Car Review: 2017 Kia Sportage Si Premium.

Kia’s Sportage is one of the brands oldest nameplates for the Australian market. From its somewhat rough and ready, if competent, beginnings in the 1990s, it’s morphed into a handsome, bluff nosed, popular machine in the mid sized SUV market.
Available in 2017 as a four trim level range, covering Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line (formerly Platinum), there’s three engines, one transmission, and two or part time all wheel drive options. A Wheel Thing takes the entry level but one 2017 Kia Si Premium front wheel drive home for the week. The cost is $31510 with premium paint (a grey hued colour called Mineral Silver) at $520.Sportage comes with a choice of 2.0L petrol, 2.4L petrol, or 2.0L diesel. Power outputs for the diesel and bigger petrol are just a kilowatt apart, at 136 kW and 135 kW respectively. The Si and Si Premium has the 114 kW 2.0L four (plus the diesel is an option for the Si). Torque wise it’s a steady climb, from 192 Nm, 237 Nm (both at 4000 rpm) and a handy 400 Nm (1750 – 2750 rpm) for the oiler. For the Si, Kia says economy is 10.9L/7.9L/6.1L (per 100 kilometres, urban/combined/highway) from the 62 litre tank. A Wheel Thing’s final figure was 8.4L of unleaded per 100 kilometres in a mainly urban environment. Sizewise it’s well situated in the mid sized SUV bracket, with length at 4480 mm, overall width of 1855 mm, a wheelbase of 2670 mm and a ride height of 172 mm. Spare wheel is a full sized alloy.The sole transmission available is a six speed auto. There’s no paddle shifts available in the Si or Si Premium however there’s the now almost mandatory Sports shift or manual selection via the gear lever. For the most part it’s smooth enough but did exhibit occasional jerkiness and indecision. The auto would also downshift, from sixth to fifth and sometimes fourth under light throttle on slight slopes. On bigger slopes such as the Great Western Highway’s climb up from the river plain, it’s expected it would drop back, and did so easily, plus would hold that gear with only the throttle responsible for rev changes. In normal driving upshifts were slick, quiet, however light throttle on a cold engine seemed to have the cold also annoying the transmission’s electronics, with the hesitancy and judder found in older style autos.Give the Si Premium a solid push on the go pedal and it does drop back easily, as mentioned. What you’ll also get is the mechanical keen from the 2.0L as it winds its way rapidly through the rev range. The 114 kilowatts comes in at 6200 rpm and the engine certainly gives no sign it’ll struggle to reach those numbers. Acceleration is decent enough however there’s a sense that more could be on offer but doesn’t reach the front driven 225/55/18 rubber from Nexen. The 1560 kilogram kerb weight may be one reason. Braking is good, with the 305 mm vented fronts and 302 mm solid rears responding quickly and effectively every time the beautifully balancedand communicative brake pedal is pushed.The McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension tie the Sportage down well. Although it theoretically could do some soft roading, tarmac is its natural friend and the two go well together. There’s a sense of balance in the way the Si Premium handles itself, with the tight corners for the Old Bathurst Road that snakes its way up from Penrith in Sydney’s west despatched as easily as the dips and undulations on the freeway system that rings the western parts of Sydney. Kia’s engineers spend a lot of time refining the spring and damper settings for Australian spec roads and it shows.

The Sportage is rarely fussed about the road surface, is quiet on all but the coarsest chip surfaces, and seat of the pants feedback tells you that even in quick sideways movement that it’s as composed as if it were standing still. The steering is quick at about 3.5 turns lock to lock, light in Normal mode, not much difference noticeably in Eco and feels a bit heavier, with more feedback in Sports, to round out the driving package. It helps move the Sportage from lane to lane quickly and without a sense of mass shifting direction, making for an almost sporting car drive.Apart from the tyre and wheel size between the Si and Si Premium (225/60/17 for Si), there’s also front parking sensors and electro-chromatic rear vision mirror to differentiate. The Premium also picks up LED DRLs, rain sensing wipers, driver AND front passenger Auto up/down window switches, dual zone climate control, Auto defog system, and illuminated vanity mirrors. Seat trim is a black and charcoal grey weave for the cloth with the front pews manually adjusted for height and seat back angle via levers. The rear seats fold down flat via side mounted levers and provide up to 1455 litres of cargo space, up from 460L with the seats up.The black plastics throughout the cabin have a warm texture to them, with a sweep around the bottom of the windscreen not unlike a new Jaguar. The steering wheel hub has the same feel whilst the smoother plastics are that almost suede feel to the matt fiished buttons and suurounds. The seven inch colour touchscreen, which features satnav, another item the Si alone doesn’t get, sits between the central air vents and there’s an alloy look to the surrounds. There’s bottle holders in all doors, cup/bottle holders in the centre console and a small storage locker in the console as well. The driver’s dial binnacle houses a 3.5 inch monochrome screen with information such as trip, fuel economy, service status, accessed via tabs on the steering wheel. There’s plenty of rear seat leg room, even with the front seats pushed back and enough for most front seat passengers when that seat’s pushed forward. All over and around, it’s typically high quality Kia.The touchscreen has a pseudo radio “dial look”, good quality sound, Bluetooth and Auxiliary/USB campatible, but notably no CD slot. In place of that is voice activated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When in Reverse, the camera provides a clear enough picture but it’s not as clear and sharply defined as others available. There’s also a pair of 12V sockets at the front of the centre console and one at the rear, allowing for extra USB ports if needed. Aircon controls are simple to use, clean to look at, and the Synch button lights up when it’s a mono zone control, meaning temperature adjustment is for both right and left seats.Outside, the Sportage is stubby tailed, long bonneted, with a steeply raked windscreenbehind Kia’s signature Schreyer grille, and rear window, with a thickish C pillar and profile that reminds one of the original Sportage. The update in 2016 lost the angular and sloped headlights, changing them to an insert style that flows from the more upright nose back along the bonnet shut line. The Sportage designers may have taken inspiration from a classic sci-fi film for the design of the inner headlights, with the look not unlike at all the tri-lensed aliens from War Of The Worlds. The front bumper also has inserts for the globe lit daytime driving lights in each corner, matching the height of the rear’s indicator cluster located low in the rear bumper, not higher up inside the rear light cluster, a staple of the Sportage design.Naturally there’s plenty of safety on board in the form of six airbags, traction control, DBC or Downhill Brake Control and HAC (Hill start Assist Control). Only the GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning System, and Lane Departure Warning System. Servicing is yearly or 15000 kilometres plus capped at a cost of around $2756 over the seven years.

At The End Of The Drive.
Kia Sportage range stands up to be counted in a very crowded market. It’s a car that’s full of class and oozes plenty of style. Consider sibling Tucson from Hyundai, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Renault’s brilliant Koleos, VW Tiguan and you get the idea of what it’s up against. With a strong list of standard equipment, a free revving petrol engine (and the diesel’s pretty damned good), a comfortable drive, and that seven year warranty, it acquits itself with dignity and poise. Kia’s 2017 Sportage range deserves to be on your radar when looking out for a new mid sized SUV.
For specifications and more, head over to :Kia Australia’s website and Sportage

Geneva Auto Show 2017

Kia’s much promised and much talked about Stinger has been officially uneiled at the 2017 Geneva International Car Show.
Here’s what Kia had to say:
Kia Motors has revealed the full European specification for the new Kia Stinger, a powerful fastback sports sedan. The new Kia Stinger (hereafter Stinger) closely follows the design and engineering blueprint laid down by the 2011 Kia GT Concept, and is the highest-performance production vehicle in the company’s history.

The Stinger channels the spirit of historic grand tourers – powerful, elegant vehicles capable of moving their owners in style, at speed. At every stage of development, the Stinger has been designed and engineered to be the perfect gran turismo. The car features a head-turning aesthetic, ample room to accommodate five occupants and their luggage, a stable, unruffled ride, and nimble handling with engaging, rear-biased power delivery.

In its transition from concept to production, Kia’s GT Concept was renamed ‘Stinger’, inspired by the GT4 Stinger concept revealed at NAIAS 2014. While the car is a true GT in nature, the Stinger name evokes speed and excitement, two key characteristics found in the production car.

In Europe, the Stinger will be available with a choice of three engines: a 2.0-litre turbo gasoline engine, a powerful 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, and a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine – expected to account for the majority of European sales.

The Stinger is the result of years of impassioned design and development work at Kia. Six years after the company revealed its powerful statement of intent in the GT Concept, the Stinger will enter production and go on sale in Europe during the fourth quarter of 2017.

Design

Turning a concept into a production car is no small feat. Kia’s European design studio in Frankfurt – birthplace of the 2011 GT concept – has brought the Stinger to life, overseen by Peter Schreyer, Chief Design Officer of Kia Motors, and Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer at Kia Motors Europe.

Guillaume comments, “The Kia Stinger is a true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving. It’s not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace. The Kia Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive at the destination – this car is all about the journey. It’s about passion.”

From its sleek frontal section, through its svelte flanks, and up to its powerful haunches, the Stinger exudes a muscular confidence. Key to its road presence are its rear-wheel drive proportions – a long bonnet and short 830mm front overhang, an extended wheelbase (2905mm) to deliver a spacious cabin, and a long rear overhang (1095mm) with strong, broad shoulders. The Stinger’s stance, proportion and visual balance are designed to lend the car an air of elegance and athleticism, rather than aggression and brutality. The Stinger measures 4830mm in length and 1870mm in width, making it longer and wider than many sport sedans, and allowing for a spacious cabin and cargo area. With a 406-litre cargo capacity (VDA), the Stinger’s boot can accommodate two full-size suitcases or golf bags, or four or five weekend bags for short trips away.

The ‘Coke bottle’ shape of the car’s flanks highlight and enhance the visual power of the Stinger’s shoulder line, as well as its fastback silhouette. Other purely functional elements of the exterior design – the front air curtains, wheel arch gills, smooth underbody, and integrated rear diffuser – aid its aerodynamic efficiency, enabling a drag coefficient of 0.30 Cd. The rear valance houses four oval exhaust pipes. Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille sits proudly between complex LED headlamps.

External gran turismo visual cues are complemented by the layout and atmosphere of the low-slung cabin, with a steeply-raked windscreen and high dashboard running along a horizontal plane. The dashboard’s centre console is split into two specific areas: the infotainment controls sit neatly below a large colour touchscreen, while the climate and ventilation controls sit beneath. In front of the driver is a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a single instrument binnacle with a combination of analogue and digital instrumentation. The large gauges are ringed in metal and accentuated with sweeping red needles. A colour TFT screen between the gauges relays performance data – such as cornering G-forces and lap times – along with ancillary information, including trip computer, driver settings, navigation and diagnostics.

Aeronautically-inspired spoked circular vents feature in the front and rear, while a strip of satin chrome encircles the cabin. The effect is a feeling of cocooned intimacy. However, the long wheelbase, four-door body, and fastback silhouette allow for generous front and rear leg room, and the low seating position provides ample head room for all passengers. In its lowest setting, the driver’s seat is just 180mm above the road – 45mm lower than that of the Kia Optima sedan – for a low-slung, performance-oriented driving position.

Cossetting occupants in luxury, the Stinger’s deeply-contoured seats are available with ultra-soft Nappa leather, while the driver’s seat is available with four way air-cell lumbar support in the seatback and side bolsters for optimal comfort. An optional wide sunroof enhances the ambience of the interior, allowing more skylight to flood the cabin and improve the outwards view for every passenger.

European buyers will be able to order their Stinger in one of ten exterior metallic and pearlescent paint finishes.

Engines and drivetrain

Under the long bonnet of the Kia Stinger is a choice of three longitudinally-mounted turbocharged engines, each in the final stages of tuning before entering production later in 2017. With turbochargers equipped across the engine line-up, the Stinger offers drivers effortless gran turismo-style high-speed cruising and instant acceleration when called upon by the driver, with all three engines providing high power and torque across a wide band of engine speeds.

The engine anticipated to account for the majority of Stinger sales across Europe is a 2.2-litre turbodiesel, capable of producing 147kW at 3800rpm. Its maximum torque output – 440Nm – is available to drivers across a wide 1750-2750 rpm range, enabling the car to accelerate from 0-to-100 kph in 7.7 seconds, and on to a top speed of 225kph.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder ‘Theta’ engine produces 188kW at 6200 rpm. Its maximum torque output – 353Nm – is available from 1400 to 4000 rpm. The Stinger’s most powerful engine is a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 ‘Lambda II’ gasoline engine, with peak power of 276kW arriving at 6000 rpm, and 510Nm torque accessible from 1300 to 4500rpm. Stinger models powered by the 3.3-litre turbocharged engine can accelerate from 0-to-100kph in just 5.1 seconds, making it the fastest-accelerating production Kia ever. With this engine, Kia is targeting a top speed of 270kph.

The Stinger features the second-generation of Kia’s electronic eight-speed automatic transmission, which is fitted as standard with all engines. Designed in-house, the eight-speed transmission rewards drivers with immediate shifts and optimum fuel efficiency. More typically found in aviation and racing applications, the Stinger’s transmission marks Kia’s first use of a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter, reducing torsional vibrations through the drivetrain. The transmission offers up to five different shift and throttle programmes (as well as levels of steering assistance – see below), which drivers can select through the car’s electronic Drive Mode Select. Drivers can leave the car to shift for itself, or change gears with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The Stinger is Kia’s first sedan to be available with either rear- or all-wheel drive – the latter offering enhanced dynamic capability in even the most challenging conditions. In its rear-wheel drive format, power is distributed throughout the rear axle by an optional mechanical limited slip differential. The rear-biased all-wheel drive system is equipped with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control, which monitors driver inputs and road conditions, automatically applying power and braking force to the appropriate wheels to maintain course in the wet or dry.

Car Review: 2016 Kia Optima GT

Kia’s Optima nameplate has been with Australian drivers for well over a decade, being launched under that nomenclature in 2001. Based on Hyundai’s Sonata, it’s been a quiet seller yet has a high level of loyalty. When the third generation was released to the Aussie market in 2010, it quickly gained recognition for its slinky, sexy, good looks. The latest version with a mild reskin, now comes with the standard 2.4L in Si trim or a turbocharged four cylinder 2.0L engine. Called the Optima GT, it’s this that A Wheel Thing spent an enjoyable week with.Kia Optima GT night shot

Torque is the now seemingly standard 350 Nm for 2.0L turbo engines, available between an immensely usable 1400 through to 4000 revs. Peak power is 180 kW, at 6000 revs. The engine itself is a square bore design, with bore and stroke at 86mm x 86 mm. Drive is put to the ground via the front wheels, through a slick six speed auto, complete with paddle shifts.

One of the more subtle yet noticeable things (once you give it some thought) about the GT’s driveability is the lack of torque steer. For a front wheel drive car, with a good dose of twist across such a rev range, Kia have performed some magic on the drive train. Under all forms of acceleration, there’s no noticeable pull, no is there any lack of traction from the 235/45/18 Michelin Sport rubber. Bluntly, it’s a superb piece of engineering and greatly aids the driving experience.Kia Optima GT 2.0L turbo engine

As a result, it goes like a hungry dog after a thrown bone. Sink the slipper and expect to see the rev counter’s needle zing around the dial. Expect the speedo to change numbers rapidly as well and potentially see Kia’s quoted fuel figure of 12.5L of 91 RON being slurped from the 70 litre tank. Even if you match that figure it’s still good for 560 kilometres. A Wheel Thing saw around 9.0L/100 in a predominantly urban drive. Hit the other extreme of 6.3L/100 km and that’s somewhere in the order of 1100 kilometres. That’s Perth to Kalgoorlie. And back. Overtaking? Simple. Safe. Belying the 1605 kg kerb weight, it’s a matter of correctly picking the moment and then it’s done.

Consider the dimensions of the Optima and you’ll quickly see why that although it slots into the medium segment because of the engine size, it’s a big car otherwise. It’s 4855 mm in length, 1860 mm wide yet sits close to the ground at just 1465 mm in height. Lob in a wheelbase of 2805 mm and what you’ll get is plenty of interior room, with rear seat passengers getting loads of head space and there’s oodles of shoulder room all round. Boot space? A mafia pleasing 510 litres.2016 Kia Optima GT rear

It’s a long, low, slinky and very much an aero shape, the Optima, with swept back headlights, LED driving lights (and LED interior lights, by the way), a high belt line and an almost coupe swoop for the rear window line. The “tiger grille” is bracketed in the lower front bar by sporty looking intakes inserts, looking as if they’ll divert cooling air to the front brakes.Kia Optima GT front left The tail lights have been modified slightly, as has the point where the rear door roof section meets the rear window, compared to the previous model. A minimum ground clearance of 135 mm has the Optima GT looking as if it’s a low riding European sports car, which isn’t far from the truth.Kia Optima GT rear right

The chassis work that goes into a Korean designed, engineered and built car to have it suitable for Aussie roads is astounding. Get into one and you’ll be driving possibly the best handling and riding car in its class. A Wheel Thing has lauded the updated Subaru Liberty and Outback range for the on road abilities they have, however the Optima GT takes them on and wins.

It’s beyond precise in its handling; point it at any curve or turn and feel the nose tuck in exactly where you expect it to go. Come down to a tightening radius corner and there’s no need for brakes as the nose follows the line in, communicating back to the driver’s seat the subtle and not so subtle variances in tarmac conditions. Undulations in the road have the GT barely move in the suspension as it rolls untroubled across them whilst unsettled surfaces genuinely seem to be reduced in impact to the quiet cabin. Even with the low profile rubber (which certainly helps in handling) the ride is just simply superb.

All of this can be enjoyed from the sumptuous cabin. Leather look stitching in the plastic on the dash, a sweet looking dash, spot on ergonomics, heating and cooling for the electric front seats (the driver gets eight way adjustable and four settings for the lumbar support), an updated look to the touchscreen (finally showing station info with RDS but no DAB, lacking that factor against its Euro and some Japanese competitors), 2016 Kia Optima GT rear seatsthe firm yet comfortable seats and the almost suede look and feel to the buttons. It’s fair to say the overall presence is better than its sibling, the Sonata. There’s the panoramic glass roof, dual zone climate control and a somewhat flat sounding Harman Kardon sound system.

The dash stays with mechanical needles for the dials; perhaps a move to LED screens would imbue the GT with a higher level of tech-look and ambience. What is techy is the wireless charging pad ahead of the gear selector, but currently only suitable for LG and Samsung phones. no surprises given the Korean origins. 2016 Kia Optima GT dashThere’s also a heated steering wheel, surprisingly useful during the the cold snap Sydney experienced during the test. Yes, it might seem a bit wanky but cold leather look materials do benefit from heating on a cold day and this was a welcome addition.2016 Kia Optima GT front seats

Backing up the ride and handling is the comprehensive safety package: ABS, stability control, Hill Start assist, Emergency Stop Signal (flashing brake lights under emergency stopping), Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, an intrusive (but thankfully switch off-able) vocal speed alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, reverse camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning System, auto leveling and swiveling head lights, plus the usual curtain and front airbags (no driver’s knee bag?) and that seven year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

What should you expect to pay for the Optima GT? Kia says $43990 as the recommended retail price plus ORCs. That’s getting up there in price, thanks to the government charges, but there really is a fair amount of car for the money. Servicing costs aren’t bad either, with the first service due at six months or 7500 kilometres, oddly, not a gratis item, at $191.00. It’s $408.00 at two years/30000, about the same at three years/45000 but a hefty $769.00 at four years/60000…

At The End Of The Drive.
In simple terms, A Wheel Thing believes the Kia Optima GT is one of the best cars in its class currently available in the Australian market. It’s a gorgeous thing in the flesh, a superb handler, a great ride and except for those fuel figures, unacceptable in today’s environment, a cracker package overall.Kia Optima Sportswagon
There’s a wagon, a “shooting brake” in the works and potentially a slightly larger, more upmarket, REAR wheel driver version also.
The Kia Optima GT‘s details can be found here: Kia Optima GT details