What is it?
When a car company chooses to play in the Australian market’s most-competitive segment, it had better do things right.
In the case of Kia’s Sportage — it does just that.
The segment in question is the under-$60,000 medium SUV category.
With around 25 brands and umpteen model variants from which to choose, local buyers have never had it so good.
In July the pecking order was RAV4, CX-5, Nissan’s X-Trail, the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, and Mitsubishi Outlander — with Kia’s Sportage coming in at seventh.
Despite that result, the Sportage does things exceptionally well.
What’s it cost?
Available in four guises – Si, Si Premium, SLi and GT-Line — buyers have the choice of petrol or diesel engines.
Depending on the model, either a 2.0-litre engine with 114kW/192Nm or a 2.4-litre unit with 135kW/237Nm power petrol models.
The excellent 2.0-litre diesel is good for 135kW of peak power and a thumping 400Nm of maximum torque.
While the petrol engines are mated with a 6-speed torque-converter automatic, the diesel is hooked up to a great 8-speed auto.
In terms of pricing, the Si 2.0-litre petrol opens the batting at $29,990 and the range-topping GT-Line diesel burns a $47,690 hole in the cheque book.
For this review, we’re looking at the second-from-top, all-wheel-drive GT-Line 2.4-litre petrol model at $44,790.
The current Sportage arrived in dealer showrooms about a year ago and Kia was pretty chuffed about the addition of autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep-assist across the range.
Ride and handing were also improved –thanks to Kia’s long-standing commitment to local testing and refinement –and the great 8-speed automatic transmission was bolted on to the diesel engine.
Climb in behind the wheel of the GT-Line and you are immediately stuck by the quality feel and ambience of the cabin.
The colour treatment is two-tone, with a classy blend of light and dark-grey leather and plastic – most of which is the nice, soft-touch variety.
Controls are very much driver-focused and the ergonomics are just right.
The well-shaped and bolstered front seats are beautifully comfortable and supportive, and to add to the luxury, they are both heated and ventilated.
Other luxurious features include a huge standard panoramic sun roof, great-to-hold, leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed, multi-function sports steering wheel with shift paddles and a smart power tailgate.
Looking down the extensive standard-kit inventory is quite exhausting.
How’s this for a menu?
Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, high-beam assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a rear-vision camera with those clever dynamic guidelines, an eight-way powered front-passenger seat (10 ways for the driver), wireless phone charging, LED fog lights, LED headlights with automatic levelling, 19-inch alloys shod with 245/45/R19 rubber and advanced smart cruise control.
And that’s just the start.
Add a dash-integrated eight-inch LCD touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an electronic parking brake and a few other goodies and there’s no doubting that the top-spec Sportage can just about out-do anything else in the segment in terms of standard kit.
In the safety department, there are also driver, front-passenger, front side and curtain airbags, and the car achieves a five-star ANCAP rating.
We’re already mentioned the comfort for front-seat occupants and this is carried over to those in the second row.
The 60/40 split seat backs can be reclined and when the seats are occupied, there is room for 466 litres of luggage. Drop the seat backs flat and this rises to a handy 1455 litres.
Other cargo-handling features include grocery hooks, tie-down latches and a luggage net.
Cabin storage features include two front and two rear cupholders, four door pockets, a handy roof-mounted sunglasses holder, map pockets behind the front-seat backs, a reasonably-sized glove box, good-sized box beneath the front-centre armrest and a couple of open bins on the centre console.
What’s it go like?
While the 2.4-litre petrol engine won’t set the world on fire and, like all four-cylinder petrol engines, does scream somewhat when the revs approach the limit — it will do a perfectly adequate job for most buyers.
The automatic – while not in the same league as the diesel’s eight-speeder — mates successfully with the “four” and paddles add to the driving fun, especially on hills and winding roads.
Out on the freeway at cruising speed the Sportage loafs along extremely comfortably and the Australian-tuned suspension handles less-than-smooth road surfaces without any fuss.
On corners the car sits nice and flat and the steering is well weighted and responsive.
While Kia claims a fuel-consumption figure of 8.5L/100km, we saw 10.3L during two weeks of city, suburban and country driving – all on bitumen.
What we like?
- Generous standard-kit inventory
- Classy interior
- Full-size spare
- That great Kia warranty
What we don’t like?
- No memory for driver’s seat
- Engine a bit thirsty
The bottom line?
Kia’s success in the Australian market (and world-wide for that matter) has been nothing short of remarkable in recent years.
Five years ago, if someone had told me the company would be outselling Holden in 2019, I would have laughed at them.
It all comes down to great styling (started by master designer Peter Schreyer), build quality, generous standard equipment, safety and caring enough about the local market enough to undertake extensive ride-and-handling tuning right here in Australia.
There is no doubt that cars such as the Sportage, its little brother the Picanto and its big brothers the Sorento and Carnival – not to mention the stunning Stinger – will see the brand go from strength to strength.
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Kia Sportage 2.4 GT-Line AWD, priced from $44,790