The Kia Sportage in this review started out life as an Si Premium petrol FWD. It still is, of course, with nothing changing under the skin. But, in late August, Kia added some SX appeal to the Sportage range by adopting a new naming convention.
So, what we have here now is the 2019 Kia Sportage SX petrol FWD.
It’s not the only variant to score a new 'SXier' designation, with the entire range on the receiving end of a nomenclature tickle up.
The petrol front-wheel-drive Sportage range now kicks off with the $30,190 plus on-road costs S (formerly Si), moves on to the SX we have on test here, and ends with the $37,490 SX+ (once known as SLi). For those wanting all-wheel-drive underpinnings from their petrol Sportage, there’s the $44,790 GT-Line, formerly known as… GT-Line. Seems not all Sportages are getting their 'SXy' on.
That slight name change carries through to the diesel-powered AWD line-up, which ranges in price from the Sportage S ($35,590) to the GT-Line ($47,690). Our test car, then, sits in the middle of the petrol-powered, front-wheel-drive range of three and can be had for $32,290 plus on-road costs.
As is the Kia way, there are no options to be had, the Korean brand preferring to upsell you into the next model in the range. There are a handful of hues from Kia’s paint palette that ask for $520, and our test car was draped in one of them, finished in Sparkling Silver, bringing the as-tested price to $32,810 plus on-roads. But, bargains can be had, with Kia currently advertising the SX for $32,525.60 drive-away on its website right now.
That circa $32K buy-in will net you a reasonable amount of kit, although, as is the Kia way, some features can only be had further up the Sportage tree.
Standard in the SX is autonomous emergency braking with forward-collision warning, high-beam assist, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assist, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, 10 years of Mapcare and SUNA live traffic monitoring, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and automatic wipers.
There’s also dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, DAB radio, LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloys. Notable omissions include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, which are only available in the top-spec GT-Line.
Slide inside the cabin of the Sportage SX and there’s little to get 'SXy' about. It’s a sea of black, with only hints of aluminium accents to break up the dour interior. The seats are finished in cloth, while the majority of surfaces are of the hard kind, only the dashtop yielding a little to the touch.
That said, the seats are comfortable and supportive, while the layout of the cabin is ergonomically sound. There are large dials and a series of buttons for climate-control functions – always a win in our book. So, too, the row of buttons that control the infotainment system – if you prefer. Yes, there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and yes it’s snappy in its responsiveness (even if the graphics are a little dated now), but having the option to use physical buttons is pleasing, not to mention less distracting than swiping through screens. Nice one.
Amenities include a single USB point and two 12V outlets in the front console, as well as a storage nook for your smartphone with the proviso the newer, larger devices won’t fit in it. There are two cupholders up front, plus bottle holders in the door and a small storage cubby in the centre console.
The back row is surprisingly spacious, with ample toe, knee and head room, although a transmission tunnel does eat into foot room. The seat-backs recline, too. There are air vents back there, as well as a single USB point and a 12V outlet. A pair of cupholders lurk in the fold-down armrest, while the doors also feature bottle holders.
There’s not a lot going on in the Sportage’s boot, which is a utilitarian space that covers the basics. There are some tie-down hooks, a cargo blind and a couple of storage bins with lids. There’s 466L of space with the back row in use, and stowing them away – 60:40 split via levers on the outboard seats – opens up 1455L of storage. A full-size spare lurks under the boot floor. It’s all very workmanlike and functional.
Which is a nice segue into the SX’s drivetrain. Powered by Kia’s ageing 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine (internal code G4NA for those anoraks out there), and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the front wheels, the Sportage SX does most things reasonably well.
Outputs are a meagre 114kW (at 6200rpm) and 192Nm (at 4000rpm), but adequate for most situations around town. There’s no urgency from the SX, and that lack of torque down low in the rev range is telling when a bit of oomph is required, such as a quick getaway or overtake. The revs climb and the engine gets thrashy to little effect.
That’s only exacerbated when faced with hills, where the 2.0-litre petrol struggles to provide meaningful momentum. Switching to Sport mode mitigates this somewhat, holding on to gears longer to provide a little bit of extra poke, but the SX, in this guise, remains underwhelming in terms of performance.
And while the steering offers some meatiness, it’s found left wanting on the open road, requiring constant micro-adjustments to keep it on the straight and narrow. It’s best described as fidgety – a result of inconsistent weighting around centre. To be fair, it’s not an issue in the urban confines the majority of front-wheel-drive Sportages will spend the bulk of their time. Instead, the SX remains agile and easy to manoeuvre, even around tight city streets, while a turning circle of 11m is on par for the segment.
Where the Sportage does shine, and it remains true of the broader Kia (and stablemate Hyundai) range, is in providing a comfortable ride, especially around town. The locally tuned suspension filters out most nasties prevalent on our roads, and settles quickly over larger obstacles such as speed humps. That translates reasonably to the open road, with longer highway runs highlighting the decency of the suspension, while noise suppression remains okay.
Kia claims the Sportage SX will drink 7.9L of 91RON per 100km. After our time with the SX, we saw an indicated 8.9L/100km over a mix of urban, highway, and a day spent on some rural back roads.
Underpinning the Sportage’s ownership is Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first, and as a guide will set you back $992 for the first three years or $2742 for seven years. It wears a five-star ANCAP rating awarded in 2016.
The Sportage remains a decent option in the medium-SUV segment. With sharp pricing and a good list of features, Kia’s mid-sizer fills the brief for a large chunk of buyers in the segment. And the newly minted SX front-wheel-drive petrol grade makes for an adequate urban family hauler without being spectacular.
Its biggest shortcoming is the lack of usable torque, which underlies the breathless drive experience. We’ve said it before, but the diesel-powered Sportages are a better bet, if you can stump up the circa $5K premium.