What is it?
Kia’s Sportage is into its fourth generation with a mild refresh in mid 2018.
Aside from a gentle facelift, there has been some changes in physical dimensions, but you would need to put the cars side by side to spot the difference.
In a four model range, that consists of Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line — we tested the top two models.
There are three engines, two transmissions and seven colours from which to choose, with just one a non-metallic colour — it begs the question: why the $520 charge?
There’s two petrol engines, a 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre, plus a 2.0-litre turbo diesel.
The smaller petrol engine is available in all but the GT-Line, with that car the only one to receive both the diesel and 2.4.
The oiler can be ordered with all four, but the 2.4 is only available with GT-Line.
With the closeness of spec, the 2.4 should we believe be available with the SLi too.
As tested the 2.0-litre SLi has 114kW and 192Nm which is put to the ground via a 6-speed auto.
The diesel GT-Line pumps out a decent 136kW and whopping 400Nm of torque, through a new 8-speed auto.
Claimed economy for the two is 7.9L.100km and 6.4L/100km respectively.
Exterior changes are limited to a minor change to the driving light cluster, LED lights front and rear for the GT-Line, and subtle dimension changes as mentioned.
Wheelbase is up by 10mm, the overall length by 45mm to 4485mm, which incorporates a slightly longer front overhang and shorter rear overhang.
It’s not an unattractive car and the subtle enhancements do nothing to detract.
Front legroom goes up by 19mm to 1129mm. Front headroom goes up by 5mm to 997mm, and the rear up by 16mm to 993mm. Rear legroom is now 970mm — up by 7mm.
What’s it cost?
Our SLi was clad in Steel Grey and lists at $36,790 plus metallic paint at $520.
The GT-Line has a recommended price of $47,690 with the $520 Fiery Red paint taking this figure to $48,210 — both prices need on-roads on top.
Standard equipment for both is extensive.
Kia has added Autonomous Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning System across the board.
Lane Keeping Assist is also available for all four, as are the basics like stability/traction control, ABS, Downhill Brake Control, and Hill-Start Assist Control. Both also have Tyre Pressure Monitoring systems.
Both also get front and rear parking sensors and a reverse camera with guidelines, while the entry level Si misses out on front sensors.
Only the GT-Line enjoys heated and vented front seats. The others miss out on both — full stop.
The GT-Line adds some specific equipment. For example there is Inteliigent Parking Assist and Advanced Smart Cruise Control that reads the distance from the car ahead and adapts its speed to suit.
There is also Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, with LED front fog lights and indicators.
SLi and GT-Line get a 4.2-inch full colour binnacle display, privacy glass for the rear windows and DAB audio (as does Si Premium), along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, accessible via an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
These can be operated from very comfortable front seats, while the folding rear seats are a good place to be as well.
The GT-Line also gets a powered passenger seat with eight-way adjustment, a pair of chrome tipped exhausts, powered tailgate and a panoramic glass roof.
There’s a pair of 12V ports up front in both along with a USB port. There is also an extra 12V and USB for the rear seats.
GT-Line has a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones.
Storage is very nice at 466 litres, or 1455 litres with the seats down. Underneath the easy to access cargo floor is a full sized spare.
Powered tailgates can be hit or miss, but the GT-Line’s hits the spot as it’s a quick opener and closer.
Another plus is the wide opening doors all around.
What’s it go like?
There’s nothing like the punch of 400Nm from a small capacity diesel, especially in a car that weighs less than 1800kg dry.
The eight speeder is superb, with smooth changes and is pretty much spot for engine revs in most driving situations.
The engine itself is muted, almost vibration free in its drive through the front (and rear wheels on demand).
There’s little to no hesitation from a standing start, and with that torque on tap from 1750 through to 2750 revs, acceleration is rapid.
Rolling acceleration is indecently decent, and the new eight speed shows just how refined and engineered it is.
It’s rare to find the GT-Line not in the right gear for the rev point, and on a downhill run the descent control system holds the revs — but occasionally needs human intervention to upshift.
The SLi’s four potter is less explosive but none the less fun to drive.
Naturally it needs more revs to do the job, but it’s still able to pull the SLi around with verve, vigour, and vim — with just a hint of thrash at redline.
Both cars handle superbly.
Tackling a long right hand sweeper that has a broken surface line running at 90 degrees to the direction of travel, some cars skip to the left and the rear becomes unsettled.
The SLi and GT-Line pass this test without blinking.
Steering in the GT-Line is perhaps a touch more prone to torque steer, but really only when the engine is being worked between 1750 and 2750.
Both cars have plenty of grip. The GT-Line has 245/45/19s, the SLi 225/55/18s.
This gives the GT-Line more tenacious grip overall — but it needs it with the sheer punch of the diesel.
What we like?
- Smooth and silky drivelines
- Extensive equipment lists as standard
- Overall driving enjoyment
What we don’t like?
- SLi misses out on the 2.4-litre
- No powered or heated seats in SLi
- No driver’s kneebag
The bottom line?
Kia has a winner with the GT-Line, its diesel, and that new 8-speed auto.
A brilliant feature list and a sub-$50K list price mean the GT-Line with diesel is better than sharp value.
The SLi is no slouch either in the price department, but the 2.4-litre petrol engine should be considered as an option.
Not having a kneebag isn’t crucial and shouldn’t be considered a deal breaker.
As a driver’s car, the diesel is the pick.
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Kia Sportage, priced from $36,790