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Kia Sportage road test

by Mark Walker

22nd March, 2011

Home > Road Tests > Kia

With each new model, Kia is taking massive leaps forward and the all-new third generation Sportage possibly represents the most dramatic progression to date.

The all-new Sportage range was launched in Australia in August 2010 with a choice of three variants, with two petrol engine choices or diesel and front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

The styling of the new car leaves the old version well and truly in the past. This third generation Sportage is designed under the direction of Kia Motor's Chief Design Officer, Peter Shreyer and it is easily identifiable as a Kia thanks to his signature grille design. This feature has become the 'face' of each new Kia model. Another unique feature is the windscreen profile mirroring that of the grille with the top centre indentation.

Other features adding to the striking visual presence of the new Sportage are the clamshell styled bonnet, the windscreen angle, the reverse angled c-pillar, neatly flared wheel arches, narrow glasshouse, concave motifs on the doors, prominent large light clusters front and rear, large side mirrors and decent sized alloy wheels. The new car is also longer, wider and lower than the second generation Sportage. The fresh sporty design gives the new Kia Sportage more of a premium feel in a segment that is often about practicality and value.

The mid-range SLi comes standard with all-wheel drive matched with a six speed automatic transmission. The automatic allows you to choose between fully automatic and Sport mode. This so-called Sport mode allows manual gear changes using the gear stick without a clutch. The AWD system is called Dynamax and is from an automotive engineering company called Magna. The electronically controlled system works by measuring wheel speed and acceleration and diverts torque between front and rear wheels as required by the prevailing conditions. In normal safe driving conditions it will select front wheel drive only (for economy) and will only revert to all-wheel drive if required. It is possible to lock the all-wheel drive system at the push of a button and this delivers torque to the front (50%) and rear (50%).

Three engine choices are available in the new Sportage. The base model Si is only available with the 2.0 litre four cylinder petrol engine, combined with front-wheel drive only. We tested the SLi with the 2.4 litre four cylinder petrol engine. This power plant has a power output 130 kW and produces 227 Nm of torque. This is adequate for the Kia Sporatge. The engine is a little noisy at speed and under hard acceleration but it is easy to live with around town.

The most economical model to drive is the base model Si, thanks to its smaller less powerful engine and two-wheel drive power train. Factory supplied fuel consumption data says the Si manual will consume 8.7 litres per 100 km on the combined cycle and the Si automatic will consumer slightly more at 8.8 litres per 100 km. This is only fractionally better than the SLi automatic which is stated to consume 9.2 litres per 100 km. On the test drive, the best we could achieve is 10 litres per 100 km on a mixture of city and highway driving which is still quite reasonable.

Inside the Kia Sportage is completely overhauled, although it doesn't give the dramatic impression of the exterior design. The lay-out is straight forward and very user friendly. The interior is dominated by dark plastics and the SLi comes standard with black cloth seats. For leather trim, you need to go for the range topping Platinum spec. Nevertheless, the seats are styled well and comfortable both around town and on longer distance drives. The driving position is high and offers excellent vision and the steering wheel is chunky, feels secure and the steering itself is responsive. The driving experience is further enhanced by the inclusion of the organ-type accelerator pedal which allows you to rest your entire foot on the accelerator pedal. This feels much better than the traditional shorter pedal which pivots from above.

Dual-zone climate control is standard on the SLi and cools the cabin very effectively - even on hot summer days. The passengers will also be comfortable and there is plenty of leg room for adults to sit in the back. The Sportage is a five seat vehicle and storage space has increased in comparison with the predecessor. The rear cargo capacity is 740 litres and increases to 1,547 litres with the rear seats down. A retractable cargo blind is standard on all models.

The SLi gets rear parking sensors as well as rear view camera. The screen for the camera is integrated into the internal rear view mirror and works very well. When reversing, vision through the rear windows is difficult from the driving position. However it is still easy to park, thanks to the camera, rear sensors and the compact exterior size of the Sportage.

Bluetooth connectivity is now standard across the entire Sportage range adding to safety and convenience. The sounds system is only a single CD unit however it does allow for USB input.

Safety features are packed into the Sportage, winning it a five star ANCAP rating which is the maximum rating possible. There are six airbags included, being driver and front passenger plus side and curtain airbags. ABS braking is standard as is electronic stability control. The brakes are discs all around (ventilated front discs and solid rear discs) and provide good stopping power. The Downhill Brake Control function is quite noisy in this model. This feature applies the brakes as required to maintain a controlled speed down steep slopes. Hill start assist is also standard and handy when starting on steep inclines.

Kia Motors Australia continues to offer one of the most comprehensive warranties in the market. The Sportage comes with their standard 5 year unlimited kilometre warranty for retail buyers which is fully transferrable if the vehicle is sold. The market is 'swamped' by many different warranty variants including car dealers offering free extended warranties which are generally conditional on such factors as strict service intervals, servicing at the selling dealer only and also not allowing for the warranty to transfer to a new owner if the car is sold. The five year warranty is worthy of consideration when many manufacturers are still only offering 3 years and limited kilometres.

The base model Sportage is the 2WD Si 2.0L petrol manual and is priced from $26,490* plus on-road costs. Add $2,000 for the automatic. The model tested is mid-spec SLi 2.4L petrol automatic AWD and is priced at $32,490* plus optional metallic paint and the traditional on-road costs.

This model will sell on merit and is already proving very popular. Overall this is an excellent package. The Kia Sportage is stylish, well equipped and delivers value for money. It seems only fitting that one the first models to join the class way back in 1995 is now at the top of the class even when faced with such a high degree of competition that continues to arrive on the market.


NOTE: * MLP (manufacturer's list price) excludes options, dealer delivery fees and the various statutory charges. Additionally, all prices, fees, charges and specifications are always subject to change without notice.

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