Although from humble origins, the new Sportage is something special
- 2010 Kia Sportage Platinum CRDi; 2.0-litre, four cylinder, turbo-diesel; six-speed automatic; Five-door SUV: $38,990
At the beginning of this year, we road tested the Kia Sportage. It was the last of the previous generation, and frankly, we didn't care much for it. My how things have changed.
With the release of the latest Sportage, Kia has not just moved forward, it's shifted universes. The styling is gob-smackingly good-looking. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't respect what Peter Schreyer has done for the brand. His new design language is working wonders, causing people who normally wouldn't consider a Korean car to stare and comment. During the week, several said outspokenly, "Wow. Is that a Kia?" Well, yes, that's what it says on the grille.
But the fact that it motivates them to not just say it in their mind, but out aloud, means the design shift is making an appreciable impact. And it's not just on the outside, either.
Climb aboard (using the proximity key) and you're greeted with a very stylish interior. In Platinum guise (as tested), the leather seats are very good quality, with much softer hide than previously used, and although comfortable could probably use a little more lower back support. The two fronts are heated, but in a first for this segment, the driver's seat is also cooled - a real boon for our hot country.
The dash and centre console may utilise some harder plastics but the fit and finish is extremely well done, with nary a panel creak or dash rattle to be heard. The radio, clock and climate control (which is surrounded by a stylish piano-black treatment) all feature red on black LCD screens which can be read both in full sun, and also while wearing polarised sunglasses. There's a neat saw-tooth effect on the radio buttons - the stereo is on the average side, it must be said - plus there's plenty of angular lines on the door trims to keep things interesting. The leather wrapping the steering wheel could be a little softer, though.
Dual-zone climate control keeps arguments about temperature at bay, although on really hot days we found that only the lowest (coldest) setting kept the car cool, meaning a fair amount of fan speed (and therefore noise) to maintain a comfortable temperature.
The rear seats are quite comfortable, and despite looking at the curved tops of the rear doors and thinking entry and egress would be painful, it's the complete opposite. If you're over six-feet tall headroom may become an issue, but for everyone else, the back seats are surprisingly spacious. Legroom and footroom is fine. Couple that with a spacious boot and the Sportage has got style and practicality down pat.
It's also quiet inside. Only at idle do you get a little of the background diesel knock from the front end, but while accelerating, it's smooth and never overbearing. There's not much in the way of road noise, and even the suspension - which gives a firmish ride, but has none of the sharp, brittle movement of its cousin, the Hyundai ix35 - doesn't crash or bang harshly over bumps.
With good steering weight and enough feedback, the Sportage manages to keep keen drivers interested. It even turns in reasonably quickly and loses no feel mid-corner.
The Sportage's handling is balanced with a nice, neutral stance, unless flung into a corner at ludicrous speeds, and the all-wheel-drive system gives constant grip, especially when wet. In some diesel cars, when moving off the line, torque causes the front wheels to spin in first gear until the AWD system catches up and sends some power to the rear. Not so in the Sportage. There's no scrabble or chirp from the Platinum's 17-inchers, just immediate grip and forward motion.
That motion is supplied by one of the best 2.0-litre diesel fours in the business. Let's put the engine into perspective. In the Toyota Prado there's a 3.0-litre, turbo-diesel four that has to shift around 2.4-tonnes. It produces 127kW and 410Nm which is slightly more torque than the Sportage's 393Nm, but it's less power than the Sportage's 135kW. Now think about the weight saving the Sportage has, at just 1630kg. You can see that there's plenty of poke at hand (or should that be foot?) translating to lag-free acceleration.
It's economical, too. Kia's ADR testing places the Sportage at 7.5-litres/100km and after a week's testing, we snuck in just over that at 7.6-litres/100km, which is pretty good, considering how much grunt is available, and being an automatic.
The six-speed auto does a reasonable job of shifting smoothly and is eager to kick down if needed by just a prod of the throttle. Thing is, though, it does like to hold onto the gears and keep the revs up, rather than shifting up early and riding the wave of torque available around 2000rpm. A recalibration might see the fuel use drop even further.
The Kia Sportage is also safe. Currently EuroNCAP tested at five stars, Kia Australia tells us it's little more than a formality and we'll see the Sportage also rated at five stars on the ANCAP system. That's courtesy of a myriad of airbags, ABS, EBD and ESC. There's also a reversing camera built into the rear view mirror with guidelines highlighting the width of the car; perfect for keeping the driveway an accident free zone.
What's interesting, though, is the pricing. Years ago, Kia was the poor cousin of Hyundai. But fastforward to 2010 and the Kia Sportage Platinum is priced at $1000 more than its platform-sharer, the Hyundai ix35 Highlander. Is it worth the extra money over the Hyundai, seeing as it's basically the same car? Absolutely. Not only does it have the same features as the ix35, but it adds the cooled driver's seat, daytime running lights, has a markedly better ride, but is also entirely better looking.
In the burgeoning compact SUV market, the Kia Sportage is the pick of the bunch.
CarAdvice Overall Rating:How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.