Kia has tinkered with its Sportage, now a stalwart in the Korean manufacturer’s line-up, freshening it up both inside and out and giving it some of the impetus it needs to push back against numerous competitors.
The range includes both petrol and diesel offerings in front-wheel and all-wheel-drive with a number of variants, too.
Starting at $37,990, our diesel SLi is almost halfway between the entry level 2.0-litre Si petrol ($28,990) and the bells and whistles of the $45,990 Platinum diesel.
The new Sportage features a bolder, more aggressive exterior design with sleeker lines and a lower stance. The refreshed grille and headlight design has its detractors but if it’s good enough for design guru Peter Schreyer, then you won’t hear a peep out of me.
The three-stripe rear taillights are cool to look at when all lit up while the new alloys do their part to complement the overall design.
As is so often the case, the excitement stirred by the outside is somewhat tempered by an interior accompaniment that is more at ease with the tried and tested. Not that the driver-centred console is anything to scoff at, mind you, it just feels like Kia could have been more adventurous.
A 7.0-inch colour touchscreen controls proceedings from the centre of the console with a seemingly endless array of buttons below to operate the sat nav, the radio and the climate control system. Driver instrumentation is clear and useful while storage options, including four cupholders, deep door bins and a tray under the air conditioning vents is on par with competitors.
This mid-range SLi will get you such niceties as 18-inch alloys, auto headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth connectivity, LED daytime running lights, folding electric mirrors, leather-like trim, cruise control and tyre-pressure sensors.
The Sportage feels airy and roomy with adults in the back, two preferably, able to stretch out almost as much as their front-seat counterparts. A handy 466-litre boot can deal with most challenges a family can conjure up including the first-born’s cello which has quickly become one of the perverse ways we test the mettle of visiting test cars (cue evil laugh here). There is a full-size spare under the chassis making it easy to get to with a full boot.
Fit and finish seems credible enough and certainly is on the often-touched surfaces but the illusion is slightly tarnished by the harder plastics on the lower parts of the doors, the far reaches of the console and on the under bits of the seats.
The aforementioned 7.0-inch touchscreen is at the heart of Kia’s infotainment options and is pretty easy to navigate. I am not a big fan of the graphics package though as it feels dated but is all perfectly usable of course. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is supported in the 2017 Sportage models so smartphone tragics can breathe a sigh of relief.
Bluetooth connectivity and mobile phone pairing is easy to work out and there are two USB ports and three 12V adapter points for your convenience.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Sportage is available in the 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol and the same 2.0-litre turbodiesel that does duty in the Hyundai Tucson. Our diesel AWD SLi can work up 136kW of power and a handy 400Nm of grunt.
The all-wheel-drive provides reassurance on most surfaces and even though it has a central lockable diff, off-road adventures are probably best confined to some fun on twisty dirt roads than gruelling outings.
For the Sportage SLi, a five-star ANCAP rating means six airbags, stability and traction control, EBD with brake assist, hill-descent control and reverse camera with sensors .
Frustratingly, features like autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and forward collision warning can only be found in the range-topping Premium and isn’t even available as an extra in the cheaper models
The 10-way electrical seat adjustments may make it easier to find a good driving position but the seats themselves felt a bit hard especially on longish drives.
In terms of on-road performance though, the Sportage was equal to the task, the combination of powerful diesel engine and six-speed transmission impressing in a manner unavailable to the 2.0-litre petrol variant.
There is just a slight shudder of diesel clatter on start-up, more especially if it’s a cold morning but that wheeze quickly disappears making only a brief reappearance when you ask for a little bit extra at high speed.
The ride in this Sportage, tuned incidentally for Australian road conditions, is a bit on the firmish side but allows for quick response, less body roll and a more composed dance over bumps and ruts.
The electrically assisted steering is direct and accurate, not better than its leading competitor, but close enough to get a good feel of the road. The brakes are sharp with little fade even when worked hard.
Claimed fuel consumption for the 2.0-litre diesel is 6.8L/100km and given we were able to stay within touching distance (7.5L/100km) all week, it’s probably a fair call.
Of course the Sportage is covered by Kia’s peace-of-mind seven year unlimited kilometre warranty with free roadside assist and a fixed price servicing schedule for the same period. Service intervals are12 months or 15,000km.
The combination of a lusty engine, good manners, sharp design makes the Sportage a strong contender in a group that is spoilt for choice. It offers good value too. It would be been nice if those extended drivers aids were available across the range.
AT A GLANCE
Price: from $37,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, AWD
Fuel: 6.8/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: Seven years unlimited kilometres
Safety Rating: Five star ANCAP
WHAT WE LIKED:
Punchy diesel engine
WHAT WE DIDN’T:
Advanced safety package in top variant only
Cheap plastics in some parts of cabin