When you see a knocked-around ’90s Kia, I bet you’ve said to yourself, ‘wow, Kia has come a long way'. It has. Thirty-one years ago, just 60 people bought a privately imported Kia in Australia, and last year, the South Korean brand celebrated a milestone 500,000 sales here.
One of its more popular models, the 2019 Kia Sportage, shares an 8.9 per cent share in the hotly contested medium-SUV segment under $60,000. While it’s a long way off the top-selling Mazda CX-5 at 18.2 per cent, sales have usually been on the increase each month for the Sportage.
The Sportage GT-Line we have here sits at the top of the range from $44,790 before on-roads, and is powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It comes with a GT-Line sports pack that includes heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, flat-bottom sports steering wheel with shift paddles, a smart powered tailgate, 19-inch wheels, wireless phone charging, and aggressive-styled side sills, bumper inserts and grille.
It is also packed with features (take a big breath): autonomous emergency braking with forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, high-beam assist, rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, an eight-way powered front passenger seat, auto-levelling LED headlights with LED fog lights, an automated park-assist system, along with adaptive cruise control, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
You would be mistaken for thinking the Sportage is European inside. The cabin is quite premium, however it’s hard to ignore the strong scent of the interior plastics, and some scratchy plastics on the lower dash. The GT-Line optional grey two-tone upholstery is each to their own, but it is a nice change from black, and it could camouflage dirt quite well.
Considering the 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen is integrated into the dash, it is at a good eye level for a quick glance, and if you don’t like using the touchscreen, shortcut buttons are below it. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and this reviewer used CarPlay and voice control without any dramas. It also has Qi wireless charging, which works in seconds.
Bluetooth took 25 seconds to connect for the first time, another four seconds to import contacts, and seven seconds to reconnect every time the car was turned on. There were no complaints from the person on the other end of the phone with audio quality while driving at 100km/h, and it was clear through the eight-speaker JBL Premium sound system for the driver, too. One USB and two 12-volt connections are up front.
The two large cupholders are actually too wide for a 600ml water bottle, but the central armrest is deep enough to hold one or maybe two bottles.
The ventilated front seats on high aren’t too loud and can barely be heard while driving 100km/h. Meanwhile, the heated seats can take a few minutes to warm up, but even on high, they won’t have you sweating. A neat bonus is powered lumbar support on the driver's side.
Over to the back, and the kids will be comfortable with reclining seats and a fold-down armrest with cupholders. A USB and a 12-volt port sit below two adjustable fan ventilations. The centre floor hump isn’t too high and won’t impede on foot room too much if a third passenger fills the middle seat. Panoramic sunroofs tend to decrease headroom, but we found it wasn’t too bad for both front and rear. Three anchor points and two ISOFIX points are available for a baby seat.
Using the same reclining lever, the seats can be folded 60:40 to fit 1455L worth of stuff. With them folded up, boot space reads 466L. It’s not the biggest boot in its class, however it does have a full-size spare wheel. The tailgate can be opened by the press of a button on the key, and any luggage can be hidden by a cargo blind. Two grocery hooks, four tie-down latches, and a luggage net add to the boot features.
Under the bonnet of the GT-Line is a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with 135kW of power and 237Nm of torque. It’s not the most torquey engine available – that belongs to the 2.0-litre in the GT-Line diesel with 400Nm. The power for this is perfect enough for tootling around the city, but the engine is buzzy when the throttle is planted, and the six-speed auto transmission can take a second or two when it kicks back a couple of gears, revving out to 5000rpm at times, with not a lot of poke.
Sport driving mode in a family SUV can boggle the mind for some, but engaging this mode in the Sportage is actually a bit of fun. It doesn’t hold onto the gears too long, and you can definitely feel the difference in throttle response when taking off from the lights. The steering wheel is a little sporty, and the paddle shifters are covered in brushed aluminum-look plastic that feels quite nice on the fingers. But would you really use them? Hmmm.
Kia’s claimed combined economy is 8.5L/100km, and during our week with the car it hovered around 10L/100km, getting about 600km out of its 62L tank.
Adaptive cruise control handled declines well, rarely moving from its set speed, but when the car needed to slow, it was a bit jerky. Some lane-keep assist features on other cars can be a bit aggravating, but the Sportage is subtle enough to gently push the car back into line, without jolting the wheel out of your hand. The reversing camera fills the entire 8.0-inch screen and is clear, but during the night it is grainy and you’ll find yourself squinting to see where you are.
On the 19-inch wheels, the ride is stable thanks to the suspension being tuned for Australian conditions, and the work that has been done is noticeable when a typical Aussie pothole presents itself.
Keeping the family safe are driver, front passenger, front side, and curtain SRS airbags, and it was last tested by ANCAP in 2016 when it received a five-star safety rating.
Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty comes with the Sportage, and the first three months of servicing is free, with every other service at 15,000km or one-year intervals. Each service comes at a different price, with the first at $261, and each service following with $461, $312, $645, $293, $574, and $311, totalling $2857.
There’s no doubting the Sportage. It has everything you would want a medium SUV to have: stacks of features, kiddy-friendly in the back, comfortable ride, and is spacious. The GT-Line petrol should be part of your shortlist if the majority of its life will be spent doing the daily commute or the school run. It’ll be happy to be a part of your family.