I’m now well over three months into my 2021 Kia Sportage long-term loan, and if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me ‘Is it pronounced sport-arj or sport-edge?’ I would be a very wealthy woman.
For this review instalment, I’ve chosen to examine the Sportage’s around-town credentials, given the holiday period is fast approaching and, once it hits, I plan to be anywhere but the city.
A little refresher – the car on test is the top-spec, petrol-powered GT-Line variant priced from $45,590 before on-road costs (yes, it’s gone up by $300 since the last time I wrote about it).
It might be an all-wheel-drive SUV, but the Sportage’s 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission certainly feel most at home around town.
Smooth at lower speeds and in stop-start traffic, the powertrain also provides the right amount of oomph for the commute. It’s when you venture off suburban streets and onto freeways that you might start noticing the Sportage is somewhat lacking in the power stakes. It emits an unpleasant whining as it attempts to get up to speed, and never quite delivers the grunt you crave.
If you live in an area with particularly ratty roads (I think my entire suburb is the pothole capital of Australia), then you might find yourself occasionally wishing the Sportage’s suspension was a little more wallowy over the harsher edges – but you’ll appreciate its balance when maintaining composure over speed bumps and through corners.
Otherwise, manoeuvring in small streets is made easier by light steering and a relatively compact footprint for a medium SUV. Being under 4.5m long also means it will fit in most standard driveways and garages.
If I’m really nitpicking (and I mean really nitpicking), I would have loved a 360-degree camera on top of the standard reverse camera.
While the front and rear sensors and rear camera work well together to give you a good gauge on your surroundings, I’ve driven a few other top-spec cars from mass-market manufacturers recently that offer the 'overhead' camera, and I reckon it wouldn’t be out of place on the Sportage.
If that's asking a bit much, then even just a front camera would be great, too.
Why? Because while visibility isn’t terrible, the driving position feels lower to the ground than other SUVs, and the windows and rear windshield are on the smaller side, meaning it’s not quite as clear-cut as other large cars.
|2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line petrol AWD|
|Engine configuration||2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||135kW at 6000rpm, 237Nm at 4000rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||8.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||11.1L/100km|
|Boot volume||466L rear seats up, 1455L when folded|
|Servicing costs||7 years, 105,000km for $2941|
|Main competitors||Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars, tested 2016|
|Warranty||7 years/unlimited km|
|Towing capacity||1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
One thing the Sportage does really well is its intelligent parking assist system, which honestly works better than those I’ve trialled before from premium manufacturers.
Activated via a button near the gear lever, it identifies parallel parks quickly and controls the steering, leaving the driver in charge of accelerating and braking. It works a charm, although you may have to intervene in narrow streets as it won’t accommodate parked cars across the road.
On the other side of things, the ‘exit mode’ on offer can steer you out of tight spots.
City-car credentials are boosted by the Sportage’s thoroughly modern technology accents, like a wireless phone charger with easy-to-use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I found the layout of the Sportage’s dash incredibly intuitive, and complemented by genuinely useful steering wheel controls that provide access to all the key functions you’ll need while on the move.
The 8.0-inch infotainment screen is basic and offers limited menu options, and the digital displays could benefit from being crisper to create a more premium feel.
Still, functional is the name of the game, and the Sportage’s infotainment has this in spades. I particularly love the 'current position' option on the in-built satellite navigation system, in case you get lost and can’t see any street signs.
The split-screen display for the navigation ensures you know exactly where to turn and when, and the turn icons also appear on the digital driver display as backup.
For city dwellers, there are two cupholders up front for your morning and afternoon coffee, and a convenient little dish sitting just in front of the glovebox that I found perfect for key storage.
A powered, hands-free tailgate is a welcome bonus – activated when you stand near the car with the key – especially for people tasked with going to the supermarket solo (as was often the case during Melbourne’s lockdown).
Finally, urban fuel economy skews a little high in the Sportage. Kia quotes 11.8L/100km for the urban cycle, and my most recent figure is 11.1L/100km – but that’s with some longer freeway sprints in the mix.
While you certainly can’t criticise Kia for misquoting, it has to be said that other petrol SUVs can get down to around 8–9L/100km for urban driving – so over 11.0L/100km does feel on the high side.
I also wouldn’t splurge the extra $520 on the cherry black paint if you’re forced to park on the street, as it’s nearly impossible to keep clean.
All in all, the Sportage’s functional driver-assistance tech, user-friendly infotainment system, logical cabin layout and smaller footprint make it fantastic for city living.
A few extras – like a 360-degree camera or a head-up display – could go a long way to making my life even easier, but their absence isn't a deal-breaker.
For shorter stints, the only real red flag is urban fuel consumption that is higher than some competitors – but let’s see how it fares on a drive that isn’t just the 30 minutes it takes to drive 300m down Punt Road.
Like a return trip to Sydney, perhaps… Stay tuned.