Bolder exterior styling and a classy cabin, upgraded infotainment technology and more active safety features set the scene for Kia’s fourth-generation Sportage. Building on some of this compact SUV’s existing strengths, the 2016 version has more cabin space and a bigger footprint for improved handling and ride. Mechanically, it is a story of refinement rather than replacement.
Own style and character
While it is no secret Sportage is a near relation to Hyundai’s Tucson, Kia has taken the core ingredients and moulded them to the Sportage, giving the SUV its own style and character. Just remember that it’s no conqueror of hard terrain and you shouldn’t go wrong.
Starting point for the comprehensive line-up, which includes three equipment grades, front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive alternatives, as well as a diesel and two petrol engines, is the Si 2.0-litre petrol two-wheel-drive model for $28,990. But we’ve gone to the top of the scale to test the all-wheel-drive Platinum diesel, which is $45,990 plus on-road costs.
An efficient six-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range, but Kia no longer offers a manual version.
Quality and practicality
Our review found that right from the start you get a sense of quality and practicality about Sportage. The doors open wide for easy access and there is an inviting, roomy feel about the cabin layout. Apart from a couple of minor blind spots, vision is good for this type of vehicle. Leather trim and the use of other high-grade, soft-touch materials give the Platinum model real upmarket appeal. The lighter-coloured Grey Pack two-tone trim option in our test vehicle, however, was a bit much for us, but that’s a matter of personal taste.
Well-laid-out controls with large buttons and clear instrumentation add to the driving ease. As a top-of-the-range version, the Platinum’s generous equipment level is one of the best in its class. Techno-buffs will love the new wireless phone charging but you do need a compatible phone. The Platinum also comes with a full complement of active safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, and has an excellent five-star ANCAP safety rating.
A sporting look
On the rear of the Platinum, Kia has added a GT Line badge to project a sporting image. However, apart from low-profile 19-inch tyres and a suspension tweak to match, the badge represents a look, not additional sporting ability.
Improved seat shaping and comfort, along with plenty of adjustments, front and rear, are other pluses. Also welcome is more rear leg room and luggage space provided by the longer wheelbase, as well as increased headroom, but these are more of a catch-up than a class-leading move. There is plenty of family-friendly practicality with 60/40-split rear seats that fold relatively flat, and three easy-to-access child seat anchor points on the back of the seats, plus ISOFIX mountings for the outer two positions. But we were not impressed with the retractable top mounting for the centre seatbelt, which comes out of the roof. A wider luggage compartment, lower boot lip and the Platinum’s powered tailgate make for easier loading.
On the road, this new Sportage is quieter and has a solidly built, refined feel. The 2.0-litre direct-injected turbo-diesel engine’s upgrade has been about smoother operation, lower emissions and greater efficiency rather than massive gains in power and torque. Coupled with the well-matched six-speed automatic, the diesel model’s forte is strong, flexible performance. It may not be the absolute quickest SUV of its size on the market, but for everyday drivability the diesel Sportage is among the best.
Its fuel consumption figures also make for interesting reading. The official ADR combined reading is an impressive 6.8L/100km; in real-world driving the 7.8L/100km we got out of our test vehicle was respectable, and there was a section of 9.8L/100km on one fill.
Engineered for Australian roads
Using local engineers to tune the suspension for Australian roads has been a real winner for Kia in recent years. Sportage’s ride is comfortably firm and, for an SUV, the body roll is well controlled. Surefooted road-holding and cornering along with precise, appropriately weighted steering and bigger brakes for greater stopping power make Sportage one of the easiest and most enjoyable drives in the category.
The on-demand all-wheel-drive system used by Kia works well on gravel or slippery roads and it will be handy for those heading to the snow, but that’s about its limit. A big plus is that Kia has bucked the trend of recent years and included a full-size alloy spare wheel.
The cabin being noticeably quieter does occasionally make you more aware of variations in the level of normal operating noises, such as the engine being worked a little harder or an increase in wind noise.
Rounding out the package, Kia has a seven-year warranty, roadside assistance (subject to eligibility) and capped-price servicing.
Kia has given Sportage an individual and distinctive look but the styling is a matter of personal taste. Beneath the surface, Sportage is built on a solid foundation that sets it up to seriously challenge the class leaders.
For a mainstream compact SUV, the Platinum diesel version is not cheap but it has the features and ability to justify a premium pricetag.
KIA SPORTAGE PLATINUM
Price. $45,990 + $4259 (est.) ORC. Premium paint $520. Range $28,990-$45,990.
Safety. ESC. 6 airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Reversing camera. Front/rear parking sensors. Blind-spot detection. Lane departure warning. Auto lights/wipers. Hill-start and downhill assist. ISOFIX. 5-star ANCAP rating.
Connectivity. Sat-nav (7” screen). Bluetooth. Selected iPhone compatibility. MP3 audio.
Vehicle features. Dual-zone climate-control. Heated/cooled electric front seats. Leather trim. Xenon headlights. Hands-free tailgate. Sunroof. Roof rails.
Driver features. Fully-adjustable steering column. Keyless start. Auto parking system.
Selectable drive modes.
Drivetrain: 1995cc, 4cyl turbo-diesel. AWD. 6spd auto. 136kW@ 4000rpm, 400Nm@1750-2750rpm.
Performance: 0-60km/h, 4.0sec. 0-80km/h, 6.7sec. 0-100km/h, 9.9sec. 50-80km/h, 4.3sec. 60-100km/h, 6.0sec. 0-400m, 17.1. Stopping distance from 80km/h, 21.8m.
Fuel: 8.8L/100km (RACV test figure); 6.8L/100km (govt figure). 62L tank.
Wheels: 19” alloy, 245/45 R19 tyres. Full-size alloy spare. Towing limits: 1900kg (100kg towball load).
Environment: 178g/km CO2.
Service/repairs: 12-month/15,000km services. 7yr/unlimited km warranty.
RACV RATING: * * * *
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