The more things change, the more they stay the same. Case in point? The 2019 Kia Sportage, the South Korean brand’s second-highest-selling vehicle in Australia (the Cerato is number one for those playing the Kia sales chart game at home).
The entire Sportage range received a mild update for MY19, bringing subtle styling changes and some tweaks under the skin, including, for diesel variants, a brand-new in-house eight-speed automatic transmission. Timely, then, to live with the diesel Sportage for a week to test its mettle.
On test we have the top-of-the-line 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel. Priced at $47,690 plus on-road costs, our tester was adorned in Steel Grey metallic paint, an extra $520, for an as-tested price of $48,210. That places it smack-bang in the middle of the hotly contested medium-SUV segment with any number of diesel-powered AWD offerings at around the $50K bracket.
Fighting for garage space with the Sportage are the Ford Escape Titanium ($48,340), Holden Equinox LTZ-V ($49,290), Hyundai Tucson Highlander ($48,880), Mazda CX-5 Akera ($49,670), Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed ($45,790), Nissan X-Trail TL ($47,790), Renault Koleos Intens ($47,490) and Toyota RAV4 Cruiser ($50,500). That’s nine mid-sized diesel AWD SUVs with a price spread of just under $50K. Take out the high and low points in that bracket, and we have a price spread of just $2180. A competitive battleground, then.
The Sportage GT-Line diesel wants for nothing, and is packed full of features and inclusions often optional on other vehicles. As is the Kia way, there are no options other than premium paint, the brand preferring to entice potential buyers into the next model up the range. As such, the GT-Line is brimming with kit, both safety and convenience. There's a decent spread of accessories available, too.
Safety highlights include autonomous emergency braking with forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Add adaptive cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, park assist, and auto-levelling LED headlights with LED fog lights into the mix, too.
Inside, the premium-spec appointments continue with dual-zone climate control and rear air vents, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic monitoring and 10 years of Mapcare updates, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, and a premium JBL eight-speaker sound system, including digital radio.
There’s a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats that are also power adjustable (eight-way for passenger and 10-way for the driver), wireless phone charging, a newly designed (and GT-Line specific) flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters, and a powered tailgate.
This list is starting to get long, and that’s before adding leather trim with contrast piping and stitching, 19-inch alloys, and a more aggressive GT-Line exclusive styling package that includes bumper inserts, side sills and grille.
In short, the Sportage GT-Line is loaded, justifying its near $50K buy-in.
The MY19 update on the surface appears minimal, with a slightly revised lower front bumper (said by Kia to add a more masculine touch… No, really), a new grille and new headlights. Out back, the tail-lights have received a tickle, as has the skid plate.
It’s under the skin, though, where the Sportage has undergone some minor surgery. There’s a revised suspension tune, said to improve ride and handling, while out back, a stiffer crossmember seeks to cut road noise and vibration. And, exclusive to diesel variants, including the GT-Line we have on test here, is a new eight-speed automatic transmission replacing the previous six-speed.
What’s unchanged in the GT-Line diesel is the four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo diesel under the bonnet. With outputs of 136kW and 400Nm, there’s plenty of punch from the Sportage in this diesel specification. Around town, the GT-Line moves briskly off the line, the eight-speed auto working effortlessly and quietly with the diesel under the bonnet. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to pick this as a diesel until you stomp on the accelerator, eliciting some gruffness from the engine. Overall, though, it’s a quiet and refined unit with plenty of oomph when needed.
Out on the highway, ask questions of the diesel and eight-speed auto, and the Sportage responds with aplomb, surging forward effortlessly.
Thanks to its on-demand all-wheel-drive underpinnings, the Sportage GT-Line remains a solid and planted mid-sized SUV. The locally tuned (and redesigned) suspension works well, isolating occupants from the worst of Sydney’s pockmarked roads. Speed humps, too, are negotiated with aplomb, the GT-Line settling quickly after traversing the mountain. Cabin noise is minimal too – a cosseting ambient experience.
Inside, the GT-Line presents as a semi-premium offering. The use of materials (there’s a mix of soft-touch and harder plastics) and the fit and finish are excellent. The infotainment system, integrated into the dash, works seamlessly and quickly, although Apple CarPlay did prove a little glitchy on occasion. The wireless charging, located in front of the gear lever, is amongst the quicker iterations of this technology we’ve experienced.
The leather trim of the GT-Line looks classy, especially with contrasting piping, while the front seats are supportive and comfortable, as well as heated and ventilated. The back row, too, is spacious, with ample foot, leg and knee room, while head room is also good. The addition of the panoramic sunroof throws some much-needed light into what is, essentially, a pretty dark cabin.
There are plenty of conveniences, with two USB points (one front, one rear), two 12V outlets (also one each front and rear), cupholders and generous door pockets. Pleasingly, despite its AWD platform, the transmission tunnel in the back is low and not imposing, meaning the middle passenger won’t feel too claustrophobic in the back.
It all adds up to a pleasing in-cabin experience – a mixture of plush and practicality belying its sub-$50K pricepoint.
Boot space, too, is pretty decent. There’s 466L available with the back row being used by people, but go on a shopping spree without the need for back seat drivers and that expands to 1455L. There’s a full-size spare lurking under the boot floor, while tie-down points and luggage hooks will keep everything nice and secure.
Kia’s industry-leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty continues to shade its rivals, even if those contenders have moved to five-year surety in recent times.
Service intervals for the Sportage GT-Line diesel are every 12 months or 15,000km, and with a seven-year capped-price servicing plan will set you back $350, $552, $407, $798, $394, $661 and $418 over the duration.
Kia claims a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.4L/100km. Now, we didn’t get close to that, our week with the car returning a reading of 10.2L. However, the caveat here is the GT-Line spent a good chunk of its time covering the daily urban grind, a typical-case scenario, we’d venture. We did take note of the reading after an extended highway run, and pleasingly it hovered around the 7.8–8.0L mark. Pretty reasonable in an era where fuel claims are, let’s say, optimistic.
The Kia Sportage remains a realistic and affordable option for buyers in the mid-size SUV segment. That the buy-in point comes in at a tickle under $30K (for the Si 2.0-litre FWD petrol) is appealing. But, for those after a Sportage with a lot more power and torque than the petrol variants, the diesel option remains a good bet.
And in this GT-Line spec, a specification wanting for nothing in terms of equipment, the Sportage offers a spirited driving experience, at once comfortable and supple. When married to its classy interior, the 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel is a compelling proposition.