Kia Sportage was a real 4WD when launched here in 1996. Its ladder frame chassis and dual-range 4WD system meant it could carry out genuine off-road operations. Indeed its relatively light weight and smallish size meant it could sometimes squeeze into tight spots where big truck-based 4WDs couldn’t fit. Sportage owners just loved that.
From May 2000, the Kia Sportage had basically the same front as the 1996 model, but gained a significantly longer tail to provide a lot more boot space, though the back seats had much the same room as before. A reduced departure angle was the downside, so it’s not as popular with the genuine off-roaders.
These original Sportages are getting on in years and may be nearing the end of their lives. Unless you can do some of your own repairs, or have mates to assist they are possibly best avoided.
Many 4WDs became increasingly softer in the late 20th century and many were retagged as being SUVs, and later crossovers. Kia was quick to follow the trend and from, April 2005, the Sportage has a car-type monocoque body. However, there’s a fair bit of strengthening under the floor so it can handle hard dirt road running. Ground clearance is about midway between that of a ‘real’ 4WD and a passenger car. The biggest news was that a V6 engine replaced the four-cylinder unit.
In September 2007, a 2WD variant joined the Kia Sportage range for the first time. It had a four-cylinder engine as it was lighter than the all-wheel-drive V6 model. Further expanding the range was a turbo-diesel four-cylinder, mated to an AWD transmission.
Seating in the earlier Sportages range is fine for the two in front, but rear legroom may prove marginal for many adults. From the new-gen 2005 onwards Sportage is much better in the back, even providing room for tall adults.
Until August 2010 Sportages had been on the conservative side in their looks, then a new-generation model broke the mould in a big way, with a bold European inspired body an interior. Power comes from a 2.0- or 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. The smaller petrol engine is sold only in the front-drive model, the others power all four wheels.
Australian suspension engineers worked alongside Kia’s to give the sort of feel our drivers like. It may be a little on the firm side for some, but we like it.
A new Kia Sportage was introduced in January 2016, but is still rather new to be covered in this used-car feature. Other than to say the styling is even more striking than that of the model it superseded.
There is a reasonable number of Kia dealers in Australia, chiefly in metro areas, though there’s some country coverage as well.
Prices for spare parts and servicing are about average for this class, perhaps a little cheaper than for some Japanese competitors.
You can do a fair bit of your own service and repair work and there’s good underbonnet space. As always, leave any safety related items to the professionals.
We seldom see any major variations in insurance premiums between companies. It’s still worth shopping around – with the usual warning to make sure you’re doing accurate comparisons.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Make sure the engine starts easily, idles smoothly and has reasonable performance at all times. Obviously the V6s are better than the fours.
Hesitation of the engine under hard acceleration is a sign to be wary.
The gearshift should be smooth and quiet and not crunch on fast downchanges. The 3-2 change is usually the first to suffer.
Interiors on early models can be on the rough and ready side as quality control often wasn’t up to scratch in older Kias.
Serious off-road use is unusual so if you find a Kia Sportage with body and underbody scars be wary. The areas that usually suffer first are the door sills, bumper corners and protection plates.
Look for fine scratches in the paint on the side panels, a sign that have been scraped through narrow scrubby areas.
Off-roaders can really get knocked around inside when people clamber in and out with dirty clothes, heavy-duty boots, fishing gear and the like. Check all areas, including, obviously, the cargo compartment.
Stereo systems gave problems at times in older models, try all the controls to make sure you can hear clearly now.
If you do plan to take a Sportage off-road make sure the front hub mechanism used on the earlier 4WD models works correctly.
Expect to spend from $2000 to $4000 for a 2003 Kia Sportage 4WD; $5000 to $8000 for a 2006 4WD; $8000 to $12,000 for a 2007 EX-L 4WD; $9000 to $14,000 for a 2011 Si FWD; $11,000 to $16,000 for a 2010 Platinum AWD; $14,000 to $20,000 for a 2011 Platinum AWD or a 2014 Si FWD; $19,000 to $26,000 for a 2013 Platinum AWD; $23,000 to $31,000 for a 2016 SLi AWD; and $25,000 to $33,000 for a 2015 Platinum AWD.
CAR BUYING TIP
Make your road test last for at least 30 minutes to get a proper feel of the car. Don’t forget to advise the seller that you might be gone for a while.