, user friendly and family perfect package.
The Sportage SLi provided has a recommended retail of $37790.00 with metallic paint listed as a $520 option. For a family of four, it’s one of a few ideally sized and priced vehicles in the SUV style. Sure, there’s the Sorento but, for some, that may be too big, but then there’s the Cerato, leaving Sportage right in the middle and plenty of bang for the buck. The Sportage is compact, great value, nimble, comfortable, well featured and the diesel is both economical and a hoot to drive.
Although Kia lacks a station wagon option, the Sportage is the next best thing. Throw in Kia’s new seven year warranty and it’s a package that’s near nigh unstoppable.
For details: http://www.kia.com.au/cars/suvs/sportage/5-seats
For A Wheel Thing TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZjK4MkdDEE&feature=em-upload_owner
Kia Sportage SLi AWD @ $37790.00 + ORCs and options.
Claimed Consumption: 7.2L/9.1L/6.1L per 100 km (combined/urban/highway).
Transmission: six speed automatic with sports mode.
Dimensions: 4440 mm x 1855 mm x 1640 mm (L x W x H)
Wheelbase: 2640 mm.
Cargo: 564L/1353L (seats up/down).
Wheels: 225/60 R17.
Towing: 1600 kg braked.