AutoTrader Editor Steve Vermeulen may be slow on the uptake when it comes to driving Kia’s Sportage, but finds the Korean mid size SUV is aging very gracefully indeed
Through a series of misadventures over the last 12 months, I’ve only just managed to get behind the wheel of Kia’s new, (well, not so new now) Sportage last week. Even a full year after its launch and amidst strong competition however, this is a mid-SUV that seems one of the more-forward thinking on the market.
Certainly on the styling front the Kia is an utterly desirable trendsetter. Imparting a more compact look than what’s actually on offer from the spacious interior, the proportions offer a nice blend of beefed-up ride height and edgy-design hatch practicality.
Everything a vehicle of this sort should offer in reality, but how many Kiwi 30-something buyers actually aspire to own a RAV4? Kia has seemingly hit the mark dead on with Euro-rivalling looks that offer a genuinely broad appeal.
Inside - once that chemical whiff of Korean plastic, weirdly consistent from SsangYong to Hyundai dissipates - the interior design is fresh-faced and pleasing to use. You can control your i-Pod from the steering wheel audio controls, likewise with the cruise control, a trip computer monitors how much fuel you’re using, the centre stack is snazzily-illuminated like a scene from Tron and all models are equipped with an alarm, active front headrests, six airbags, reversing sensors and rollover-detecting stability control.
My tester was the full-fat Limited all wheel drive, so also picks up leather, or a relatively close facsimile of it, electric driver’s seat, reversing camera, dual zone climate air conditioning, a six disc CD stacker and rain sensing wipers. Given the Sportage sells at hatchback money (range starts at just $33,990 for 2.0-litre front-dragger LX, tops out at $46,990 with 2.4-litre Limited) the specification is something the family will love you for.
The 2.4-litre ‘world’ engine co-developed with the former DaimlerChrysler / Mitsubishi alliance has proven to be a reliable, albeit unremarkable, performer over the years and that rings true in the Sportage.
Load it up with the family and amounts of gear the large cargo area is capable of holding and the 130kW / 227Nm four cylinder may be left a bit breathless, but that’s entirely forgivable during the day to day commute where the drivetrain and mid-size SUV body generally feel fairly-matched. A standard 6-speed auto further aids drivability and economy too.
A brilliant R-series diesel mill is available to Kia New Zealand in EX and Limited versions costing $47,990 and $51,990 respectively. This will absolutely cope with a full load of camping gear or regular towing duties, but until production can catch up with the global demand, Kiwi’s will have to order, and wait three months, to secure one. Bummer.
Regardless of powertrain, the Sportage hardly embarrasses itself on our roads with nicely-damped multi-link rear suspension and Macpherson struts up front. Kia proclaim an antipodean tweaking to the ride and handling, which is good news; I found it more refined over ruts yet a crisper steer than Hyundai’s pricier ix35, which shares underpinnings with the Sportage, so the brand’s efforts here are commendable.
A side effect of the sleek roofline luggage space is average with 564 litres when the rear seats are occupied or 1353 litres when they’re folded, and the aperture, while wide, doesn’t easily accept taller items.
You’re pretty spoilt for choice in the medium SUV market these days, and until my belated drive of the Sportage I probably would’ve pointed you towards the likes of the ix35, Peugeot 3008 or a 2.5-litre Mazda CX-7.
I knew the Kia looked great, offered a bunch of kit and trumped most competitors on price, but the well-sorted road manners, comfort levels and winning looks have surprised. I really like it; actually, I’d say it’s been one of my favourite new vehicles of the year. Er, I mean last year.
See the Kia Sportage for sale.