It is customary for car companies to give a model a midlife makeover, which can include anything from tinkering around the edges of design, adding specifications, to adjusting prices.
Rarely does it include digging deep to improve performance parameters. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, one being among Kia’s latest upgrades to the fourth-generation Sportage released two years ago.
The MY19 version of the compact sports utility vehicle has come under the ‘spell’ of the Wizards of Oz in ride and handling. Acknowledged world leaders in the field, these engineers are constantly called upon by the Koreans to show the way with its product on and off road.
For Australia Sportage will be available in four trim levels – Si, Si Premium, SLi and GT-Line – with a choice of three engines, a 2.0-litre petrol (114 kW and 192 Nm) for Si, Si Premium and SLi, a 2.4-litre turbo-petrol (135 kW and 237 Nm) in GT-Line only and a 2.0-litre diesel (136 kW and 400 Nm) in all grades.
Prices start at $29,990, plus on-road costs, for the 2.0-litre petrol Si and tops out at $47,690 (plus ORC) for the GT-Line diesel. Driveaway pricing is available at launch on the two Si Premium models.
The diesel motor is now hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Safety has been boosted across the range with the take-up of autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane keep assist.
Kia Sportage retains many fourth-generation features. The entry-level Si has electronic stability control, anti-locking brakes, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, reverse parking sensors, rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, as well as the lane keeping assist, AEB with forward collision warning and high beam assist.
Seatbelts with front belt pretensioners and load limiters, six airbags and impact sensing auto door unlocking complete the picture.
Standard on the Kia Sportage Si are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, six-speaker audio and Bluetooth.
The Si Premium adds satellite navigation, front parking sensors, LED running lights, 18-inch alloys with 225/55 R18 rubber, 8.0-inch touch screen infotainment centre, DAB digital radio, eight-speaker JBL premium sound system and 10-year Mapcare and SUNA Traffic monitoring.
Sportage SLi further adds a tyre pressure monitoring, smart key / push-button start, leather appointed seats, 10-way driver adjustable seat, LED rear combination lamps, and an electronic parking brake.
The GT-Line caps the lot with blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, eight-way power front passenger seat, intelligent parking assist, LED foglights, GT-Line sports pack of bumpers, side sill and grille, panoramic sunroof, flat-bottomed sports wheel with gear-shift paddles, wireless phone charging, heated and ventilated front seats, hands-free power tailgate, advanced smart cruise control, 19-inch alloys with 245/45 R19 rubber and LED headlights with auto levelling.
Designers aimed to give Sportage a more solid, premium look, with the most noticeable change up front being the light clusters with the HID headlamps on the GT-Line making way for a full LED cluster, and fog lamp aperture on the Si.
The Si Premium has been given sharper lines for a sportier, more aggressive look, while a more angular surround enhances the sporty design of the signature Tiger Nose grille and complements the updated front bumper.
The fourth-generation Sportage, introduced in 2016, saw a strong emphasis on greater space and comfort for all occupants through increased exterior and interior dimensions.
All occupants benefitted from increased leg room, while rear passengers gained a more natural seating position with improved under-thigh support. Now comfort has been improved even more.
Cargo space stays at 466 litres (798 litres with the rear seat backs folded). The loading lip height is just 742 mm.
Sportage retains its claim to being one of the quietist in class, thanks to extensive dashboard insulation and new rear suspension bushing, introduced with the fourth-generation model, a key to the control of road noise, along with sound-absorbent materials throughout Sportage’s wheel arches.
As for infotainment, the Si features a 7-inch colour LCD system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility through a six-speaker sound system. Si Premium, SLi and GT-Line have premium eight-speaker JBL sound as well as integrated satellite navigation.
The Sportage also features two USB charging points, one in the front and another in the rear.
Kia’s impressive seven years / unlimited kilometre warranty, seven-year capped price servicing and similar period roadside assist makes for a peaceful automotive life.
The latest Sportage – tweely landed with the suffix PE, for ‘product enhancement’ –, has travelled that road and is an improvement on its predecessor. Coming in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive versions, both enjoy suspension and steering upgrades of near-flawless tuning.
As far as ride and handling of the Sportage are concerned, I defer to a colleague with whom I shared a couple of MY19 all-wheel drive variants – petrol and diesel – on an extensive launch drive in and around Canberra on a cold winter’s day.
My co-driver had had the benefit of restoring a vintage Rolls-Royce, so knew quite a bit on the dark arts of the ride and handling business. About the Kia SUV he was most effusive with praise. I had to agree.
“Caution: Rough Road”, said the warning sign. Prolific potholes held no particular threat to unsettling the comfort of occupants of either Sportage.
As for steering, fast bends came and went without the need for jittery mid-course corrections, while on one section of highway, a late exit was executed with the precision it warranted, if not deserved.
The new eight-speed diesel recorded fuel consumption of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres over a mix of city and country driving on the test run.
Si 2-litre petrol: $29,990
Si 2-litre diesel: $35,390
Si Premium petrol: $32,290 (drive away $31,990)
Si Premium diesel: $37,690 (drive away $37,390)
SLi 2-litre petrol: $36,790
SLi 2-litre diesel: $42,190
GT-Line 2.4-litre petrol: $44,790
GT-Line 2-litre diesel: $47,690
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away pricing.