My first time in a Kia Sportage was on a sneaky trip to Byron Bay to escape the UK winter. That it features in my memory alongside an unforgettable Byron Bay adventure, will forever cloak it in fondness.
It matters not that that Sportage was boxier in appearance and certainly included far fewer niceties than it does today. A bond was formed.
The Sportage Si Premium that visited with us for the week looks a world apart from that first experience, with its rounded hourglass grille, sleeker lines and plastic overhangs, but it was no less enjoyable.
I like a bit of thought and order, and the interior of the Sportage is an indication that designers at Kia share that sentiment too. There is no fuss or clutter, just simple elements organised well. Under the 7.0-inch touchscreen lies a row of infotainment controls with the buttons and dials for the climate control under that. It screams ease of use and also ensures the dash doesn’t hurt the eyes.
Kia Si Premium is well equipped with standard features including 18-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, LED daytime running lights, sat-nav, reversing camera, parking sensors and dual-zone climate control.
The higher SUV driving position enhances visibility, helped by slender A-pillars and sloping bonnet that allows you to see over the front. The latter is especially useful when driving into a parking spot. The fact that the middle seatbelt extends from the roof of the cargo hold can be a bit annoying to have the strap in the way when you have a full boot.
Speaking of the boot, the Si Premium offers more cargo space than most competitors – 466 litres that almost triples with the 60:40 rear seats folded.
A 7.0-inch colour touchscreen is the face of the Sportage’s infotainment system, one that is efficient in design and super simple to use. Traffic information is accurate as is speed camera indicator which is always a bonus.
Bluetooth connectivity is excellent but you also have the option of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. There are two 12-volt outlets, and a USB and auxiliary input in the centre console.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Si Premium is serviced by the Sportage’s trusty, but a tad old, 2.0-litre petrol engine that runs the front wheels. It is good for 114 kW of power and 192 Nm of torque but feels the pressure when pushed. The six-speed automatic is a gem, smooth and competent and rarely misses a beat.
The Sportage range also includes a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine reserved for AWD models and a larger 2.4-litre petrol engine available in the GT-Line.
The Si Premium, as with the rest of the Sportage range, gets ANCAP’s five-star seal of approval. While six airbags, stability and traction control and things like Hill-assist and parking sensors are comforting, it is slightly annoying that the SI Premium misses out on useful driver aids including blind-spot assist and autonomous emergency braking.
There are IsoFix mountings on the two outboard seats.
Seats, covered in cloth that looks and feels strong and durable rather than cheap and nasty, are wide, supportive and comfortable, with the rear pews also able to recline a bit to enhance comfort.
Room in the rear is surprisingly generous for this medium SUV segment. Two adults back there is still the optimum but three kids will have no problem.
Storage around the cabin adds to the Sportage’s practicality with drink holders front and back and door bins that can hold larger water bottles. There are a few cubby holes to keep phones and small incidentals and there would have been more options still had the park brake given way to an electronic version.
Kia Sportage benefits from its steering and suspension Australian tune with engineers finding that delicate balance between comfort and performance. The steering is lighter around town where it enhances manoeuvrability but tends to firm up more as you increase speed. The Sportage hardly feels the bumps and ride and balance is hard to fault.
While it is accomplished and light on its feet on city streets, it can labour a bit up hills or when pushed to accelerate quickly, voicing its displeasure to a whiny soundtrack. It just lacks that extra oomph you get from the diesel engine or the newer 2.4-litre petrol unit.
Still, the Si Premium, remains an easy uncomplicated drive, one that comes out on the right side of the value equation.
We managed to stay within a litre of the official 7.9L/100km fuel figure. Granted, most of our test week was spent on the highway but credit where it’s due.
The Sportage package is sweetened further by Kia’s seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing deal. Services for this Si Premium range from $306 to $711 with most of the services under $400.
Kia is quickly gathering momentum in its race to become a firm Australian favourite. Cars like this Si Premium merely strengthen the charge. It is well-priced and well-equipped, looks good and is easy to live with.
An amazing warranty and servicing deal doesn’t hurt either.
Kia Sportage Si Premium pricing and specifications:
Price: from $30,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Output: 114kW at 6200rpm and 193Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, FWD
Fuel: 7.9L/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: Seven years unlimited kilometres
Safety Rating: Five Star ANCAP
WHAT WE LIKED:
Value for money
WHAT WE DIDN’T:
Best driver aides only in top model
Engine short on power