The medium-SUV segment has come a very long way since the Kia Sportage, familiar now to Australian buyers, first entered the fray. So, too, has the Sportage range, and this time around we test the entry pricepoint to the model – the 2020 Kia Sportage S petrol.
As tested here, the Sportage is FWD, but there are models and variants available to suit almost every medium-SUV budget. In FWD petrol guise, there is the S on test here (from $28,390), the SX (from $30,490), and the SX+ with standard auto (from $37,640).
If you want an AWD petrol Sportage, you can buy the GT-Line – with a 2.4-litre engine as opposed to the 2.0-litre engine mated to the FWD platform – from $44,990. The AWD petrol Sportage is also automatic as standard.
Then, if diesel is more to your taste – even though this segment doesn’t demand it from an efficiency and practicality standpoint – you can choose from a variety of AWD model grades. All automatic, too. The 2.0-litre oiler starts with S (from $35,790), then SX (from $37,890), then SX+ (from $43,090), and finally GT-Line (from $47,890, all prices are list before on-road costs or promotional offers).
Hard to argue, then, that there isn’t a Sportage to suit most buyers. Still, in a segment that includes the RAV4, CX-5, CR-V and Tucson just to name a few, competition is fierce. Despite the rampant popularity of the dual-cab 4WD segment, though, this is the Australian family battleground in 2020. It’s why model updates, drive-away pricing and special offers come thick and fast.
The question is can the Sportage, a platform that has been around for a while now, still compete with newer and more feature-laden models? One area Kia has always punched above its weight in is standard inclusions. That’s one way the brand made the inroads it did in Australia.
While the S petrol is the entry point to the range, and it obviously can’t match higher model grades for inclusions, it certainly doesn’t feel underdone. Not for the sub-$30K asking price anyway.
Standard equipment is still well catered for with the main points being: 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, cloth trim, rear-view camera, AEB (frontal), collision warning, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors, auto headlights, automatic high beam, leather-look steering wheel and shift knob, electric heated exterior mirrors, automatic wipers and a full-size spare wheel.
You don’t get onboard satellite navigation or a massive infotainment screen, but you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Further, the 7.0-inch screen that is supplied is clear and positioned cleverly, such that it is easy to use and easy to see from the driver’s seat. Small compared to the bigger screens on offer, but effective then.
It’s more and more common for buyers to be using navigation apps on their smartphones, so no standard satellite navigation won’t be an issue for many. In general, the switchgear is all nicely laid out as well.
Despite the fact that the S is the starting point to the range, and the GT-Line certainly feels like a premium SUV, the Sportage S doesn’t feel cheap – not even remotely.
The choice of plastics, soft-touch surfaces and trim all deliver a feeling of quality beyond the price tag – something we’ve come to expect from Kia. And something that has been executed neatly here.
One area that has come a long way, even since this generation of Sportage was released, is the amount of useful storage designers are packing into a compact SUV. The Sportage does show its age a little in this regard. The centre console bin is small, as are the door pockets, and there isn’t much storage to speak of in the second row. There is a 12V port and two USB ports in the second row, as well as AC vents. Crucially, for family buyers, second-row visibility is excellent.
Into the luggage space, 466L of storage and a flat floor area mean it is more useful than some, under which there is a full-size spare wheel and also a sturdy luggage cover.
While the medium-SUV segment is growing, and the Sportage isn’t the biggest anymore, it’s still useful for family buyers and will accommodate prams, sporting gear and packing for a weekend away.
Around town, the compact dimensions mean it is easy to manoeuvre, park and navigate underground shopping centre carparks as well. Parking especially is a cinch, and all-round visibility for the driver is also excellent.
The local ride and handling tune has once again done wonders for the way the Sportage handles typical Australian roads. Whether you’re in town or heading out into rural areas, the Sportage is unfussed, comfortable and composed over any road surface at any speed up to 110km/h.
In fact, the quality and resolution of its ride could put some luxury SUVs to shame.
If you prefer your SUVs not to ride like sports cars, the Sportage should be on your list. Despite that comfortable tendency, the Sportage doesn’t wallow all over the place either. There’s a genuinely impressive balance between comfort and confidence at speed. The same goes for the steering, which is light around town at low speed, but doesn’t feel vague and dopey at freeway speeds either. It’s a near-perfect compromise for this segment.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine does the job without being a firecracker. It makes 114kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm at 4000rpm, and works well enough with the six-speed automatic unless the demand is to get up and roll rapidly.
Weighing in around that 1500kg mark, the Sportage is no heavyweight thankfully, but the entry-grade engine still needs to work for its reward.
If you do need to get moving rapidly, either from a standing start or rolling on, you will need to work the throttle pedal enthusiastically, then. The engine needs to work a little harder at that point, and either rolling up to speed on the freeway or climbing a steep hill, the gearbox will kick down a few ratios, and the engine will spin up to redline to get there.
Once up to speed, though, the engine is relatively unfazed and works away quietly, without any nasty noises or vibrations penetrating the cabin. That need for the engine to work a bit harder in the cut-and-thrust, though, is reflected in the fuel-use figure. Against a combined claim of 7.9L/100km, we used an indicated 9.4L/100km purely around town during our week with the Sportage S. Settle into a longer run on the freeway, though, and the reading drops down into the low sevens quickly.
Given Kia’s seven-year warranty, affordable servicing, and included safety equipment, the Sportage still presents itself as an attractive option in the medium-SUV class, despite the fact that the segment has grown up and been flooded with newer models of late. Features like AEB, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist and driver-attention alert make for a compelling family SUV argument.
With modern safety a consideration, though, it’s still the Sportage’s value equation that makes the strongest case. There are more expensive variants in the range with more and better equipment, but if you’re on a budget, the S feels premium beyond the entry price.