Question: How do you know you’ve enjoyed a long-term loan?
Answer: You forget it’s not actually your car and you’re mildly irked when you’re asked to return it.
This was the case with my 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line petrol review car, which became such an intrinsic part of my daily existence that, after I gave it back, I still found myself absentmindedly scratching around in my handbag for its familiar-feeling key.
The first Sportage I’ve driven since my parents owned one as our beloved family car almost a decade ago, I entered my three-month loan with high expectations.
The model on test is the top-spec GT-Line, offering all-wheel drive, a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and a six-speed automatic transmission for $45,590 before on-road costs, or $47,290 drive-away.
My test car wore the premium paint shade of cherry black, which added an extra $520, bringing the as-tested total to $46,110 before on-road costs (or $47,290 drive-away according to Kia's website).
Throughout the course of the loan, my main focus was on the Sportage’s city compatibility, interior practicality and comfort on longer drives. We even journeyed to Sydney and back together, and survived plenty of peak-hour stints, errands and designated-driver duties as a duo.
In my experience, Kia's medium SUV was a consistent, reliable and calm companion, but it won't win awards for engaging on-road feel.
The steering feel is light and the transmission moves smoothly between gears without any delays or imperfections.
Easily my biggest gripe was that I could have used more power, particularly when going uphill or accelerating to overtake on the freeway. The maximum power output is only rated at 135kW, and that certainly feels mediocre when you’re trying to overtake towering trucks on regional freeways.
Steeper inclines required far more pedal input, because the Sportage was all too comfortable settling into a very slow stroll with a persistent engine groan whenever it was faced with a hill. I can relate.
I found this lack of power wasn’t notably helped by switching the car into Sport mode – it still felt pretty sluggish in certain situations.
Meanwhile, the suspension provides the best of both worlds, in that it is comfortable and composed without erring on that wobbly, wafty side some other SUVs tend to struggle to avoid.
The all-wheel-drive system is also extremely capable, and will see you through gravel roads, bad weather, and even the snow season with the right chains fitted.
However, I’d still say the Kia Sportage is more of a soft-roader than an off-roader.
A lower ground clearance of 172mm could prove limiting for more serious off-road drivers. For comparison, something like the Subaru Forester offers 220mm of ground clearance and would possibly be a better choice for drivers making regular camping trips.
For me, my lifestyle and my questionable parking skills, the Sportage’s dimensions were perfect.
It’s under 4.5m long and less than 2m wide, and while it certainly feels roomy inside, it’s actually quite a compact car to manage in town.
Visibility is accommodating all around, although it does feel a little lower to the ground than other SUVs, and the rear windshield could be taller, but that’s offset by front and rear sensors and a reliable rear-vision camera.
Up front, I found there were plenty of useful storage options – like a little tray for your phone, keys and knick-knacks, as well as the well-placed cupholders and the wireless phone charger.
|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||7.0L/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|
|Price as-tested||$46,110 before on-road costs|
One of my favourite features was the intelligent parking assist system, which you can only get on the GT-Line grade. I’ve had mixed success with these kinds of systems in the past, so I found Kia’s to be a real standout – only requiring you to accelerate and brake while it steers and manoeuvres you into parallel and perpendicular parks.
It typically identified potential parking spots immediately, whereas similar systems blithely skip them, and worked quickly and efficiently to get you into the space. Helpfully, there’s even an exit mode to steer you out of tight spots.
As I mentioned, I took this car to Sydney and back for a weekend, and it was a really rock-solid companion for a hell of a lot of driving.
The 466L boot was able to fit most of our stuff and the overflow went onto the back seats, plus we really appreciated the power tailgate while loading and unloading the car.
If you have back-seat occupants and lots of luggage, you might have to strategically load the boot, which is slightly smaller than some competitors (it’s outclassed by the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V).
Still, you’ll be able to fit two child seats in the back seat with ease, and back-seat occupants are well served with ventilation, ample leg room and reclining seats.
But most of all, the Sportage GT-Line is a supremely practical car for longer trips, and a lot of this is thanks to its impressive equipment list.
Some highlights included the seat heaters and coolers – both of which we used when passing from Melbourne to Sydney – the leather seats with power adjustment, the keyless entry and the sunroof.
It also feels safe in both the way it performs on the road, as well as how the various safety systems work together to assist your driving behaviours.
While the GT-Line adds features like front parking sensors, blind-spot detection and a rear cross-traffic alert, it must be said that the entire Sportage line-up is well served for both passive and active safety and scores a five-star ANCAP rating.
Otherwise, there were two little frustrations that arose during my time with the car: firstly, the fact the Sportage can actually be driven even if the key exits the car. While it issues a ‘key not detected’ warning, this warning is subtle enough to be missed when juggling conversations or the logistics of getting in and out of the car.
So easily missed, in fact, that twice I let a passenger walk off with my keys – only to realise after a 25-minute drive that I couldn’t stop the car because I wouldn’t be able to restart it.
Additionally, I wish the eight-speaker JBL sound system offered a bit more excitement. It does the job fine, but can be drowned out by tyre and road noise, and pales in comparison to some of the swankier offerings available in other top-spec SUVs.
For purely urban driving, I initially felt the Sportage’s fuel consumption was a little high at as much as 11.1L/100km, but that was actually lower than Kia’s quoted urban figure of 11.8L/100km.
After adding lots more freeway driving into the mix with a trip to Sydney, my fuel consumption went down to a very respectable 6.7L/100km – bang on Kia’s quoted extra-urban figure.
At most, filling up with the recommended 91 unleaded rarely cost me more than $50 a fortnight, and for combined-cycle driving my consumption figure generally hovered between 7–10L/100km.
Kia’s standard seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty really sweetens the deal, as do the capped-price servicing packages available, which, for the GT-Line, range up to seven years or 105,000km of coverage at $2941 (each individual service interval costs between $272–$657).
In summary, I could really get used to the Kia Sportage GT-Line as part of my daily existence. In fact, I did.
It’s comfortable and convenient, if a little underpowered at times – something that proved a deal-breaker for my husband, but more of a small frustration for me.
My tip would be to spend the extra money and go for the GT-Line, as some of my favourite features were part of the top-spec package. Of course, that means parting with just under $50,000, which may understandably serve as a deterrent for shoppers on a budget.
Alternatively, hold out for the next-generation model, due in the second half of 2021, which will hopefully see Kia's increasingly competitive design language and tech make its way to this dated platform.
Otherwise, I think it’s a great family car that doubles as a city-friendly SUV with all-wheel-drive chops. A happy medium (SUV) if ever there were one!