2016 Kia SportageAn all-new Kia Sportage arrived in Australia at the start of 2016. More stylish than previous Sportages, that tended to lean in the direction of SUV rather than trendy wagon, it’s already selling well. And sales are likely to leap now that Kia has secured number one spot in the JD Power Initial Quality Study in the USA. Sportage was ranked top vehicle in the small SUV segment.

New Sportage has a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model and is 40 mm longer overall (at 4480 mm), both changes are there to give better interior space, more about that in the Driving section of this review.

It has the same height as before, but longer front overhangs and shorter rear overhangs aid in the sleeker look. The latter changes are more about style than off-road use, which is probably slightly compromised. Given that very few buy SUVs to go off road that’s not likely to be an issue.

Sportage is sold in three trim levels: Si, SLi and Platinum GT-Line, and with a choice of petrol and diesel engines. Prices starts at a pretty reasonable $28,990 for the 2.0-litre petrol Sportage Si and tops out at $45,990 for the Platinum turbo-diesel. Our review was of the Sportage Platinum GT-Line in an excellent shade of red.

The Sportage’s bold new style was chiefly done in Kia’s European design studio in Frankfurt, there was also input from the company’s Korean and Californian design studios as Kia is very much a global player these days.

2016 Kia Sportage

Sportage has Kia’s hallmark ‘tiger-nose’ grille and it works well with the tall bonnet to give it a bold look. The roof slopes neatly towards the rear, but not to the extent of spoiling rear headroom. The headlamps sweep well back along the outer edges of the bonnet. Quad ‘ice-cube’ LED foglights are becoming an interesting feature of the latest Kia models and work nicely with the GT-Line.

The red paint of our road test Sportage was nicely set off by the black of the lower edges of the bumpers, the sills and the protection strips in the inner edges of the wheelarches.

The Sportage Si has a 3.5-inch mono display in the centre of the dashboard. The SLi and Platinum have a 4.2-inch colour TFT supervision cluster. All models get a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment screen featuring reversing camera display with dynamic parking lines, while satellite navigation is standard for SLi and Platinum.

All infotainment systems feature Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with Aux and USB ports for smartphones and MP3 music players.

Kia Sportage Platinum has a wireless charger for mobile devices. Located at the base of the central instrument stack, the five-Watt charging system activates when a compatible device is placed on the pad. It even reminds you that a phone has been left on the charger if you leave the vehicle.

A 2.0-litre petrol with 114 kW of power and 192 Nm of torque is offered only in the Sportage Si and SLi. A 2.4-litre petrol (135 kW /237 Nm) is used only in the Platinum. A 2.0-litre turbo-diesel (136 kW and 400 Nm) is available in all grades.

All models have a six-speed automatic transmission. This drives the front wheels in the 2.0-litre petrol Si and SLi models, and all four wheels in Kia’s on-demand AWD system in all diesel models and the Platinum 2.4-litre petrol.

Our test car had the 2.4-litre petrol engine.

Sportage scored a five-star safety rating in Euro NCAP tests. Six airbags are standard – driver and front passenger, first row side airbags, and first and second row curtain airbags. Two IsoFix child-seat tethers and three anchor points are fitted to the second row of seats.

Kia’s Smart Parking Assist System, only in the Platinum at this stage, works to assist drivers in both parallel and 90-degree parking spaces.

Passenger room is increased, with headroom and legroom both improved. In the rear, the floor is 40 mm lower (without any loss of ground clearance). Combining that with a higher rear seat hip-point mean there’s significantly better comfort. As a six-footer I can sit ‘behind’ myself with room to move. The Sportage’s reclining rear seats have seven steps to let you juggle with passenger comfort and luggage space.

Cargo space, at 466 litres is virtually the same as in the superseded Sportage. The lower boot lip makes it easier to load.

On the road, we found forward visibility significantly better than the old model because it has thinner A-pillars. The outside mirrors sit slightly lower on the door, also to improve the forward view. This didn’t impair our side-rear view.

Reduction of noise, vibration and harshness levels were a major part of the engineering work and it’s pleasingly refined to travel in.

Kia has its vehicles’ suspensions tuning specifically tuned to Australian drivers’ preferences. The standard suspension provides a comfortable ride and absorbs bumps well, even on corrugated dirt bush roads. Handling is safe but hardly inspiring.

Sportage Platinum GT-Line is tuned to give it sharper handling and a slightly firmer ride. We really enjoyed a couple of hundred kilometres behind the wheel of one, finding it to have a precise feel and response. Comfort, though not quite as good as in the standard suspension, was still acceptable.

New Kia Sportage is a stylish family wagon built to a high standard and selling at an attractive price. A combination of good interior space, comfort and quiet cabin should see it taking a place on any families’ short list.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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