Kia’s Sportage is a car that has been with us for over twenty years. Yes, hard to believe. Alweays a solid performer for the Korean company, it’s recently had a makeover, both inside and out and it’s part of Kia’s continued push to be a brand that is consistently best in class. A Wheel Thing takes on the Kia Sportage S with petrol engine to find out if that’s the case.The reskin has given the Sportage’s rear a nip’n’tuck for the tail lights, however it’s a full on rhinoplasty at the front. The nose is more upright, the headlghts are laid back further into the top of the guards, and the “tiger nose” grille is much larger. It’s not a design that sits well with some, but you don’t drive a car sitting outside. What you do get inside the Sportage is a revamped interior.And what an interior it is; leather look stitched material covering the dash, higher quality look and feel to the plastics and trim (silver metallic panelling in the console and vent trim), a softer touch to the console tabs, and a redesign for the touchscreen. There’s a leather look to the manually operated seats, with cloth inserts for the S, plenty of cargo space (466/1455 litres, seats up/folded), full sized spare, twin 12V sockets for the rear seat passengers, Bluetooth, and driver’s window auto up/down. If there’s a quibble, it’s the A pillar mounted tweeters for the sound system fire straight across the front window, rather than at an angle suitable for the front seats.The Si rolls on a 2670 mm wheelbase and comes shod with 225/60/17 Hankook Kinergy GT rubber wrapping ten spoke alloys. It’s a compact design, with an overall length of just 4480 mm. Standing 1645 mm tall (sans roof rails) and 1855 mm in width, it offers up plenty of room inside the 1500 kg frame.Up front it’s a surprisingly zippy 2.0L petrol engine, with a six speed auto as standard. Peak power and twist are a leisurely 114 kilowatts (6200 rpm) and 192 torques (4000 revs). The Si is 2WD, through the front wheels, sipping from a 62 litre tank. Kia quotes 10.9 L/100 km for the urban cycle which drops to 6.1 L/100 km for the highway. A Wheel Thing ended with an average of 8.2L/100, just over Kia’s figure for a combined cycle of 7.9L/100 km.Although it’s a high revver, like all smallish petrol engines, there’s enough torque below the peak figure to see the tacho swing round nicely when pushed, providing a seat of the pants feeling of briskness. The transmission is a gem, barely notceable in the change under all driving situations, with the flicker of the tacho needle in normal driving about the only indication of a change. There’s a slight improvement in smoothness using the manual shift option but, really, not enough to give it more than a passing thought.Drivewise, the surprise continues, with that 192 Nm seemingly delivered a lot lower. There’s enough urge to chirp the front tyres on dry tarmac, with some hint of torque steer, yet is quickly controlled with a slight lift off. What’s impressive is the lack of intrusion from the traction control, allowing the Si to show some verve and character.The ride quality shows off the engineering work the Korean company does with the Australian arm; across all surfaces it’s smooth, plush, compliant, grippy. The revamped damper and rerated suspension work a treat, with the sharper edged metal speed bumps in shopping centres flattened out, undulations ignored and the usual irregularities dispatched with ease. It’s quiet, too, with road and wind noise failing to invade the cabin, allowing the occupants a normal level of conversation.As always, there’s Kia’s fixed priced service and seven year warranty. There’s, in the Si, Downhill Brake Control, Hill Start Assist, the Euro style Emergency Stop Signal, rear (but no front) parking sensors, reverse camera with parking guidelines, but misses out of Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning System.
At The End Of The Drive.
Priced from just under $32800, the S is good value but needs to be seen against its sibling, the Hyundai Tucson, plus Mitsubishi’s aging ASX, Holden’s Captiva and Ford’s Kuga, plus Toyota’s RAV4 and Mazda’s CX5 for value. It’s certainly more than worthy of consideration against Toyota’s evergreen RAV4 and Mazda’s more recent challenger. Where it does well is in the cabin ambience, the ride and build quality, but not quite so in around town fuel economy and the exterior looks are subjective.
Click here:2016 Kia Sportage range for info about the new entry from Kia into the mid sized SUV sector.