While it's hard to spot the differences, Kia has loaded the new Sportage with standard equipment and safety kit. Paul Maric heads out for a drive.
You don't need to clear your cache and refresh the browser – you are indeed looking at the facelifted 2019 Kia Sportage.
While the changes may seem minor at first glance, it's beneath the skin that the new Kia Sportage has received most changes, with a revised ride and handling tune, along with a new gearbox for the fuel efficient diesel engine.
Kia Australia was so confident with the revisions that it engineered a media drive route that would cover a great cross section of winding roads, gravel roads and poor-quality country roads, in addition to urban roads around Canberra.
Pricing for the 2019 Kia Sportage kicks off from $29,990 (plus on-road costs) for the Si petrol, which is $1000 more than previously, but it includes extra specification and features (more on this shortly) and caps out at $47,690 (plus on-road costs) for the top-specification GT-Line diesel (an increase of $1700). You can see the full breakdown of 2019 Kia Sportage pricing and specifications here.
Kia will offer the 2019 Sportage range with a mix of 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol front-wheel drive, 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol naturally-aspirated all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel all-wheel drive. Both petrol engines will come with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel comes exclusively with a new, in-house eight-speed automatic transmission.
What exactly has changed? Kia has revised the lower bumper area to create what it tells us is a subtly more masculine front-end (due to feedback from customers that the design skewed towards female buyers), a new grille and new headlamps that integrate full LED functionality. Around the rear, minor changes to the skid plate and tail lights round off the design changes.
In the cabin, both the SLi and GT-Line models get an electric parking brake (with the GT-Line also getting a new steering wheel), while the rest of the range picks up key safety features like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane keeping assistant, dual-zone climate control and an automatically dimming rear vision mirror as standard.
In terms of pricing and specifications, the model line looks like this and you can configure the Sportage at the Kia website (link opens in new tab):
Si: $29,990/$35,390 plus on-road costs for petrol FWD/diesel AWD
Inside the cabin, it's the same story. The changes are only small, but the introduction of the electric parking brake are welcomed and free up room in the centre stack. The biggest change worth talking about is the new infotainment screens that boast a higher resolution and bigger size in Si Premium model grades and above.
The faster CPU now makes scrolling through the various menus very easy. The screen also looks nicer thanks to a flat bezel that stretches beyond the screen to make it look bigger than it actually is.
Fit and finish around the cabin is excellent. The material used on the dashboard with faux stitching gives the front end of the car a premium feel, while the rest of the cabin is assembled with durable plastic and soft-touch material on contact points such as the centre arm rest and door rests.
Room in the cabin hasn't changed, so you are left with plenty of leg and headroom in the first row. The second row offers good accommodation for adults with rear air vents to stay cool during those hot summer days. It doesn't feel as spacious as a Tucson, though, and can be a little cramped for adults if you're sitting behind a driver or front passenger with their seat quite far back.
Visibility out the windows in both the first and second row is great, which means it doesn't feel like a claustrophobic environment regardless of where you're seated.
ISOFIX anchor points are available on the two outboard seats, while the second row folds in a 60/40 split-folding configuration. There's also a centre arm rest with two cup holders.
Cargo capacity remains the same at 466 litres (VDA) with the rear seats up, increasing to 1455 litres (VDA) with those seats folded. Beneath the boot floor is a full-sized spare tyre.
If you buy the GT-Line, you'll find a cool new steering wheel with a shaved bottom, along with a semi-automatic parking feature that seeks out parking spaces big enough for the car and then semi-autonomously parks the vehicle for you.
Kia has spent a great deal of time adjusting the ride and handling tune for the Sportage, following feedback from consumers around ride quality and steering.
Suspension geometry remains the same in comparison to the outgoing model, but Kia made changes to the steering rack ratio and subframe to improve steering response and to improve front wheel control.
The rear spring rate on all-wheel-drive models has also changed, while a more rounded urban ride feel was achieved with ZF Sachs shock absorbers that use a PLD (preloaded shim disc), allowing progressive bleed of hydraulic fluid, which rounds off bumps in a more progressive nature.
We hit the road first in a naturally aspirated front-wheel drive Sportage and went directly for the hills.
The 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol Sportage uses a naturally aspirated petrol engine that produces 114kW of power and 192Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Even with only two occupants on board, we were regularly having to get stuck in to the throttle to get the car moving with any great deal of pace. 192Nm of torque for a car that weighs 1532kg isn't amazing and often left us wanting more – especially when overtaking.
This would be noticed even more if you had the car loaded with your possessions and couple of extra passengers.
If you put the lack of power to one side, the improved ride and handling effort is certainly noticeable. The steering feels more direct and offers improved communication to the driver and an improved 2.51 turns lock-to-lock.
As we hit the gravel stretch, even the 18-inch alloy wheels on the Si Premium model we were driving didn't cause the ride to falter over choppy, rutted terrain. The body control is truly impressive for what is a family SUV.
Where the package really came together was when we swapped cars to the diesel SLi. The diesel engine is an absolute cracker, using a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 136kW of power and 400Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with a combined fuel consumption of 6.4L/100km.
The new gearbox gels nicely with the diesel engine and offers excellent in-gear throttle response throughout the rev range. Get stuck into it and it responds beautifully with mountains of torque regardless of the gear it's settled in to.
In and around town, the diesel teams with an on-demand all-wheel drive system to deliver punchy response for tight traffic gaps and a refined drive at cruising speeds.
Despite feeling a bit heavier through corners than the entry-level 2.0-litre, the diesel engine works better with the chassis and delivers a rewarding drive that is confidence inspiring regardless of the load on board.
We didn't get a chance to drive the 2.4-litre petrol engine, which produces 135kW of power and 237Nm of torque, but we have driven a Sportage with this engine previously and it fills the gap left by the 2.0-litre unit.
Kia retains a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with seven years of roadside assistance (you can see the full details of Kia's warranty here (link opens in new tab)). Over that period, the Sportage will cost $3386 to service (or around $483 per year) for the 2.0-litre diesel, $2485 (or around $355 per year) for the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol and $2739 (or around $391 per year) for the 2.4-litre petrol.
The new Kia Sportage goes on sale this week with an impressive array of standard equipment and a welcome ride and handling revision. The 2.0-litre petrol is an engine we would skip if you're after the confidence of a punchy engine on the road, but the 2.0-litre diesel more than makes up for it with healthy slabs of torque and is certainly worth a test drive (link opens in new tab) – as always, we recommend a 24 hour test drive to make sure the car fits in your garage and fits your family.
If the pricing increase pushes the new Sportage out of your budget, Kia is currently doing runout deals on the current Sportage (link opens in new tab), which could be worth checking out.