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Car reviews - Kia - Sportage - 2WD and CRDi range

Launch Story

Kia logo6 Sep 2007

By CHRIS HARRIS

KIA Motors Australia (KMA) has launched two new variants of the Sportage, the South Korean company’s slow-selling compact SUV released here in current form in 2005.

The existing Sportage V6 AWD will be sold alongside an entry-level front-wheel drive-only model, the LX, and a turbo-diesel CRDi AWD, which will flesh out the top end of the new three-tier Sportage range.

Kia’s new Sportage models are a response to two emerging trends in the SUV market – a 2WD price-leading version of an AWD SUV, and a compact SUV powered by a turbo-diesel engine.

Big demand for a compact diesel is still unproven in the compact segment. Recent models from Jeep and Land Rover have a turbo-diesel engine option (the Compass and Freelander respectively), but it is too early to say if these will become volume sellers.

While Nissan’s forthcoming new X-Trail will offer a turbo-diesel in overseas markets, the company will stay with petrol engines in Australia, because it believes there is no market for a diesel-powered compact.

While we are yet to see if Sportage diesel ignites the compact market, there is clearly a demand for versions of AWD wagons that are not actually AWD. Ford was the first with Territory, which runs more than half its production as 2WD models over AWD, and the second-generation Toyota Kluger has just launched with a 2WD-only option available for the first time ever in the Toyota SUV line-up.

Toyota has forecast that 52 per cent of Kluger sales will be 2WD.

Of most relevance here is Hyundai’s Tucson, which shares platform and powertrain with Sportage. The Tucson City, with an identical front-drive 2.0-litre powertrain as the new Sportage LX, now accounts for 80 per cent of Tucson sales, with the Tucson V6 AWD the remainder.

The two new models are bookends for the expanded range: an entry-level 2.0-litre LX 2WD and the CRDi turbo-diesel premium model. The existing V6 continues as before.

The $24,990 Sportage LX comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing, as seen in the Kia Cerato. The four-cylinder powerplant develops peak outputs of 104kW at 6000rpm and 184Nm at 4500rpm, and is offered with five-speed manual or optional ($2000) four-speed automatic.

Fuel consumption on the combined cycle, tested to ADR 81/01, is 8.2L/100km.

Standard features in the Sportage LX include air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels (with 215-section tyres), MP3-compatible single CD stereo, dual front airbags, ABS brakes, power windows, a rear cargo cover and leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob.

An option pack, consisting of ESC and side and curtain airbags is available on the LX auto for an additional $1600.

The $30,990 Sportage EX V6 continues with its 2.7-litre V6 developing 129kW at 6000rpm and 241Nm at 4000rpm, and with fuel consumption of 10.9L/100km.

Apart from some changes to certain exterior colours (Cherry Black, Clear Silver and Smart Blue have body-colour bumpers instead of Pewter Grey), specification is identical. Over the LX grade, the EX V6 gets electronic on-demand 4WD, four-speed auto, wider 16-inch alloys (on 235-section tyres), and metallic finish to the front passenger grip handle, sill side mouldings and garnish.

An option pack, called EX-L V6, adds ESP, side and curtain airbags, leather interior trim and sunroof for a $4000 premium over EX V6.

The $32,490 EX CRDi has Kia’s own 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel, with Bosch direct common-rail fuel injection, a Garrett Variable Geometry Turbocharger and a particulate filter.

The diesel develops 103kW at 4000 rpm and 304Nm at 1800-2500rpm and has a fuel consumption figure of 7.1L/100km.

The CRDi is linked to a six-speed manual no automatic is offered because the focus for CRDi sales has been Europe, where manual is preferred in this class.

A KMA spokesman told GoAuto that an automatic was being considered for the diesel Sportage, but may not justify development prior to a new model due in 2009.

The EX CRDi has the same equipment level as the EX V6, except that it has ESP and a trip computer as standard. An optional luxury pack, consisting of side and curtain airbags, leather interior and a sunroof, is available for an additional $3000.

KMA director of sales and marketing Bill Gillespie said that the introduction of the 2WD LX model was a response to Sportage buyers who have not required the AWD capacity or engine performance of the V6 AWD. He said that both young families and older buyers would be attracted to the new model.



“Many of these potential buyers are looking for a functional wagon that delivers the benefits of an SUV – higher seating position, a functional interior and more aggressive styling – without the drawbacks of higher purchase price and higher running costs.”

The Sportage certainly needs something new to infuse life into its sales volume. In the most recent sales figures, year-to-date to the end of July, the Sportage sold 526 units, versus 2874 for its close cousin the Tucson.

The Hyundai’s sales are up two per cent over the same period last year the Kia is down 22 percent. Kia says that the Sportage’s full-year 2008 sales target is about 2300 units. It expects that the sales split between models will be roughly 60 per cent 2WD, 25 per cent diesel and 15 per cent V6.

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