It’s a Kia Sportage with everything, hold the four-wheel drive. We test the Limited 4x2.
Base price: $44,490.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre petrol four, 122kW/205Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 8.6 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4440mm long, 1635mm high, luggage capacity 564-1353 litres, fuel tank 55 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 235/55 tyres.
We like: Still looks fresh, refinement, build quality.
We don’t like: FlexSteer seems like a gimmick, wheelspin in wet conditions.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? You might need to forget what you think you know about the sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment. The common perception is that these vehicles are four-wheel drive and mostly diesel.
In fact, the medium SUV segment (the largest in the country) is split 50/50 between two and four-wheel drive, and there’s still an overwhelming preference for petrol power: nearly 80 percent.
That’s why we’re seeing models like this Kia Sportage Limited 4x2. Kia has offered front-drive Sportages for some time, under the Urban badge, but mainly as price-leading models.
With the rise in popularity of front-drive SUVs, the Korean maker reckons the time is right for a properly posh version: hence the Sportage Limited 4x2. This is flagship specification for the Sportage – just sans the all-wheel drive.
The new model has been introduced as part of a facelifted Sportage lineup. You’ll have to look hard to identify it: there’s a very subtle change to the grille and front bumper. But under the bonnet there’s a new direct-injection petrol engine and some upgraded cabin trim.
As with the pre-facelift Sportage, this new one is sourced from Kia’s new factory in Slovakia.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The new 2.0-litre GDI (gasoline direct injection) has the same power as the outgoing model, four percent more torque and a five percent improvement in fuel economy. Not massive changes, but the new powerplant transcends the numbers with a marked improvement in flexibility and refinement. It makes for a relaxed family SUV.
The Sportage persists with the FlexSteer system that’s also used in a number of other Kia and Hyundai models – although we understand this will be the last new model to have it. It’ll be no great loss: the idea of being able to change steering weight with the push of a button (there are three settings to choose from) is novel, but in reality none add anything in the way of communication and once you’ve dabbled with it you tend to just leave it alone.
The Sportage Limited might ride on 18-inch wheels, but it remains remarkably supple – a good character-match for the relaxed powertrain. Perhaps we should give some credit to Kia Australia, which has developed a slightly modified ‘ANZAC’ suspension calibration for our models.
It’s a tidy handler too, although in wet conditions or very tight corners, you can see why four-wheel drive can be an asset in a vehicle like this even if you never go off-road. The Sportage has a high centre of gravity and relatively soft suspension, so it’s all too easy for weight to transfer off the inside-front wheel and produce wheelspin.
Is this a deal-breaker? No. But perhaps cause to think about the type of on-road driving you do before deciding you definitely don’t need all-wheel drive in your SUV.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Distinctive, ergonomically sound interiors are a Kia trademark and the Sportage is no different. Build quality is excellent and the facelifted model featured upgraded materials: a so-called ‘soft nano paint’ on the fascia which adds an interesting texture and a softer plastic on the top of the door trim.
The Limited boasts a large seven-inch colour touch screen with satellite navigation and quite a bit of luxury equipment: leather with heating seating front and rear, cooled glovebox and premium sound system. There are also a few surprise-and-delight features, such as cabin lights that illuminate to welcome you when you approach the car.
The high waistline looks very stylish but does limit visibility out of the rear seats, so Sportage may not be popular with the children. Nor is it the last word in practicality; the rear seats fold but don’t give you a completely flat load floor – although the lip at the rear through the tailgate is usefully low.
Peek under the cargo bay floor and you’ll see a full-size spare, which will please the large number of Kiwi drivers who are space-saver-averse.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The choice in the medium segment is bewildering. So what makes the Sportage stand out? Although it’s now a very familiar model, it’s probably still that striking styling that sets it apart. It’s got to be one of the sexiest models in this segment.
The rest of the package appeals for its value, comfort and refinement: important qualities for a family SUV.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes front and rear/No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
- Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
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