The fourth generation of Kia’s compact SUV, the new Sportage, shows just how far the Korean manufacturer has come in recent years, and since their best-selling Crossover arrived in South Africa in 2010.
Brian Joss – There are four derivatives in the range: the 2 litre Ignite; the 2 CRDi EX; the 2.4 GDI SX AWD; the 2 litre CRDi SX AWD and the range-topping Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT line AWD, the test car.
The 1.6 turbocharged GDi (Gasoline Direct injection) is packed with technological features. So we’ll deal with those first. There is a new wireless charger for smartphones: the system shows the phone’s charging condition on the instrument cluster, and features a safety system to prevent overheating while in use; there are two USB charging points, one in the front and one in the rear. High spec models have a 7-inch colour touchscreen with integrated satellite navigation and a rear-view parking camera. The Smart Power tailgate opens automatically when the key fob is near. Be careful the tailgate doesn’t hit you in the chin when it opens; the Smart Welcome function lights up the interior as well as the door handle lamps and unfolds the door mirrors.
The Kia Sportage made its debut in September 2015 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. Since it was launched seven years ago it has collected several design awards and Kia said that between 2010 and 2015 more than 1.6 million Sportages were sold worldwide.
Kia’s designers, led by its design studio in Frankfurt, with input from its studios in Korea and California have “created a sense of sporty and powerful energy from every angle”. The biggest change is that Kia’s hallmark ‘tiger-nose’ grille and the car’s headlamps, now positioned higher, are separate on the new model and the wider grille -adds more volume to the lower half of the Sportage’s face. The GT Line models feature new ‘ice-cube’
LED fog lamps and aluminium-effect skid plates. Another feature is Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Lane Change Assist (LCA), which monitors cars up to 70 metres away, an electronic parking brake that comes on automatically when you switch off and keyless starting.
Inside, it has been completely redesigned and in keeping with new look there is range of new and updated engines and transmissions.
The Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT Line is powered by a turbocharged GDi (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine, which develops 130 kW of power at 5 500 r/min, and
265 Nm of 4 500 r/min. The engine is mated to Kia’s new seven-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). The gear changes are smooth and quick and I couldn’t detect any signs of turbo lag.
In my opinion the flagship shouts quality: the finishes are excellent (except perhaps on the dashboard) without any obviously cheap plastic bits and bobs. At the last check it carried a price tag of R600 000 , which may sound a lot for a “small SUV” , but you do get a lot of bang for your buck.
Build quality was good; there were no rattles or squeaks, even over some of the gravel patches on the test route. There is more than enough oomph to overtake safely when necessary, or sail up hills with ease.
We drove to Fish Hoek on Heritage Day to visit friends. Big mistake. It seemed as if the whole of Cape Town had the same idea: the traffic was bumper to bumper along the those narrow, winding streets. But the Sportage took it in its stride, and the efficient air con was a boon, while the sound system helped to soothe the stress of being stuck in the jam.
Visibility from the driving seat is good too. Home via Boyes Drive and the Kia Sportage stuck to the curves like Velcro. And it sucked up the bumps on the road. In all it provided a comfortable ride. There was little body roll and at no time did I feel that the Sportage was losing it on the bends. The electric motor-driven power steering system has been upgraded and the Kia just goes where you point it. There’s little or no noise intrusion in to the cabin and you can have a conversation with the rear seat passengers without having to raise your voice unduly.
The Kia Sportage is 40 mm longer but is the same width and height as the older model. Which means there is plenty of room at the rear for adults. It can seat three with ease. And the back seats can recline. In the front, there is more legroom for the driver and passenger, too. The seats, back and front, have been redesigned and as a result are supremely comfortable. And your bum won’t get numb on a long trip.
The boot has a capacity of 503 litres. It’s easy to load and there is a storage area underneath where you can also stow the parcel shelf. The dashboard has been divided into two areas: display and control. The ‘display’ zone delivers information to the driver through the instrument binnacle and the entertainment system in the centre of the dashboard. The touchscreen is easy to use and the figures are easy to read. All the controls are ergonomically situated. The fuel tank has increased from 58 litres to 62 litres. The 1.6 is reasonably economical. I recorded figures of just over 9litres/100km, and that was travelling at the legal limit and with a light foot, in a town and country cycle. Kia says the Sportage can go from
0 to 100 km/h: 9.1 seconds and it has a maximum speed of 201 km/h.
The fourth generation Sportage models sold in South Africa have been built in Žilina, Slovakia.
Safety hasn’t been left out of the equation: it scored a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash performance tests. Six airbags are standard, airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, first row side airbags, and first and second row curtain airbags. Isofix child-seat tether and anchor points are fitted as standard to the second row of seats. to safely secure younger passengers. There is a Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system , Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and electric motor-driven power steering and both systems come into play as soon as the Sportage’s many sensors detect a loss of traction.
I enjoyed driving the Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT Line. It ticks all the right
boxes: it’s practical, it can be used for the daily commute and on a long trip. Plenty of room for everyone and it’s economical too. Above all it’s comfortable and a pleasure to drive. I couldn’t find much to fault it.
There’s a long-standing joke that Kia stands for King in Asia. It could soon change to King in Africa which wouldn’t be too far from the truth.
All Sportage models come with a 5-year / unlimited km warranty, 5-year / unlimited km roadside assistance as well as a 5-year / 90 000km service plan.