Mid-model improvements to the current Kia Sportage have targeted the key areas of safety and ride.
Report: Greg Hill.
1. Impressive suspension upgrade.
2. New eight-speed auto complements the diesel’s ability.
3. Excellent safety levels across the range.
The Kia Sportage evolution continues with a “product enhancement” upgrade to this worthy SUV’s fourth generation, which was first introduced in 2016. The changes, while not massive, are quite strategic and deliver some significant improvements.
The primary focus has been on added safety features, although suspension developments also bring a more compliant, refined ride, and there’s an eight-speed automatic for diesel versions. These improvements come at a cost, with price increases from $1000 to $2500 depending on the variant, so the range is now $29,990 to $47,690.
That means plenty of choice, with four trim levels – Si, Si Premium, SLi and GT-Line – and three engines. There’s a 2.0-litre petrol (114kW and 192Nm) for Si, Si Premium and SLi models, while the GT-Line has a 2.4-litre petrol version (135kW and 237Nm). A 2.0-litre diesel (136kW and 400Nm) is available across the range.
The 2.0-litre petrol models are front-wheel-drive, while the 2.4-litre petrol and the diesel use Kia’s on-demand all-wheel-drive system. Petrol versions retain a conventional six-speed automatic.
More safety features are included as you move up the range.
Advanced safety systems are becoming more common in mainstream vehicles, so Kia has packaged autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision alert and lane-keeping assist as standard across the Sportage range.
More safety features are included as you move up the range. In keeping with other Kia models that we’ve driven recently, the lane-keep assist tends to intervene early and can be a touch on the aggressive side.
Styling changes are only subtle, designed to give the Sportage a more athletic look. For a compact SUV, the unchanged cabin space is useful but not abundant. Five adults are a squeeze, although there’s enough leg and head room for all but the tallest people.
The trim quality, fit and finish of the GT-Line diesel we drove had a premium appearance and feel. The seats are leather and there are plenty of soft-touch materials, with harder plastics in high-wear areas. Well-thought-out ergonomics, featuring large, clear instruments, logically placed switches and a centrally mounted eight-inch infotainment screen, all add to the driving ease.
The highlight of this product enhancement is the outstanding ride quality and handling agility.
The torque converter-style eight-speed automatic in the diesel models does its work in a fuss-free manner. With smooth changes and the two extra gears providing a better spread, it always seems to be in the right gear to make good use of the engine’s strong torque. This not only helps improve performance and drivability but also reduces fuel consumption by 0.4L/100km, to an official 6.4L/100km.
The highlight of this product enhancement, however, is the outstanding ride quality and handling agility. Fine-tuning of the new model’s recalibrated suspension and steering by Kia’s local engineering team delivers a set-up that’s well suited to Australian road conditions.
They’ve dialled up the ride comfort significantly, improved body control and enhanced the steering feel, while maintaining surefooted cornering ability. Improved dampers and bushes not only deliver a more compliant ride but also a quieter cabin.
Adding to Sportage’s appeal in this hotly contested market segment is the reassurance of Kia’s lengthy seven-year warranty and seven-year roadside assistance program.
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