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

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2016 Kia Optima Si: Car Review.

Kia’s big mid sized car, or mid sized big car, the Optima, has proved to be a stayer in recent years. For 2017 Kia has streamlined the range, with it now compromising the Si and GT, with the latter now packing a turbo engine and replacing the Platinum nameplate. A Wheel Thing takes time with the entry level Kia Optima Si.2017-my-kia-optima-si-profile-smpThere’s a good reason why the range is now just two: the Si gets crammed full of standard equipment found as options elsewhere. Apart from the standard, mandated, safety equipment such as ABS, airbags and the like, there’s Hill Start Assist, the flashing brake lights Emergency Stop Signal, parking sensors front & rear with dash display, rear view camera with guidelines, Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, auto headlights and with auto levelling. Straight up, that’s an impressive features list from a $38500 driveaway (no options or metallic paint) priced car.2017-my-kia-optima-si-engineWhat you’ll get up front is Kia’s 2.4L, with 138 kilowatts and 241 torques at 4000 rpm put to the front wheels via a six speed auto. It’s an engine that needs a rev to get the 1540 kg car going and that’s reflected in the consumption. The combined figure is quoted as 8.3L/100 km on standard unleaded, with an urban figure of 12.0L. That’s simply too high in today’s eco aimed environment and has been the Optima’s weak spot since the current shape was released in 2013. Take it out on the freeway and expect just over 6.0L/100 km from the huge 70 litre tank.2017-my-kia-optima-si-profileIt weighs a bit because it IS a big car but not as much as similar sized competitors. It’s big car in length at 4855 mm, big car in width at 1860 mm but has a low 1465 mm to show why in profile it’s seen as slinky and sensuous. It’s a good sized wheelbase, too, at 2805 mm, which translates into plenty of internal space, including a huge 510 litre boot space that is more than adequate for a family shop or a holiday away.2017-my-kia-optima-si-wheelDesign wise there’s subtle but crucial changes, keeping the Si’s looks fresh. It’s a more defined tiger nose grille, the LED lights in the lower quadrants of the intake inside the reprofiled bumper, the slimmer tail lights, extended boot lid, and the Continental rubber on the 17 inch alloys. A good looker? Absolutely. The test car came in Clear White, one of five colours available for the Si, with Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Gravity Blue and Temptation Red also available as an optionable cost (check with your dealer for pricing).2017-my-kia-optima-si-front-seatsInside it’s black cloth for the Si, on well sculpted, supportive and well bolstered, manually operated seats. For the Si, that’s the sole trim choice available. The driver and front seat passenger see a fluid, flowing, dash, with an ergonomically smart layout. The upper section, nearest the window, has a curve not unlike that seen in a premium British brand and the dash plastic has an almost leather look to the texture.2017-my-kia-optima-si-dashTabs have a soft feel and are of Kia’s semi matte finish. The overall effect is of quality and presence and wouldn’t be out of place in some more expensive Euro spec cars. And although the window line is high in proportion to the sides, there’s still plenty of all around vision. If you have portable devices or smartphones, there’s four 12 Volt sockets; two front and two for the rear seats, mounted at the rear of the centre console.2017-my-kia-optima-si-centre-dashEntertainment is courtesy of a 7 inch touchscreen with navigation, complete with USB/Auxiliary/Bluetooth streaming and a Speed Dependent Volume Control. It’s AM/FM only with limited RDS (Radio Data Service) capability, leaving the Si Optima behind some competitors. Sound quality in FM is good enough, however, with tuner sensitivity only rarely showing a dropout.2017-my-kia-optima-si-bootWhere the Si further shines is on the road. Think of the suspension tune as “sporting luxury”. Punted over a broken up tarmac surface at Sydney Motorsport Park, there’s plenty of absorption, compliance, plushness before firming up rapidly but not uncomfortably. Kia Australia works very closely with Kia’s headquarters to work on suspension tune for Australia and again that effort shows and pays off. Even being front wheel drive there’s barely a hint of that, with no torque steer yet an appreciable weight and heft to the steering feel. Speedbumps? Not a problem? Dive under brakes? Not enough to worry about. Dealing with undulations? C’mon, why ask!2017-my-kia-optima-si-rear-seatsPushed hard into a certain roundabout which has a direction of travel change of over 180 degrees, there was no understeer and the rear followed the front around without question. Nope, no tyre squeal either, before you ask. The electrically assisted steering is not overdone in how it works with the three steering modes, and the Motor Driven Power Steering Module is steering column mounted, allowing Kia to tune towars the more luxury side as opposed to the GT’s rack mounted setup.

It’s quiet, too, on the road, with the 2.4 litre engine only intruding slightly and that only when pressed hard. Wind and tyre noice are negligible at best and only mildly noticed at worst. Combined with the seating, you will emerge from a long drive without the subconscious stress outside noise brings in.

At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, the Optima Si was priced at $34490 plus ORCs. Along with the seven year warranty, Kia offer capped price servicing over those seven years, starting off with $331.00 for the first service at one year or 15000 kilometres, with a maximum of $769.00 at the 60000 kilometre service for the Optima Si.
What a new buyer gets for their hard earned is a thoroughly well sorted car, with plenty of Australian input, a huge boot, plenty of standard features and astoundingly good value for money.

For more information on the Australian spec2017 MY Kia Optima go here: 2017 model year Kia Optima

2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto: Car Review

2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto profileCity cars aren’t generally seen as a viable alternative to the medium and bigger cars here in Australia. There’s been attempts by big companies, such as the Mercedes-Benz backed smart car, which was more ridiculed than welcomed. There’s the slightly larger alternatives, such as the Mitsubishi Mirage and now Kia is now having a go, with a car called Picanto. In order to give the car a fighting chance, it’s been keenly priced at $14990 driveaway with metallic paint the only current option. There is a five speed manual available overseas.

It’s also been given some reasonable equipment in the sole specification model currently available, a good move given that it is due to be replaced by a newer model (it’s been available for five years overseas) in the next year and a half. You’ll get electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, the full suite of airbags including curtain ‘bags, Hill Start Assist Control, Emergency Stop Signal (flashes the brake lights in a heavy or emergency stop) and halogen daytime running lights (DRL). It doesn’t get a reverse camera however.

A Wheel Thing’s test car came clad in the optionable metallic paint, a $540 ask. The colour? Honey Bee. An odd shade of yellow. Masculine, it is not. Neither are the archaic four speed auto, 1.25 litre petrol fueled four cylinder. The red backlit pixel screen radio display is another hint at age, as are also the simplistic dials in the dash and the red centre display.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto dashThe engine is covered by a bonnet about the size of a newspaper and is unadorned by the plastic shrouding so commonplace nowadays. It’s by no means a powerhouse but may actually be better served by connecting to a gearbox A Wheel Thing loathes. With just 63 kW and 120 Nm a CVT potentially would be better suited to the characteristics the soft drink bottle sized motor has.
Size wise, it’s right in the ball park for city cars and looks at the Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Celerio and Holden’s Spark as competition.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto engineIt sits on a 2385mm wheelbase, huge given the overall length is 3595 mm. There’s 14 inch diameter steel wheels clad with plastic covers and wrapped in 160/65 tyres. Overall width is 1595 mm, making this a definite four seater only. You’ll also only get just a space saver wheel.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto front profileInside, the colour scheme is black, however that’s broken by an aluminuim look plastic swathe across the dash and the lower part of the steering wheel also has an insert, looking for all the world like a happy face. It certainly is a contrast yet doesn’t look out of place. What does, and showing that there are other models available, is the insert just above the driver’s right knee for a push button Start/Stop, as the model here is “old school” insert key and twist.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto front seatsBut there’s new school with USB/Auxiliary connections, placed in Kia’s tradition front and centre of the console. Said console lacks an arm rest, though. It’s not a deal breaker as many would prefer cup/bottle holders instead, but there is room enough for both.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto consoleThe radio is a simple push button and dial setup, along with the simplistic display, yet the sound quality is reasonable from the system. There’s no A pillar or door mounted tweeters but still manages to deliver a decent soundstage. Bass response though, was lacking, as was radio sensitivity in some areas whilst being driven around. Nice to see that the humble CD player was still included.

Although, not unexpectedly, the front seats lack electric adjustment, they’re easily sorted with the manual levers and are surprisingly comfortable. There’s black cloth covering them with what resembles an electrician’s diagram print woven in. It’s eye catching and breaks up the otherwise drab look nicely. The Picanto is a compact car with just enough leg room in the back for children or two slim adults, and the rear seats also well padded and supportive, however anyone with a wholesome figure would struggle to feel comfortable.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto rear seatsIt also means that rear cargo space is minimal, making the Picanto a more suitable car for single people or couples when it comes to a weekly shop. At least there’s folding rear seats to increase the available space to 918 litres, up from 292. Overall interior feel was positive, although there was a vibration from the sliding seat belt height adjusters under acceleration and on the rougher tarmac surfaces.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto cargoApart from the alloy look plastic insert, the steerer is traditional Kia, with user friendly toggles for audio and Bluetooth. It’s just thick enough to feel comfortable to the hands and connects the driver nicely to the front wheels. As such, there’s not much to report as the car’s chassis is competent without being overly engaging. The short overall size means, though, you can get it into gaps in traffic and car parking spaces that others may not, and the light weight means it’s fleet and easy to move on the road.

There’s a short travel suspension up front, meaning that there’s a solid thunk as the nose goes over and drops when doing the larger speedbumps at low speeds. The rear is less prone to interference, thankfully, and rides better than a competitor tested recently. There’s more stability and less tendency to skip around on curves and unsettled surfaces and hangs on well enough in twisty road situations. The tiller also provides enough feedback to get a good handle on what’s happening up front.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto rearPeak torque is delivered at 4000 rpm, and with just the four ratios to play with, it takes a bit of time to get the 885 kilo car to…well…get up and go. But while you’re doing it you’ll be sipping unleaded fuel from the 35 litre tank at a quoted combined cycle figure of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres. The urban cycle is 6.7 litres per 100 and highway at 4.5L/100 km. It’ll also emit just 125 grams of junk into the air for every kilometer travelled.

Make no mistake, though, even given the relative lack of oomph, the Picanto still climbs hilly roads well enough. In the lower Blue Mountains is a road called the Old Bathurst Road, a switchback with some tight corners. It’ll do this well enough, although it’s fair to say that having no cars in front make the job a bit easier. The transmission needs a bit more refinement as well, with a lack of smoothness in the changes, some jerkiness even on the flat road, plus the engine is somewhat thrashy when pushed…which is most of the time if not freeway cruising, where it’s then quiet enough.

As a new car buyer, you’ll get Kia’s seven year and unlimited kilometer warranty, plus the capped price servicing. There’s 15000 kilometre service gaps and you’ll see a highest service cost of $415 in year six.

At The End Of The Drive.
One of the true benefits of being an independent vehicle reviewer is being able to drive cars that wouldn’t be considered as being part of the household. For A Wheel Thing, the Picanto is a car that would not suit the household’s usage pattern. But it certainly would suit a single person, a young couple, or perhaps a retired couple.
It’s gentle to drive, perhaps a tad thirsty for the engine’s size, but that lack of torque and just four speeds are why. The colour on the test car is certainly not to A Wheel Thing’s taste but that is a personal choice. To make your own choice on the Picanto a reality, go here: Kia Picanto

Car Review: 2016 Kia Sportage S petrol

2016 Kia Sportage S front quarterKia’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.2016 Kia Sportage S rear quarterThe 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.2016 Kia Sportage S front seatsAnd 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. 2016 Kia Sportage S dashThere’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.2016 Kia Sportage S rear cargoThe 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.2016 Kia Sportage S engineUp 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.2016 Kia Sportage S wheelAlthough 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.2016 Kia Sportage S rear centre consoleDrivewise, 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.2016 Kia Sportage S rear seatsThe 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.2016 Kia Sportage S profileAs 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.